The end of the rains paves the way for the start of the butterfly season, which continues till December. If you love these colourful insects, you can host them by creating a butterfly garden in a garden patch or your window sill. The ideal time to plant saplings on a patch is in May, just before the rains. As for a window garden, you are good to go any time of the year.
The blue tiger variety flits around Ovalekar Wadi butterfly park in Thane. Pic/Rane Ashish
Dr Raju Kasambe, author of the book Butterflies of Western Ghats (In-charge, BNHS Conservation Education Centre and Important Bird Areas programme manager) and Sandeep Athalye, founder of Aarey Dairy Butterfly Garden, tell you all that you need to know to play host to these winged beauties.
Visitors on a tour of Aarey Dairy Butterfly Garden
What you need
You need two kinds of plants to create a butterfly garden: nectar plants that attract butterflies and larval host plants for them to lay eggs. Nectar plants include pentas, ixora, yellow and pink lantana and Jamaican spike. You can plant at least two of each in regular pots. The plant height should not be more than three feet. All butterflies have specific host plants where they lay eggs.
Blue oak leaf butterflies
Curry leaf plant attracts butterflies like the common Mormon and lime butterfly. The lime plant attracts butterflies such as the blue and common Mormon. Bryophyllum or panphuti (in Marathi), passion flower and aristolochia work well too. Butterflies can fly till the tenth floor of a typical building. Ensure that the level of insecticide is very low. Don’t concretise your garden, damp mud attracts butterflies.
Yellow lantana flowers with a common rose butterfly
Why butterflies are important
Butterflies act as pollinators, that is, they move pollen from one part of the flower to another and assist the process of pollination that is crucial for food production and the balance of the eco system. They serve as food for birds. “They also increase our Gross Happiness Index; imagine stepping into your car park to be greeted by 25 butterflies,” Kasambe suggests.
Butterflies of Mumbai
More than 150 butterflies can be found in Mumbai. These include the common Mormon, common rose and crimson rose, and the blue Mormon, the state butterfly of Maharashtra, from the swallowtail category.
A caterpillar of the swallowtail butterfly
The blue tiger, common Indian crow, blue oak leaf, lemon pansy, peacock pansy and grey pansy are brush-footed butterflies. Along the creek, you will spot small salmon Arab. Other common families include blues and skipper, and yellows and whites.
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