Saturday, December 22, 2012

Life cycle of Peacock Royal (Tajuria cippus)

This individual was found on Loranthus at Jalahalli on 2nd December 2012. It was in its last instar. One of the most queer-looking caterpillars I've seen till date. Looks like bird droppings on a leaf. Could also camouflage itself on a stone or on the bark of any tree. I thank Ashok Sengupta sir for finding this beauty despite how well-hidden it was!

It pupated on 6th December 2012, at 8pm. Even though I missed watching the pupation, I could get a shot at the freshly pupated stage. At this point of time the colours are generally lighter/ paler:

The next day morning, after the pupa had hardened and the colours were darker. On December 10th, the wing patterns and veins became slightly noticable on the lateral side of the pupa:

Dorsal view of the pupa on December 10th:

On December 17th, 8:50am.

On 18th, sometime during the afternoon, the butterfly emerged:

This individual is a male. Flight pattern is fast and jerky, this beautiful brilliant blue is meant to deceive the predator. The predator looks for a blue butterfly where as the underside is white and it can easily hide away!

Wednesday, December 12, 2012

Life Cycle of Common Rose (Pachliopta aristolochiae)

This individual has been quite intriguing since day one, simply because a Crimson Rose (Atrophaneura hector) was seen hovering around the plant Aristolochia indica, when the egg was collected at Jalahalli. Two of us, Nitin R and myself, watched the Crimson Rose lay eggs on the plant and took two individuals to raise. But as this turned out to be a Common Rose, we assumed that it must have been laid by a Common Rose previously on the same plant, before the Crimson Rose got there. The individual taken by Nitin, on the other hand, turned out to be a Crimson Rose.

The caterpillar hatched five days after the egg was taken from the plant.
Day 1: Size measurement: 1mm

Day 6, the caterpillar moulted for the first time. Instar 2. Size measurement: 5mm

After this moult, the caterpillar gained a more velvety texture of skin, and the colours looked more vibrant.
Moulted once again on day 9. It is observed that the ratio between the size of the face cap to the size of the rest of the body increased with each moult.

On day 11, the caterpillar showed preference to the leaf stalk instead of eating the lamina. This behaviour lasted the whole day. The size was 12mm. The colours grew more and more vibrant each day.

Moulted once again on day 12. Instar 3. Measured 12mm. Post this moult, the eating speed of the caterpillar increased exponentially. The caterpillar did nothing but eat, eat, and eat.

The increasingly vibrant colours could attribute to the fact that it needs to warn the predator of its distasteful contents. Bright colours in nature generally indicate that the creature is not the one to prey upon due to its toxic body contents. On day 17, the length measurement was 25mm.

Cannibalism is a known phenomenon amongst caterpillars. There was another caterpillar of Common Rose in the same container as this individual. This caterpillar had formed silken thread (pre-pupa stage) and had fixed itself to the wall of the container in order to pupate. As this stage immobilizes the caterpillar, it is easy for the other to feed on. So, the caterpillar on observation here, partially ate up the other caterpillar which had formed pre-pupa. This is the dead caterpillar.

On day 28, the caterpillar formed silken thread on a twig kept inside the box, and hung itself upside down. Before this, the length of the caterpillar measured 32mm.

It stayed that way till the end of day 29. The colours had dulled down and it gained the pre-moult appearance.

It is strange that this individual did not form a cremaster (a firm attachment to the surface of the twig/container, built with strong webs). It pupated without the cremaster, and was hanging down from the twig.

On day 29, at 3:27pm, the caterpillar started pupating. The process was done by 4:00pm. It was bright red in colour when freshly formed.

Just after pupation. The black structure on top of it is the last moult.

The next day, on day 30, the pupa was dry and had changed appearance to a brownish shade, which would be the most amazing camouflage in any natural conditions. It was perfectly woody. A lateral view of the pupa.

A ventral view of the pupa on day 30.

On day 45, the pupa turned partially transparent and the forewings could be seen through the pupa. This transparency is an indication of nearing eclosion.

On day 46, the pupa eclosed and the adult Common Rose emerged. (Eclosion process was missed!)

The discarded pupa after eclosion:

Total time taken for the life cycle: 50 days
Egg: 5 days
Caterpillar: 29 days
Pupa: 16 days

It was an absolute pleasure to watch the beautiful adult Common Rose fly high up in the sky.

Friday, November 30, 2012

November - Summary of trips in and around Bangalore!

The first trip was to Lalbagh on 4th November. Nitin R and I added the 51st species to Lalbagh's list of Winged Jewels. The 50th one was a Commander (Moduza procris)!

The second weekend, 11/11/2012 was to J.P Nagar Reserve Forest. Time spent was about 3 hours. Here are the highlights of the trip!
Dark Brand Bushbrown (Mycalesis mineus). (Resident populations of both mineus and perseus are found in JP Nagar.)

Pointed Ciliate Blue (Ionolyce helicon) which was an addition to the species list of J.P Nagar RF:

The butterfly of the day, Karwar Swift (Caltoris canaraica) which was a new addition to the species list of Bangalore itself! 

Indian Skipper (Spialia galba):

Slate Flash (Rapala manea) an addition to JP Nagar RF's species list!

On 12/11/12, a 2 hour walk in Lalbagh.
Common Albatross (Appias albina), spotted for the third time over the past few months. Lalbagh definitely has a resident population. This one here is a male.

The upper side, intermediate seasonal form of a Plains Cupid (Chilades pandava):

Bevan's swift (Pseudoborbo bevani) feeding on bird droppings:

On 18/11/12, the Bangalore Butterfly Club made a trip to Valley School, spent about 4 hours. This place disappoints no one! Thanks to Kalesh S, we identified three varieties of swifts - Rice Swift, Straight Swift (which appeared to be very common there) and Bevan's Swift.
Angled Castor (Ariadne ariadne):

Forget-me-not (Catochrysops strabo):

Plumbeous Silverline (Spindasis schistacea):

Common Wanderer (Pareronia valeria):

A very special and unexpected sighting of a Common Guava Blue (Virachola isocrates) at Cunningham Road on 22/11/12! Photograph by Nitin R!

On 25/11/2012, a visit to J.P Nagar Reserve forest, time spent - 3 hours.
Made a stunning image of this Crimson Rose (Artrophaneura hector) which is now the wallpaper on my PC! What a fresh beauty!

We also saw a Double Branded Crow (Euploea core) female. Being a migratory species, it was quite unexpected at this time of the year.

A very strangely shaped individual of a Slate Flash (Rapala manea).

Small Branded Swift (Pelopidas mathias), the underside:

 Small Branded Swift (Pelopidas mathias), the upperside:

As an added bonus, we found caterpillars of Common Rose (Atrophaneura aristolochiae) and Crimson Rose (Atrophaneura hector) on Aristolochia.

Bangalore may be a busy city, but nevertheless, the butterflies thrive. So, a very special "happy butterflying!" shout-out to all the Bangaloreans reading this post!

Thursday, November 15, 2012

Ciao for now, dear Western Ghats!

The next day, at Dharmastala, I found the Madras Ace (Thoressa honorei), which is quite rare! And a Common Small Flat (Sarangesa dasahara)

Monkey Puzzle (Rathinda amor)

Common Banded Demon (Notocrypta paralysos):

I also came across a Colour Sergeant female, which was quite a sight to see! But luckily, my battery ran out and I had to return to Dharmastala main road, otherwise I'd have to miss my bus back to Bangalore.

As I stared out of the window of my bus to Bangalore, the marvellous landscapes gave me goosebumps. I looked at the dense patches, the thick and impenetrable parts of the woods. The sight of the unexplored evergreen forests enthralled me. A place without a single shoeprint! A place without a single trace of human existence! Not explored, not seen, not heard. Mysteriously beautiful, pure, and undisturbed in every sense of the word. A kingdom where nature reigns supreme. A world, an alternate realm which runs completely on its own, which does not need to be discovered.

As humans, we want to know what the universe is made of. We send satellites, spaceships and what not into heaven. But this land, this little heaven, the western ghats - there might be a million unnamed species out here. There might be more to discover right here than what we might find in outer space. But this world does not need to be hampered, those unknown creatures don't have to be labelled and collected by taxonomists, and everything doesn't have to be conquered. This world needs to remain mysterious, it needs to live. It needs to be respected. I may not have seen even a fraction of this mysterious world, but there is beauty beyond what we can see. I admire the unseen beauty. I don't believe in god, I believe in the Western Ghats!

"Lifers day" at Belvai and Someshwara!

I shall not put up a list, add some images and call this a trip report, because this was more than any ordinary trip I have had so far! Will elaborate on it, even though a few may appreciate brief and scientific writeups over lengthy and literature-like ones.

"Its raining here..." said Nitin's text the day before I started to Belvai. I was worried that this trip may not be productive due to the weather, and tried to calm myself down every time I was reminded of how badly I have been wanting to see the Malabar Banded Peacock (Papilio buddha). This butterfly has been on top of my wish list for about three years now.

I reached Belvai at about 5 in the morning. It was too early for butterflies. But as there was a great gathering of butterfly enthusiasts (Milind Bhakare, Ashok Sengupta, Sammilan Shetty, Prashanth Bhat, Nitin Achari and myself) we kept talking and discussing about butterflies till the sun came up.
At Sammilan's farm by around 8am, I came across a bunch of Glassy Tigers (Parantica aglea), Common Crows (Euploea core) at first.

Two Glassy Tigers and a Common Crow

Then, Medus Brown (Orsotrioena medus), Grey Pansy (Junonia atlites), Red Pierrot (Talicada nyseus) and Tamil Grass Dart (Taractrocera ceramas) joined the list.

Peacock Pansy, Junonia almana:

Common Lascar (Pantoporia hordonia):

Grey Count (Tanaecia lepidea):

Afterwhich, we were stunned to see the Southern Birdwing (Triodes minos) nectaring on the Ixora flowers. He was a sight to see! The graceful flight, the large yellow hindwings marked with black veins, and the sheer size of this beauty. It was captivating! A large number of butterflies love to nectar on this flower, because it contains many small flowers in one single bunch, and the butterflies find it easy to shift from one flower to another. This way, they have a big meal at once.

It was joined by both mimic forms of Common Mime (Chilasa clytia), the form dissimilis which looks like the Blue Tiger and the form clytia which looks like the Common Crow. I was fortunate enough to get an image of the dissimilis:

10:30am was supposed to be the ideal time to sight a Malabar Banded Peacock at Sammilan's butterfly park, but our group had other plans. Even though I was a little disappointed to be leaving behind a sure chance of sighting one, I was filled with hopes of some great sightings at this waterfall in Someshwara WLS.
Our group was split into two, and we set off. We made countless stops in between. One one such stops, we found some Lycaenids fluttering on the road. Here, we found the Dark Pierrot (Tarucus ananda).

A pretty little butterfly that this is, it was joined by some Line blues, of which one was a Pointed Line Blue (Ionolyce helicon) which is a rarity. We clicked away, and after some time, it happened to sit on my index finger and enjoy a sip of sweat. We also saw Tamil Yeoman (Cirrochroa thais) and Monkey Puzzle (Rathinda amor).

As we walked on this path, we saw something that had everyone on their toes (Especially Milind sir), trying their level best to get a click at the very very rare Lycaenid. Ashok Sengupta sir confirmed it's identity as a Tamil Oakblue (Arhopala bazaloides). Luckily, I managed the one of the best shots clicked by the group:

We also saw a number of Common Nawabs (Polyura athamas) and an Anomalous Nawab (Polyura agraria). The Nawabs seemed to love human sweat more than any other butterfly. One of them was an injured individual, and it settled on my nose for about 20 minutes.
Here, we also saw another very beautiful and big butterfly endemic to the Western Ghats, the Tamil Lacewing (Cethosia nietneri).

Followed by this, we saw a Commander (Moduza procris), a Chestnut Streaked Sailer (Neptis jumbah) and a Clipper (Parthenos sylvia) of which Milind sir got an absolutely perfect shot!

Throughout the way, we saw plenty of Southern Rustic (Cupha erymanthis):

A few kilometres ahead, I spotted a bright orange butterfly move across the road and we halted the car. When we got down to see what it was, we found that it was the rare Curetis siva, Shiva's Sunbeam. Nothing beats the mega-lifer of a rare butterfly when you've spotted it yourself. If this excitement is coupled with the best shot you can ask for, the happiness flies overboard and creates euphoria!

When we reached the waterfall, we were greeted by the lovely sight of mudpuddling Common Jays (Graphium doson) and Bluebottles (Graphium sarpedon). Next to which there was another group of mudpuddling Common Albatrosses (Appias albina) and Mottled Emigrant (Catopsilia pyranthe) This is a common sight in the Western Ghats after a rainy day. A little while later, these were joined by the Lesser Gull (Cepora nadina), the Painted Sawtooth (Prioneris sita), which are not as common as the rest of them in the group.

Mottled Emigrant and Common Albatross mudpuddling
Common Jay upper side. 
Lesser Gull (left), Painted Sawtooth (middle) and Common Albatross.
Common Jay, Bluebottle, Common Albatross and Painted Sawtooth mudpuddling!
We also came across a very strange looking Lycaenid which hasn't been identified yet. Looks like it has lost scales, or it might be a colour aberration.

We also saw a few small sized Pointed Ciliate Blues (Anthene lycaenina) and a Club Beak (Libythea myrrha).

Just when we thought we had seen all the beautiful butterflies here, a Tawny Rajah (Charaxes bernardus) made a grand guest appearance. He was gone before we knew it. Those who didn't get a picture frantically looked for it for a while, and we saw it once again on the trees even though none could succeed at clicking.

This place was an absolute butterfly treat for our group. Everyone was happy. We started off towards Belvai again and reached by about 6pm. We halted in between when we saw this Blue Mormon (Papilio polymnestor) resting after its day:

I didn't find the Malabar Banded Peacock after all this action, but I was overwhelmed by all that I had seen in one single day. It was way too many lifers to handle.

I had to hurry to Dharmastala because my plans differed slightly, so our group clicked a picture before I left. All of us had become "worn out specimens" by the end of the day, covered in dirt and mud, but we were still in the rejoicing mood of finding a rare new species - the Pointed Lineblue. None of us seemed to be tired, and this is definitely thanks to the passion we all share about the Winged Jewels!

From left - Sammilan Shetty, Ashok Sengupta, Abhijna Desai, Nitin R Achari, Milind Bhakare and Prashanth Bhat! 
The picture is clicked by Ganesh Desai, my brother, who also had a lot of fun on the trip. 

This was a very memorable trip, and I shall look forward to meeting these amazing people once again very soon. Heartfelt thanks to Sammilan for all the effort he has undertaken to provide this opportunity for us. His butterfly park is complete with host plants and nectar plants that attract a large number of butterflies from all the sub-families. He has also strategically placed rotten fruits and such other butterfly-bait in the right places, so as to get the butterflies' attention. Also, a special thank you to Sammilan's mom, Manimala aunty, for her care and hospitality. She cooked some really delicious Mangalorean food for us! It was an absolute pleasure to be there, and an even bigger pleasure to be with the people who I was with.