Mumbai's butterfly effect

Updated: Oct 04, 2019, 14:23 IST | Shunashir Sen | Mumbai

mid-day, BNHS and WWF India offer you a never-seen-before opportunity to mingle with a swarm of butterflies over two enchanting weekends this month

PICS/DR RAJU KASAMBE, BNHS
PICS/DR RAJU KASAMBE, BNHS

It was American philosopher Henry David Thoreau who once said, "Happiness is like a butterfly. The more you chase it, the more it will elude you. But if you turn your attention to other things, it will come and sit softly on your shoulders." It's a quote that alludes to a certain enigma that butterflies have. Think about it. There are few things in nature as ephemerally beautiful as a butterfly that flutters in the wind in all its glorious colours before it flies off to a place you will never know. And Mumbaikars now have the chance to spot multiple such species at a butterfly festival that Bombay Natural History Society (BNHS) and World Wildlife Fund is joining hands for, with mid-day as the media partner.

It will be held at BNHS' Conservation Education Centre (CEC) campus in Goregaon. The unique thing about this place, CEC's assistant director Dr Raju Kasambe tells us, is that particular flowers known to attract butterflies were planted in abundance here so that the insect population is concentrated in one area. "Mumbai has approximately 150 butterfly species and we have already spotted 120 at the CEC," he says, indicating how visitors at the festival are bound to be treated to a feast for the eyes. We ask Kasambe to share details about five butterfly types that you can expect to spot at the festival. Keep an eye out for his options and who knows, one might even perch itself on your shoulder if you don't give it too much attention.

On October 12, 13, 19 and 20
At Conservation Education Centre, Film City, Goregaon East.
Log on to cec-mumbai@bnhs.org to register
Call 9594929107
Cost Rs 200

Blue Oakleaf

This is one of the most beautiful butterfly species that's also a master in camouflage, which explains its name. "What it tries to do is mimic a dry leaf," Kasambe says, adding, "It even has veins that look like what you see on dead leaves." But behind the brown exterior, the species turns into a vibrant blue insect once it opens its wings.

Black Rajah

Black Rajah

People often assume that all butterflies feed on nectar. But Kasambe says, "This is one butterfly that never feeds on a flower. It just feeds on rotten fruit and the scat, or poop, of wild animals like leopards, and dogs and cats. So, you won't find a Black Rajah if you ever look for it in a garden. Instead, you might see it on a road in the forest. It's also really shy. Once it flies off, you will never find it again."

Anomalous Nawab

Anomalous Nawab

This is another species that feeds on rotten fruits and animal poop. And interestingly, all such butterflies that have this habit have "nawab" or "rajah" attached to their name. The possible reason, Kasambe says, is that the British began this practice of naming them such to mock Indian nawabs and kings, who were notorious for their bad habits. That might be a case of hitting below the belt but either way, the name Anomalous Nawab has persisted for many decades.

Tawny Coster

Tawny Coster

The city's avian population better watch out for this species. "It is poisonous. If a bird consumes this butterfly, it might have to vomit," Kasambe says, adding that the species also stays safe in terms of its numbers since a single insect lays a whole bunch of eggs, which can even go up to 20 on a single leaf. "There is a healthy population of them in our area. The number can be increased in any city since all you have to do is plant passionflowers. But make sure you don't spray insecticides on them," the expert warns.

Blue Mormon

Blue Mormon

This species is the state butterfly of Maharashtra and the good news is that it has been spotted in healthy numbers last month. It's one of the largest butterflies in this part of the country and is found throughout the state, though its presence is greater in the Western parts because of the presence of the ghats. "It can survive only in forested areas," Kasambe says.

Tracking the festival

The festival isn't just meant for spotting butterflies. There are a host of other activities planned to keep visitors of all ages engaged. These are:

  • Butterfly trails led by experts.
  • Origami and art workshops centred around the insect.
  • People can also watch a documentary that traces the amazing migratory journey of some butterfly species.
  • You can also send in your entries for a photography competition to cec-mumbai@bnhs.org. The winner will be felicitated on the last day.

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Don't miss the Butterfly festival in Mumbai this weekend!

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