As a fun hobby, observe these fluttering wonders
Mar 06 2013
Butterflies are included in one of the largest order (group) of insects called Lepidoptera. The scientific name for butterflies ‘Lepidoptera’ refers to the minute scales covering their wings. These delicate scales give the butterfly wings their incredible colours, but the colours can be rubbed off from their wings easily just like dust. So the next time you are near a butterfly, avoid holding any butterfly, as you may erase its beautiful colour. A butterfly’s wings are supported by a framework of veins. These veins are filled with air, nerve fibres and blood. The pattern of the veins helps to classify butterflies into a number of families. Hence, if you wish to develop a hobby to identify butterflies, you should carefully observe their wings.
Butterflies’ life is completed in four different stages — the egg, caterpillar, pupa and the adult. Observation of eggs is difficult, but caterpillar and pupa are also very interesting stages. A female would select a suitable place to lay eggs. The leaves or stem of particular plants are important, since they will provide food for the caterpillar after hatching. They have great sense of identification about a specific plant for the caterpillar. Once a caterpillar bites its way from the egg, it immediately begins feeding on the leaves. The caterpillar grows very rapidly, shedding its skin several times as it grows. After about a month of eating and growing, a caterpillar is ready to pupate. The pupa stage occurs when it transforms into an adult butterfly. Pupation is one of the most astonishing transformations undergone by any living creature. Inside the pupa, the body parts of the caterpillar gradually dissolve. New features grow in their place, including a completely different head, body, wings and legs among others. When these changes are complete, a fully formed butterfly miraculously emerges from the pouch of the pupa. The newly emerged adult slowly pumps blood into the veins in the wings and starts fluttering, which is its need and our amusement.
India is a country with a diverse habitat and almost 1,500 species of butterflies are found in the country. Insects are probably the most popular and studied group here.
A renowned butterfly expert, Isaac Kehimkar of Bombay natural history society, authored a very informative and illustrated book on butterflies of India. The book covered almost half of Indian butterflies with beautiful pictures and description that made it very useful in the identification of butterflies. I would recommend you to develop this classic hobby where you observe these beautiful and graceful wonders of nature.
(The writer is a conservation biologist at Tiger Watch, Ranthambore)