Tuesday, August 23, 2011

Butterflies in my yard

I rate this very colourful, Common Jezebel as the Queen as far as my yard is concerned. She rarely flies low, leave alone sit, except for that one time perhaps when I was ready with my camera!  Luck!  The above shot is one of my best which inspired my friend Nancy to prepare a special greeting card for me using that picture I posted on "Dave's Garden"!

Who does not want to stop and watch a colourful butterfly flutter by?  If you have a few flowering plants, shrubs and trees in your yard, the butterflies find them. It is for many reasons butterflies are great attractions to children and I grew up watching them in our yard, which hosted much greenery.  I still do.  Earlier we just watched them without observing much.  We chased them fun. We wanted to catch them by their colourful wings, but they always flew away beyond reach. When they were resting, they sensed our approach and quickly escaped to safer places. Cats can catch them with their skill!  But we had to content ourselves when we found a dead specimen in our garden occasionally and wondered about their lovely pattern on their wings.  How weightless it was!  We studied the butterfly life cycle in school and wondered how they were caught, mounted and exhibited in laboratories in colleges for study and research.   Long later I learnt that they used a butterfly catching net for that purpose and it was through a comic book, of all places!  

Have you ever wondered how different are moths from butterflies they appear similar on first glimpse?  Just look at this link and find out: http://library.thinkquest.org/J002124/moths.htm 

Left - butterfly; Right - Moth

I recently learnt that in the US there are butterfly farms that sell pupae.  I reproduce below some lines my friend, Sandra, wrote to me when I asked how she managed a picture of a butterfly sitting on her hand.  What she wrote was interesting.  Interesting because I did not know. 

"Find or buy the pupae once they are out and ready to fly put them in a container and into a cooler with ice(do not let the butterfly touch the ice) for 15 or more minutes. This gives you enough time to take their pictures, before they warm up enough to fly.  Here these kind of farms raise butterflies for release at weddings and such.  It also sells eggs, caterpillars, chrysalises and plants for butterflies.  If you can catch a butterfly without harming it you can do the chilling and get it to sit for your pictures! I plan to build a butterfly raising house this winter. I will have the food plants for the caterpillars and nectar plants for the butterflies. As soon as the caterpillars turn into chrysalises I will move them to a cloth cube.  When the butterflies emerge and ready to fly I can then chill them to take their pictures."

Here in India, such things may be unheard of!  But we can boast of butterfly parks.  Butterfly gardening is a branch of its own.  See this Wikipedia link for some information: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Butterfly_gardening 
Mysore's Karanji Kere boasts of a butterfly garden.

Ever thought of how the word *butterfly* came into being?

No need to open the link as I have extracted the content below:

Many things are named for obvious reasons. In example, an orange was called an orange because of its color. Butterflies could be called butterflies because of a couple of different reasons...

1. The word “butterfly” has been around for a long time. One thought about where it's name may have come from is the theory that the name was supposed to be“flutter-by,” because of the way they flutter by... If that is truly the case, then somewhere along the way their name has been switched around to butterfly.

2. A false etymology claims that the word butterfly came from a Spoonerism of “flutterby”; however, the Old English word was buttorfleoge and a similar word occurs in Dutch, apparently because butterflies were thought to be witches in disguise who stole milk and butter at night.


3. An alternative folk etymology, current in Great Britain, is that the name originated as a contraction of term butter-coloured fly referring to the Brimstone Butterfly, Gonepteryx rhamni, often the first butterfly of Spring.

The word butterfly later lead to idioms, phrases, riddles, quotes and what not.  There is a style in swimming called 'butterfly stroke' and there is a 'butterfly valve' in mechanics!

Here is a popular riddle "Why did Tom throw butter out of the window?".  
Answer: Because Tom wanted to see "butter fly".

There are myriad quotes on the butterfly.  A few impressive ones:
There is nothing in a caterpillar that tells you it's going to be a butterfly. [Richard Buckminster Fuller]
I'll be floating like a butterfly and stinging like a bee. [Muhammad Ali - boxer]
The caterpillar does all the work but the butterfly get all the publicity. [George Carlin]

Butterflies have been visiting my yard dotted with a few shrubs and trees.  But once the digital camera came, I was able to observe more and see how many varieties visited.  Trying to shoot pictures of them is a thrilling circus and great fun.... if you have time!  Some varieties prefer the grass [see two pictures below] and if they are to be shot, we have to sometimes wait in the prostrate position!

I was simply amazed at the number when I sorted and counted.  I have got many of the fluttering visitors identified through books or from my knowledgeable friends on the internet, esp. from Dave's Garden.  There are a few still waiting to 'get a name'.

When a digital photo is seen on the computer screen, it looks beautiful.  When it flutters around, we miss the actual colours.

Shooting close-ups is a very tricky exercise.  [I cannot do the chilling which my friend Sandra informed.]  The slightest disturbance we may cause with our movement or to the leaves of the plant on which it sits can make it to fly away.  They are usually extremely sensitive. It may never sit for a shoot again where you can step and reach for a full view!  It requires a lot of patience and I tell you, a lot of luck.  A zoom lens is a boon if you have one.  But I managed this one of the 'Green Triangle' from just a few centimetres.

Take a lQQk at some butterflies that have been *captured* in my yard:

Lemon Butterfly

Blue Mormon - lQQk at its wingspan!

Common Mormon

Lemon Pansy

Tawny Coaster

Wonder why it is called as 'Crow'.

And this is a "Plain Tiger"! 
This was taken in a field near Chamundi Hill.

Blue Tiger!

Yellow Pansy

Common Peirrot

Red Peirrot

Common Emigrant

Common Grass Yellow - note the dark brown tipped wings

Common Wanderer

This is commonly called as Green Triangle - also called Tailed Jay.

A dead specimen of Large Oakblue.  It rarely sits for a 'breather' so to say.  As such I could manage only that!

Common Five Ring  - it is a small butterfly

I wondered what this butterfly - a Common Baron was doing in the mud. Observe its green glowing proboscis pictured below.

 Later I learnt that it was 'mud-puddling'.  

On sunny days after a rain, you may see butterflies gathering around the edges of mud puddles. What could they be doing?
Here is what:
Butterflies get most of their nutrition from flower nectar. Though rich in sugar, nectar lacks some important nutrients the butterflies need for reproduction. For those, butterflies visit puddles.

By sipping moisture from mud puddles, butterflies take in salts and minerals from the soil. This behavior is called puddling, and is mostly seen in male butterflies. That's because males incorporate those extra salts and minerals into their sperm.

When butterflies mate, the nutrients are transferred to the female through the sperm. These extra salts and minerals improve the viability of the female's eggs, increasing the couple's chances of passing on their genes to another generation.

Isn't it interesting?

I've more images in this web album.  Please do see.

Separate album for moths - 28 images as of now.

Caterpillars are sorted here, but many are not yet identified.

Young nature-lovers like Abhijna Desai can be an inspiration.  In fact, she has helped in identification of a few butterflies!


Nancy said...

Your photographs are perfect, magnificent, and the butterflies that visit your garden are the most beautiful I have seen. Thank you for sharing these with your friends!

YOSEE said...

Brilliant photos....I remember witnessing a great migration of the "tiger" butterflies in Lakshmipuram house one morning some 6 years ago. Great clouds of them streaking by ! I have never seen anything like that before or since that one instance.

Nirupama Sriram said...

Hi Dinakar,
Excellent pictures of butterflies. It is like a catalog to refer to for identification of butterflies.