Bring the butterflies home

If butterflies encourage you, right here is how one can woo them to your frontyard or the mini-gardens in your yard and balconies

Mumbai-based school pupil Aparna Singh Parihar calls herself a naturalist, given her curiosity in the world of butterflies. “I grew up in Jabalpur where, in our small garden, butterflies used to flit about our feet,” she says. But her new metropolis solely presents a small 4×6 toes balcony to stare out from. So, she learn sufficient to know what mixture of crops in her balcony would supply meals, shelter and breeding floor to the winged wonders.

She now moms over a potted zinnia, champa, hibiscus, aloe vera and decorative fern. “I am waiting as these are the best months to observe butterflies in action,” she says excitedly.

Over 1,000 kilometres away in Coimbatore, company coach Anu Ajay was feeling misplaced throughout lockdown after her switch from Chennai. “I am surprised at my new-found love for these winged beauties,” she says. Earlier, she was solely in awe of their charming colors and patterns and questioned if she would ever trek to a forest or go to a park to review the beautiful bugs. Now, she is growing a butterfly nook in her open sky verandah.

Flying colors Congregation of the winged guests
| Photo Credit:
Sharan Venkatesh

She has planted curry leaf and basil saplings with idli poo and as she waits for them to bloom, she is brushing up on her data by books and walks in the neighbourhood. “I have become more observant of local plants growing in the vicinity and am also making short audio-visual capsules on different families and common species of butterflies to share with friends and family,” she says.

“It is possible to attract butterflies anywhere if you conserve the natural habitat and focus on native flora… This will help sustain the common species of butterflies in our cities,” says Sammilan Shetty, conservationist and founding father of butterfly park in Belvai close to Mangaluru. “Our cities,” he says, “do not allow even a blade of grass to grow amid construction and traffic.” “Out of their love for the vibrant bugs or for the need of a patch of greenery inside their small areas, individuals can create their very own butterfly habitats by planting the native flora and seeds,” he provides.

Flying colours Lime swallow tail butterfly

Flying colors Lime swallow tail butterfly
| Photo Credit:
Shanthni Balu

Landscape marketing consultant Shanthni Balu has switched to natural manure for her backyard close to Pollachi. She grows curry leaf, lemon, ginger, lily, turmeric and cassia, however was disenchanted when the fluttering creatures didn’t flip up. “I learnt I need to go pesticide-free if I want to attract the common butterflies to my place,” she says and provides, “Once you understand and follow their life stages, diet, mating and migration patterns, it is fun wooing them.”

Agricultural entomologist S Rajkumar, too has developed a superb butterfly habitat in his mini backyard at his Madurai home and hit the jackpot of a scatter of butterfly species.

“Host crops corresponding to the lime and curry leaf tree have been already right here. All I did was add few absolutely grown nectar-producing flowers corresponding to theidli poo (ixora) and crape jasmine (pin wheel flower) to help the full life cycle of a butterfly,” he says.

Flying colours Citrus butterfly

Flying colors Citrus butterfly  
| Photo Credit:
S Rajkumar

“There is a renewed pleasure with which my spouse now maintains the backyard and my teenaged son images the sleek winged creatures. “We have turn into butterfly addicts. Last fortnight was spent chasing and figuring out monarch and mormons, swallow tail, widespread crow, plain tiger, crimson rose, yellow pansy butterflies gliding in to animate our backyard like by no means earlier than,” he provides.

More than 50 people from eight to 60 years have been enthused by one week’s WhatsApp periods on butterflies anchored by Sharan Venkatesh, the founding father of Rhopalocera and Odonata Association of Rajapalayam (ROAR) and butterfly fanatic Edward Eltham, who coordinates Nature engagement programmes of Chennai-based ezoneIndia. “We just had to convince the novices how easy it is to rear butterflies and guide them to grow native plants to attract and protect butterflies,” says Sharan. “The feedback is encouraging as the participants are updating us on their kitchen gardens, backyards, front lawns and mini-forests created in their balconies visited by the gossamer-winged friends now,” says Edward.

Flying colours Common Jay butterfly

Flying colors Common Jay butterfly
| Photo Credit:
Ishani Vivek

In the brief time, Ishani Vivek, in Class VIII at Kendriya Vidyalaya, Coimbatore, learnt to determine all six households of butterflies. Chasing them has turned her into photographer, she says, unable to cover her pleasure about photographing the smallest butterfly present in India — the oriental grass jewel — in addition to the blue mormon, widespread grass yellow and the lime butterfly in the hotspot she has developed to welcome butterflies in her backyard.

“I spend hours by the guava tree where the castor flies in to derive its nutrition from the half eaten fruits left by the parrots,” she says and provides, “In school so far I learnt butterflies are important for the ecosystem. Now I know how to protect them and also conserve a unique biodiversity.”

Checklist to your butterfly habitat

Get a set of host crops on which a butterfly hatches, feeds, pupates from egg to caterpillar to grownup. Without host crops, they may go extinct.

Combine the host crops with nectar-producing flowers that helps the butterfly’s life cycle.

Create shallow puddles for consuming and place small flat rocks so butterflies can chill out in the solar.

Do not use pesticides in or close to a butterfly backyard.

Hosts:Nerium, curry leaf, lemon/citrus, large calotrope, Indian birthwort, decorative palm, pongamia

Nectar crops:Ixora, zinnia, lantana, oleander, Jamaican spike, pagoda flower, the snakeweed, Heliotropium species

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