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Posted by Somya Sangal Apeejay Pitampura on July 26, 2011 at 1:48 AM


Here are a few simple ways to conserve butterflies.

1. Let the water run

No sound attracts wildlife like running water. Add a small gurgling water source to your yard, and backyard birds will flock to your home!


2. Cater to caterpillars

Grow the plants caterpillars crave as food: milkweed for Monarchs, dill for Swallowtails, pussytoes for Painted Ladies. As you feed caterpillars, you'll be growing butterflies!


3. Leave those leaves

When autumn's leaves fall, leave generous piles in corners, atop beds. It's great mulch, and a winter hibernation spot for butterflies, bees, and more. A messy winter garden is great habitat for small creatures.

4. A sweet idea

Purchase a hummingbird and/or a butterfly feeder, stock it with homemade nectar (sugar water), and enjoy watching these nectar-sippers at work.

5. Spray? No way!

Pesticides harm valuable insects, not just the pest you've targeted. And the potential impact of chemicals on children and pets is still unknown. To restore ecological balance, minimize or end your use of sprays.

6. A tree-mendous idea

Feed birds naturally by planting the trees that produce wildlife-friendly fruits and seeds: pines, oaks, walnuts, fruit trees. Dogwood's red berries, for example, are winter food for as many as 90 species of birds.


Why conserve butterflies?

Butterflies feed on nectar flowering plants and in turn serve as important and indispensable pollinators of many flowering plants (both wild as well as crops grown by farmers such as Cadaba fruticosa (Kukka vominta) which grows only when pollinated by certain species of butterflies.

The caterpillars of most of the butterflies feed and develop on weeds instead of agricultural crops thus helping in controlling weeds on farms and appropriately be called friends of farmers

Butterflies are one of the most important food chain component of birds, reptiles, spiders and predatory insects.

More importantly, they are good indicators of environmental changes, being sensitive to and directly affected by changes in habitats, atmosphere and weather conditions.

Butterflies are of great esthetic value. Being beautiful and colourful they form part of the heritage of a nation and need to be preserved at all costs.

Causes that endanger butterflies

Habitat destruction, degradation of forests and their fragmentation.

Application of pesticides and weedicides is one primary cause for depletion of valuable butterfly species and their numbers.

Trampling and grazing also affect flora which harbour and sustain many butterflies, both adults and their larvae. Large scale eco-tourism programmes in vulnerable butterfly habitats can harm many butterfly species.

Measures to conserve butterflies

Legal protection accorded to butterflies and their dependant flora goes a long way in preserving habitats of butterflies. The butterfly species are protected in Schedule-I, Schedule-II and Schedule-IV. The first Schedule lists 15 butterfly species of peninsular India. Bio-piracy of butterflies of First Schedule can lead to imprisonment of up to 6 years and a fine. The Kaiser-i-Hind and Bhutan Glory top this list and are already entered into the red-data book. The Second Schedule lists 47 species of peninsular butterflies and subspecies.


Forest Department can make efforts to record and protect butterfly diversity in Andhra Pradesh. A.P. Biodiversity Board has started efforts in enlisting protection of butterfly species of the region.


Encouraging butterfly gardens in homes and institutions and erection of butterfly parks in various parks of the state go a long way in focusing and enhancing our commitment and interest towards these species and thereby create awareness and appreciation of these valuable but slowly dwindling creatures.


As a long term objective educating people to set up butterfly ranches and farms would help to restore and restock the butterfly population.


Butterflies aren’t for Free or Profits!

The illegal wildlife trade in India is estimated at several thousand crore, the third most lucrative after arms and drugs, and it isn’t just tiger skins and penises. A major part of it includes the small things people don’t notice — such as butterflies, nature’s winged jewels which have been referred to as ‘flagships’ and ‘honorary birds’. They are valuable pollinators when they move from plant to plant gathering nectar. Butterflies are one of the important foodchain components of the birds, reptiles, spiders and predatory insects. They are also good indicators of environmental quality as they are sensitive to the changes in the environment.

But the smuggling of butterflies is a cause of concern and requires immediate attention lest all these jewels would vanish which would be disastrous. Various schedules of the Wildlife (Protection) Act, 1972(henceforth WPA), dictate the level of legal protection given to species of Indian animals even to insects like butterflies. But the shortcomings of the schedules of the WPA with respect to insects have been pointed out, but no solutions have been suggested as yet. Analysis have even shown that a large proportion of species with high conservation values, many of them narrowly endemic and endangered, are not listed under the WPA, indicating the need to expand thelistings.

As for catching the culprits, over the last 20 years or so, a handful of cases against the violators have been registered. They involve foreign collectors or scientists trying to smuggle butterflies and other insects. But the majority,as in the case of Nadukani, the culprit simply flies under the radar or is not treated with the seriousness it deserves, this can be attributed to the lenient and casual treatment of the Indian Government.

With its varied climatic zones, India is a haven of diversity, and this extends to butterfly species as well. According to Ashok Kumar, a former IAS officer who has worked for the AndhraPradesh Wildlife Advisory board and is vice president of the Butterfly Conservation Society, the North East alone has about 900 species, compared to 56 in the whole of the UK.The sheer diversity of species is mind-boggling”, he says. No wonder the ‘bio-pirates’ are dazzled by the wealth they confront, literally.

During arecent survey around the Darjeeling area, it was revealed that most of the major butterfly species had almost disappeared. Hence, today’s market for butterflies is a bit like the shark fin craze, everyone wants it because they can all afford it. Earlier, only collectors bought butterflies but now it’s a business that’s diversified as it expands. They are widely used in greeting cards, paper weights, even jewellery.

Experts in the conservation business rue the fact that more attention isn’t paid to the depletion of insect populations, both through smuggling and environmental degradation. According to Tej Kumar, president of the Butterfly ConservationSociety in Andhra, wildlife conservation in India has come to focus almost exclusively on the tiger.

He also says the laws need to be looked at again. “Wehave a complicated system. The Wildlife Protection Act has four schedules under which different species are included. And it’s only if someone is found withone of these that action can be taken. Also, while some common species are included in the Act, certain species endemic to the Western Ghats, for instance, and thus more important, will not be included.” We have seen the lenient and callous attitude of the government towards it but the question is will the government ever realize how it is harming the ecology. I guess it’s time to wake up and do our bit rather than relying on the old tactics of the government...


Butterflies get their name from the yellow brimstone butterfly of Europe that is first seen in the early spring or "butter" season.

Female Queen Alexandra butterflies, from Papua and New Guinea, are the largest in the world, some with wingspans larger than 26 cm.

Butterflies and moths are found on all land masses except Antarctica.

The atlas moth, one of the largest silk moths, can be mistaken for a medium-sized bat when flying.

There are over 2,000 species of butterflies in the rainforests of South America.

Butterflies belong to, alongside with moths to an order called Lepidoptera.

The fastest flying butterfly is the Monarch, which has been clocked with a speed as high as 17 miles per hour.

Butterflies are further divided into 30 orders, the main basis of classification being their wing structure.

The main features of butterflies have in common are:

6 legs

one pair of antennae

a segmented body in which three body parts, a head, a thorax and an abdomen can be distinguished.

Night butterflies have ears on their wings so they can avoid bats.

A butterfly's taste sensors are located below their feet.

The color in a butterfly's wings does not come from pigment. The color is produced prism-like by light reflected by their transparent wing scales.

The largest butterfly is the Queen Alexandra's birdwing butterfly from Papua New Guinea. The wingspan of the butterfly can reach to be almost one foot.

A butterfly has to have a body temperature greater than 86 degrees to be able to fly.

A butterfly can see the colors red, green, and yellow.



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1 Comment

Reply Tribhi Kathuria
9:46 AM on July 27, 2011 
A very Informative Post indeed