Monday, July 31, 2006

Common Jay

Scientific Name :- Graphium doson C & R Felder

Common Jay is a butterfly with a wingspan of 70 - 80 mm. This is a black butterfly with a pale blue, semi - transparent central band that is formed by large spots. There is a marginal series of smaller spots. The underside of the wings is brown, with markings similar to the upperside, but they are whitish. The sexes look alike.

The Common Bluebottle is brighter blue and lacks the series of marginal spots present in the Common Jay.

Status, Distribution and Habitat

The Common Jay is common in the thick, riparian, moist deciduous, semi-evergreen and evergreen forests. It inhabits primary as well as secondary forests, sometimes venturing into forest plantations and orchards situated in the midst of forests. It particularly frequents forest streams and rivers. It is active throughout the year, but more so in the summer. It is distributed at lower elevations in the Sri Lankan and southern Indian forests, including suitable localities in the Eastern Ghats and Satpuras. It extends to bengal and Assam in the east, the himalayan foothills to the north and then throughout southeast Asia.


This butterfly is active throughout the day, and constantly on the move, so it is difficult to see it settled down. It has a swift and straight flight and avoids no vegetation layer. Its thorax is strong, so it rapidly beats its wings, not fully lowering them in each beat. It can easily travel between the ground and the canopy of the 40 m tall evergreen forests. The resources of the adults are distributed throughout this vertical range. They range from the mud-puddling sites of the males at the forest streams to large shrubs such as Leea, to medium-sized treees such as cinnamomum and large canopy trees. While feeding from flowers, it keeps its wings vibrating, never fully settling on the flowers.

The males gather at mud-puddling sites and usually form their own species assemblages or join other swallowtail butterflies. The group is a very tight one, so the members push against each other in an effort to shift to spots in the surrounding of their original positions. Before retiring in the evening, the butterfly spends a prolonged period investigating and hovering to choose a particular branch to sleep. At rest the wings are closed over the back, but the hind wings do not cover the fore wings.


The egg-laying behaviour is very similar to that of the Tailed Jay. The habits and host plants of the caterpillar and place of pupation are also similar.

The egg is spherical and pale yellow. The young larva lacks the yellowish markings present on the back of the Tailed Jay. and the white line above the prolegs is broader. The grown caterpillar has two forms, It is either dark brown or grassy green, with spines on the 4th segment short, conical and blue centred. They are surrounded by broad lemon-yellow rings which, in turn are surrounded by thin black rings. The osmererium is pale bluish-green and extruded only reluctantly.

The pupa is pale green with a dark purplish median line from the head to the thoracic horn and a yellow line from the tip of the horn to the cremaster.

Larval Host Plants.

The caterpillars feed on Annona lawii, Cinnamomum macrocarpum, Magnolia grandiflora, Michelia champaca, Miliusa tomentosum and Polyalthia longifolia ( Annonaceae, Lauraceae, Magnoliaceae).

Saturday, July 29, 2006

Common Bluebottle

Scientific Name :- Graphium sarpedon Linneaus

Common Bluebottle is a butterfly with a wingspan of 80 - 90 mm. The upperside is black with a greenish-blue central band. The wings are pointed. The hind wings have a row of submarginal crescent shaped blue spots. The underside of the wings is brown, the blue band paler, with some red spots. The female is paler with slightly broader wings. The Common Jay is pale blue, with blue spots surrounding the central blue band.

Status, Distribution and Habitat

It occurs in the evergreen and semi-evergreen forests and is very common on the forest paths, streamsides and edges. It is found mainly at low elevations but may be seen up to 2,300 m in the Himalayas. It occurs in southern India in the Western Ghats and in the himalayas from Kashmir eastwards. Its global distribution extends over the oriental and Australian regions.


The Common Bluebottle is a nervous butterfly, settling seldom and only momentarily. It flies fast with rapid wingbeats. Although it occurs in all the vegetation layers, it spends most of its time in the canopy of the tall forest trees. It feeds on nectar, similar to the tailed jay, it visits flowers hurriedly and its wings quiver, in order to balance and move the body, while feeding. The males congregate in large numbers for mud-puddling. they also come readily to natural baits such as rotting insects.


The egg is yellowish, laid singly on the leaves of the host plants. The young larva is black or dark green with many spines. the grown up larva is green with a pair of short spines on each thoracic segment and the last segment. There is a yellow transverse band on the 4th segment, and a lateral band on the body. the caterpillar usually lies in the middle of the leaf on the upper surface and is very sluggish. The pupa is green with a slender and pointed thoracic projection, yellowish wint-cases and lateral bands.

Larval Host Plants

The caterpillars feed on plants of family Lauraceae and Annonaceae. The plants include Alseodaphne semecarpiflolia, Cinnamimum camphora, Cinnamomum macrocarpum, Cinnamomum malabatrum, litsea chinensis, Miliusa tomentosa, Polyalthia longifolia and Persea macrantha.

Friday, July 28, 2006

Crimson Rose

Scientific Name :- Pachliopta hector Linnaeus

Crimson Rose is a butterfly with a wingspan of 90 - 110 mm. The crimson Rose is a large, glossy, black butterfly with two broad white bands on the fore wings. The tailed hind wings hae bright crimson spots. The uppersides and undersides of the wings are similar in markings. The body is a gaudy crimson in colour. the femaleis somewhat dull.

The Common Rose has elongated white spots ont he hind wing, but lacks the white bands on the fore wing. The form romulus of the Common Mormon female, a mimic of the Crimson Rose, has a black body, is smaller in size and duller in colour.

Status, Distribution and Habitat

Crimson Rose butterfly is very common south of the Godavari river and mainly at lower elevations. Its range extends along the coast of Orissa, South Bihar and West Bengal into Sikkim and parts of northeast India. It is abundant from late monsoon to late winter, but may be found in smaller numbers throughout the year. It occurs mainly in the dry deciduous forests and thick scrub, but may also be found in disturbed semi-evergreen and evergreen forests. This is a species restricted to mainland India and Sri Lanka, although it has also been recorded from eastern Myanmmar and Andaman Islands.


Like the Common Rose, the Crimson Rose has a a slow, fluttering but steady flight, However, it flies slightly faster, stronger and at a greater height from the ground.

It is a regular visitor of flowers, and nectar probably plays a decisive role in its egg-production. The higher intake of nectar may be augmenting egg production. the flowers of Lantana, a shrub which has now infested vast patches in disturbed dry and moist deciduous forests of southern India, is its favourite nectar plant. the butterfly is very common wherever large patches of flowering Lantana Occur.

It basks with its wings spread flat. Sometimes small congregations of basking individuals may be formed, often at 10 - 15 m up in the trees. While resting, the fore wings are half-drawn between the hind wings. the butterfly sleeps on slanting, outstreached branches of shrubs, small trees, etc.

It has strong migratory habits. Massive congregations of up to several thousand individuals may be found at the end of the peak season for the species. These then migrate to other areas.


It is similar to the Common Rose. The caterpillar is purplish-black or blackish-brown with a black head and orange osmeterium. The body is fat, with orange-red tubercles, and a transverse yellowish-white band on segments 6 to 8 is very prominent.

The pupa is pinkish-brown with darker, expanded wing-cases. the wing-like expansions on the abdomen are distinctive.

Length of Caterpillar: 45 mm. Length of pupa: 30 mm.

Larval Host Plants

The caterpillars feed on Aristolochia bracteolata, Aristolochia indica and Thottea siliquosa ( Aristolochiaceae ).

Thursday, July 27, 2006

Common Rose

Scientific Name :- Pachliopta aristolochiae

Common Rose is a butterfly with a wingspan of 80 -110 mm. It is a black butterfly with a crimson body. there is a large white area on the hind wings. A series of deep red or brownish - red spots are present on the outer margin of the hind wings. the sexes look alike.

The Crimson Rose is a similar species which is larger, brighter and has two white central bands on its fore wings. The Malabar Rose ( Pachilipta pandiyana Moore ) has a much larger white patch on its hind wings. It is found only in the southern and central Western ghats. The female of the Common Mormon ( form stichius) mimics this species.

Status, Distribution and Habitat

It is distributed all over the oriental region and is very common throughout India. It is found mainly in open, cultivated areas, scrub and deciduous forests. A common visitor to garden flowers, it is also seen in most crowded cities. It is more frequent during and after the rains, being less common during very cold or very hot periods of the year.


The flight of some swallowtails is interesting, with the long fore wings being used for propelling the body in flight and the hind wings mainly for balancing and steering. The Common Rose is one example of this, and the flight style is distinctly evident when the butterfly is feeding from flowers. At this time, the fore wings are flapped continuously and the hind wings ae moved only a little to control the movement of the body. The flight is slow but straight and long sustained. The butterfly flies usually not more than 3 - 4 m above the ground when it is searching for flowers or for the larval host plant. However, when it travels long distances, it flies up to 10 - 15 m above open ground and slightly higher when flying over the forest.

Commonrose is fond of flowers, especially of Lantana, Cosmos, Zinnia, etc and visits wet soil occasionally.

Early in the morning Common Rose can be seen basking near tree tops with its wings spread out.


The female takes a long time fluttering around and investigating the host plant to confirm that the plant has abundant young leaves for the ever hungry caterpillars. the eggs are laid on the underside of leaves of Aristolochia. the egg is round and reddish. the caterpillar is a velvety maroon in colour with a whitish band on its abdominal segments. This band is more important in the advanced stages of the caterpillar. The caterpillar has fleshy protuberancs on the body, is bulky and slow in its movements. The pupa is brownish and held at an angle to the support, generally a stick, by means of a body-band. It looks unusual due to the large flat, semi circular projections on the back of the abdomen, thorax and head.

The caterpillars, and hence the butterflies, are protected because of the pungent smelling aristolochic acids found in their host plants. They smell and taste unpleasant and predators soon learn to avoid them. However, in spite of their unpalatibility to birds and reptiles, the caterpillars are vulnerable to parasitoid attacks. the braconid wasps that parasitize Southern Birdwing caterpilars also parasitize the caterpillars of the Common Rose. The aristolochic acid defenses of their host are of no use against the wasps as the wasps also have evolved along with their host in such a way that the acids have no adverse effect on them.

Larval Host Plants

The caterpillars feed on creepers and climbers: Aristolochia bracteolata, Aristolochia indica, Aristolochia tagala and Thottea siliquosa ( Aristolochiaceae).

Wednesday, July 26, 2006

Southern Bird Wing

Scientific Name :- Troides minos Cramer

Southern Bird Wing is the largest among butterflies of southern India and has a wingspan of 140 - 190 mm. The upper surface of its fore wings is deep black and that of its hind wings is golden - yellow with black wing - borders. The female is similar to the male, but less shiny and has a row of large triangular spots on the yellow areas of the hind wings. In both the sexes the undersides are similar to the uppersides.

Status, Distribution and Habitat

It is restricted to southern India and is very common in many areas of the southern and central Western Ghats. It is also found in Southern Maharashtra and northern Goa where, however, it is uncomen. It inhabits diverse habitats from lowland evergreen forests near the coast to mixed deciduous forests, dry scrub and agricultural fields. It is common in the monsoon and post - monsoon months but uncommon in summer.


Southern Bird Wing usually flies very high, among or above tree-tops in the forests, but sometimes descends to the ground. It flies in a leisurely manner, circling and sailing over the plants. This flight, coupled with its bright colours, advertises the fact that the species is unpalatable to birds and other large insectivorous predators. This unpalatability is due to the presence of aristolochic acids, which the caterpillar ingests while feeding on the leaves of its host plant which contain them. the fluttering of its wings sometimes gives the impression that the butterfly would not be able to fly afr but it is indded a very determined flier and covers long distances in a single flight. Even while flying in the canopy, it attracts attention because of its extremely large size, the wingspan being larger thatn those of small birds, hence the name: "birdwing".

The only food source of the Southern Bird Wing butterfly is flower nectar. Like many other large forest butterfly species that also inhabit gardens and orchards, it has taken to feeding on Lantana, Ixora and Mussaenda, which are common ornamental garden plants. The butterfly keeps fluttering its wings while feeding but closes them over its back when it rests.

Most of the diurnal butterflies become active in the morning only after the sun-rays raise the ambient temperature. The Birdwing, however, is remarkable in that it starts flying very early in the morning, much before other butterflies and thus may be found feeding earlier than them. the species does not exhibit any special basking behavious, but its jet-black scales are very efficient in capturing heat.

Reproduction of Southern Birdwing Butterfly


The habitually high-flying Birdwing female flies close to the ground and shrubs in search of the larval host plants, all of which are aristolochiaceous creepers and climbers. the female hovers about the host plant, and lays spherical eggs singly on the edges of the undersides of young leaves and shoots. the little caterpillar lives on the underside of leaves but as it grows fatter and larger, it rests on the underside of stalks and stems. As with the Roses, the caterpillar is extremely slow and uninterested in moving. the caterpillar and pupa, in general appearance , are similar to those of Common Rose. The caterpillar is velvety maroon-red with a shiny black head. It has four rows of long, fleshy and bright red tubercles - two subdorsal and two spiracular. the dorsal surface of the segments is shiny. the back has grey markings and there is a broad, oblique, pinkinsh - white band on the 7th and 8 th segments. The abdominal segments bear flattened outgrowths. The pupa is pale brown or green, marked with fine brown striations and minute markings. It is found on the underside of leaves, twigs, etc. If touched, it makes hissing sounds by rubbing together the 8th, 9th and 10th abdominal segments and swaying from side to side.


The caterpillars are heavily parasitized by tiny Braconid wasps. Dozens of Braconid larvae, after eating the Birdwing caterpillar from inside, puncture the skin, wriggle out and make whitish cottony cocoons on the body of the caterpilar. After the Braconids pupate the caterpilar does not feed, but remains alive and motionless for a few hours or even days.

Larval Host Plants of Southern Bird Wing Butterfly

The host plants are small climbers and creepers of the family Aristolochiaceae, which grow in openings in the forests and on fallow lands: Aristolochia indica, Aristolochia tagala and Thottea siliquosa.

Sunday, July 02, 2006

Garden Pond

A view of the pond which i constructed in my garden. Every garden, no matter how small should have a pond in it, creating an artificial pond is actually easier than you think. This one was made by creating the required shape, in this case a parabolic shape was made in the sand, then we put some red earth and beat it with a weight to set. After that we placed a wire mesh 1" square metal net cut to shape and poured concrete mixture, allowed it to set. later we added rocks on to the sides with cement to give it the look of a natural pond. Blue water lilly along with some other water plants was introduced to the pond.

Even though its a very small pond it suddenly creates a micro environment complete with frogs, dragonflies and many other insects which would otherwise not be there. It also helps maintain the temperature level and humidity in the garden, a very useful thing for the health of plants.

Garden Pond in my Butterfly Garden
Garden Pond in my Butterfly Garden

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