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Butterflies Of Buxa

Butterflies Of Buxa

A sprawling, rich wilderness in the state of West Bengal, the Buxa Tiger Reserve sweeps across more than 700 sq. km. of eight forest types ranging from sal, riverine, and evergreen, to dry-mixed glades that host uncounted species of plants and animals. While this was once a famous tiger landscape, it is better known today for its more than 550 species of butterflies, with new ones being added to the list year by year.

For the benefit of Sanctuary Asia readers we present here a fragment of Buxa’s impressive flying jewels. To see more we suggest you visit this wild, wild haven.

Great nawab Charaxes eudamippus eudamippus

Photo: Tamaghna Sengupta.

These majestic great nawabs, basking in the sun, belong to the group of rajahs and nawabs that lepidopterists say are among the largest butterfly families in the world, the Nymphalidae. Comprising several thousand species and found in almost every part of our planet, the nawabs represent some of the largest butterfly specimens in Buxa.

Glassy bluebottle Graphium cloanthus cloanthus

Photo: Tamaghna Sengupta.

The beautiful glassy bluebottle, with tails on its hind wings that are characteristic of the swallowtail group of butterflies, belong to the widely distributed family Papilionidae. The translucent parts of the wings of this butterfly gift the species its name. It is largely found at lower elevations of 1,500 m., circling over tree tops with rapidly flapping wings. It grows wingspans of about 8-10 cm.

Indian purple emperor Mimathyma ambica ambica

Photo: Tamaghna Sengupta.

Another sensational butterfly from the Nymphalidae family, the Indian purple emperor, sports brilliant, iridescent purple and white splashes on the upper side of its wings. Possibly the most colourful butterflies in India, M. ambica ambica populations are found across Northeast India, Bhutan, Myanmar, Thailand, Vietnam and even as far as northern Sumatra. The species is usually found in forested areas at altitudes of up to 2,000 m. It is quite fond of dung and droppings.

Cruiser Vindula erota

Photo: Tamaghna Sengupta.

The cruiser impresses with its autumn hues of dry brown and orangish-yellow. It belongs to one of the largest butterfly families, Nymphalidae. It is known to prefer Lantana and Chandrika flowers, and tends to stick to thickets of tree tops. Its caterpillar feeds on host plants of the Passifloraceae.

Yellow flat Mooreana trichoneura

Photo: Tamaghna Sengupta.

The striking yellow flat belongs to the skipper group (Hesperiidae). It is unique among butterflies in that some of its anatomical features are regarded as ‘primitive’. Small in size and fast-flying, it possesses wingspans ranging from 40 to 45mm.

Orange awlet Burara jaina jaina

Photo: Tamaghna Sengupta.

A skipper, this butterfly, also belonging to the Hesperiidae family is also known as orange-striped awl. Rare and specific in its distribution, it has a wingspan of between 40 and 50 mm. and prefers the low foothills of dense forests that are well fed by the rain. Crepuscular, it can be seen flying in the early mornings or late evenings. It is believed to be attracted to Lantana flowers.

Punchinello Zemeros flegyas flegyas

Photo: Tamaghna Sengupta.

Called metalmarks, these butterflies belong to the Riodinidae family and were once listed as part of the blue family. A common sight in Buxa, these tiny butterflies are endemic to South and Southeast Asia. They sport distinctive dry and wet season forms, as do several of their tropical counterparts. They generally feed on Knoxia sp. Its larval host plants include Maesa chisia and M. montana.

Silver royal Ancema blanka minturna

Photo: Tamaghna Sengupta.

This stunning blue silver royal belongs to a large family of butterflies called the Lycaenidae. This group comprises small-sized butterflies, most with metallic-hued upper sides, in delightful shades of blue.

Red-spot jezebel Delias descombesi descombesi

Photo: Tamaghna Sengupta.

The bright and lively redspot jezebel, belongs to the Pieridae family. Almost all the species in this family wear yellow or white as the base colour and are, not surprisingly, referred to as the Yellows and Whites! The most abundant butterflies of Buxa, they are most often seen in the lower plains along the river banks, all the way to the high reaches of the hills. This jezebel is commonly seen feeding on flowers of the Himalayan cherry and several other blossoms found in its range area of the Northeast.

The butterfly huddle

Photo: Tamaghna Sengupta.

This delightful mass gathering of butterflies is called ‘puddling’. Practiced largely by males, the behaviour is triggered by the need for salts and minerals, sipped from the edges of mud puddles, to supplement a regular diet of flower nectar. Not fully understood, it is suggested that the extra salts and minerals may help produce more viable sperm. Interestingly, they often imbibe such supplements from dung and decaying corpses!

Author: Tamaghna Sengupta, First appeared in: Sanctuary Asia, October 2015.

 
 
 

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