Eager to know about rare butterfly species found in the Himalayas? Or keen to build your own butterfly garden? Then, you should check out Butterflies Of India, a new book by naturalist Isaac Kehimkar, which will launch mid-July. Published by Bombay Natural History Society (BNHS), the book will serve as an illustrated guide with photographs of more than 1,000 species and subspecies of butterflies found in the Indian subcontinent, including neighbouring regions of Pakistan, Sri Lanka, Bangladesh, Nepal, Bhutan and Myanmar.
“Today, it is heartening to see an explosion of butterfly watchers, who post photographs on social media. The book covers biological details of as many as 1,800 butterflies, with text suited for beginners. It also includes sections on butterfly watching, photography, and even guides the readers to create their own butterfly garden,” shares Kehimkar, who joined the BNHS as a volunteer way back in 1978, and is currently, the Deputy Director (Natural History). With special interest in reptiles, amphibians, insects and plants, his previous published works include Moths — An Introduction, Incredible insects, Common Indian Wild Flowers, Common Butterflies Of India and Book of Indian Butterflies.
Also called The Butterfly Man of India, Kehimkar took over two years to pen the magnum opus. He says, “The butterflies took me to every corner of India, from Ladakh to Kerala, Andaman Islands, Sikkim and the entire Northeastern region, up to the Myanmar border. Several butterflies are common to the neighbouring countries too, and butterfly enthusiasts from those regions have contributed images in the book.”
According to the naturalist, most Indian butterflies are protected under the Wildlife (Protection) Act, 1972, which implies that catching and killing of certain species is illegal unless permitted under a license. “However, laws on paper are not likely to save wildlife unless enough measures are taken simultaneously to protect their habitats, generate public awareness, and identify local people partners in conserving butterflies,” he observes, signing off in the hope that the book will act as a step towards butterfly conservation.
Spot the butterfly
Colour plays an important role in an adult butterfly’s survival. Most species that are brightly coloured on the upper sides of their wings, have subdued colours on the undersides. It helps camouflage them when the wings are folded together at rest. The Blue Oakleaf is a classic example of such colouration. The undersides of its wings features the exact colour pattern of a dead leaf, complete with ‘stalk’, ‘midrib’ and even ‘fungus’ and ‘worm holes’. When disturbed, it opens its wings to take off, flashing the brilliant blue on its upper side that momentarily startles the predator, giving the butterfly an opportunity to fly away.
Kaiser-I-Hind photographed by Tage Kano
Bhutan Glory photographed by Karma Wangdi
Kaiser-I-Hind and Bhutan Glory
Among Indian butterflies, the Kaiser-I-Hind, found in the Himalayan forests and in the hill forests of the Northeastern region is the rarest, and is listed in the Red Data Book of Threatened Swallowtail Butterflies Of The World. Other species listed as rare include the Bhutan Glory and some Apollos that are found in the Himalayas.
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COST Rs 2,200 (cover price), Rs 1,800 (pre-publication offer till July 15)
Did you know?
The most crucial stage in the adult butterfly’s life is immediately after its emergence from the pupa, when its wings are wet and limp. This is probably the reason why butterflies most often emerge around dawn, when the light is poor. It gives them a better chance of escaping detection.