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Butterfly Life Activities : in a nutshell (part 2)




Butterfly Life Activities : in a nutshell (part 2)




White Orange tip Male on Kalanchoe

Food collection: Most of the time, a butterfly is imagined nectoring a flower. This is obvious as most of butterflies do the same. Flower is widespread food source for them. More importantly it is available in the same season when butterfly breeds : pre and post monsoon season. Common flowers like Lantena, siam weeds, amaranth, snakeweed, turnsole are favorites for them. 




Tawney Rajah Male on tree sap
There are other food sources also available to the butterflies : Tree sap, rotting fruits, rotting animals, animal droppings, human urine etc. Butterflies like Rajah sp, Blue oakleaf and many browns are seen on the tree sap. Bamboo  is perhaps most abundant source for the sap. Here butterfly sits for hours drinking the sap and shares it with ants and small insects. Rotting substances easily attract some of the elusive ones and hence used as "bet". If a dead crab is lying along side of the river, its assured place for photographing them. However, these are rare events and seasonal too. Cow dung, leopard scat are also seen as place for food gathering. Bird droppings are generally used by small blues and skippers.



Any source of mineral is attractive to butterflies. Human excreta is no exception for that. Swating during trekking is "automatic" betting. Backpacks, socks and human body wet with sweat are good examples. I have seen commander, Nawab, baronet etc attracted to it. Even on some sweat drops on camera attracts them. Another source with 'bet prospective' is the human urine. But not any urine, my experience says. If somebody drinks on the previous night, and uses the urine from the next day, it serves.

Black Rajah on Leopard Scat

Mud-puddling: Mud-puddling is vital food collection activity of most butterfly species where they obtain minerals from mud. Usually males are seen mud puddling as they require certain mineral for reproduction. females of very species like Gaudy Baron are seen mud puddling. In Sahyadri (Maharashtra part), water holes are rare in pre-monsson season. Thus in jungles even on a small puddle thousands of butterflies may be seen puddling. However this doesn't happens daily. One must be lucky to see so many species coming together at a single place for the 'ritual'.  

 "Mud puddling" term is bit confusing for me. The best puddling sites are the ones alongside of the river.  Here the presence of sand is more useful for them to penetrate their proboscis . Sand particles are larger than soil particles, hence allows the water to flow between them. 

 In North-east region scenario is quite different. Here river are perennial, sand beds are available. Puddling is seen almost through out the year. Vast sand planes and constantly flowing fresh water brings thousands of butterflies here. Once a butterfly inserts proboscis in the sand, it will sit their for few minutes and will allow to take fantastic photographs. One has to wait till it settles down.


Mu puddling flock of butterflies shot at Namdapha


Territory defense: Some of the butterflies do not allows other one of any species to appear in its territory. I sometime hate chocolate pansies for such activity. They chase the intruder for short duration then comes back to its original place. Reflexes are extraordinary when a butterfly protects its territory. In Namdapha, we saw constable seating high up on a medium sized tree and chasing whichever butterfly enters in its premise. To test it, we tossed a small stone near to it. Not to our surprise it attacked the stone as well. 



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By Paresh Kale



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