Tuesday, August 25, 2009

Flights of fancy

Mumbai has butterflies?
This has to be the most common question , dressed with an inordinate amount of astonishment, that I get when I talk about the most colourful visitors (or should I say, residents) in my garden. Oh yes, Mumbai has butterflies aplenty. I guess we just have to stand still long enough to spot them. Easier said than done, maybe, given the frantic pace of life in this busy city . But give it a flower for nectar and a plant to lay eggs on and the Mumbai butterfly happily adapts to living life in the fast lane!

The Tawny Coster has to be one of the most eye-catching butterflies that flit around Mumbai. That orange - black combination really dazzles, doesn't it?
I found this proud new mom busy at work...

... there were eggs to lay and she had to find the perfect spot for her babies. Somewhere out of harm's way and where they would have plenty to chomp on once they hatch.
And guess what? The Tawny Costers seem to have a passion for my passion-fruit plants!

Here she is ! Hmmm ... maybe she should've had a "Do not disturb" sign hanging close by but it didnt look like an explosion would've disturbed her. She had a job to do and that's all she cared about!

This Centratherum intermedium (Brazilian Button Flower) has to be one of the most attractive plants for the butterflies. I have a bed full of them and the air above them is never still. There's always a butterfly or two, like this Blue Tiger, flitting by for a quick sip of nectar.

Okay, this is not a butterfly, I know. But I was horrified by this Robber Fly who had kidnapped this bee with no good intentions, I'm afraid.

This dragonfly, on the other hand, knows how welcome he and his friends are in my garden. Any creature which has mosquitoes on its dinner menu will find the red carpet rolled out for them in my garden!

I nearly stomped on this one more than a couple of times. He was so well camouflaged that I would spot him only when he flew up in the air right under my nose! I guess a set of enormous eyes like that would've helped me see him better.

Lantanas will always bring them flocking in. I have a wild lantana bush right bang in the centre of what is officially my vegetable patch. I've been advised over and over again by everyone who sees it to get rid of the jungli (wild) plant so I can have a bigger vegetable patch. But I'm so thrilled about the number of butterflies who visit it for nectar and the birds who love its berries that I would rather eat fewer vegetables (no great sacrifice, say my kids).

The Great Eggfly is one of the lantana lovers. By the way, I wonder who named him? I much prefer his other name ... Blue Moon Butterfly.

Now do you see how he came by both his names? This photo was taken last year in my dying vegetable patch. The plants were almost spent and ready for a re-haul and I was only too happy to see the butterflies make use of them.

A couple of days ago I found a female Great Eggfly flitting among the weeds that crop up every monsoon. She was in an egg-laying mood too.

Come and see her babies-in-waiting! Look, but don't touch. Mama butterfly has been really clever... she chose a stinging nettle to take care of her eggs !

Here she is, hopping over to another nettle to host another clutch of eggs.
Hmmm.... now how do I clear all those weeds, especially when I know all those butterfly eggs are hiding under them? A baby killer I'm not!
By the way, I love that flash of blue that shows up on her wings when the light hits it just so .

Vinca rosea (Madagascar periwinkle) is another butterfly favourite. Luckily for me it also loves our hot summer and comes to my rescue ever year when my garden is too sapped of energy to bloom. Vinca, though, will be in full bloom, adding colour and luring butterflies and giving me something worth looking at in my garden.
No wonder the butterflies love it so. It definitely isn't a fair weather friend !

These are just a few of the butterflies that are such a vital part of my garden. If you'd like to see more of them, go over to my other posts here , here and here.


  1. Sunita girl ! These are the most gorgeous pictures : )
    I have had no luck being in my garden at the same time a butterfly is .. IF they have been visiting at all .. I some times wonder about that ? ;-)
    I did how ever mange to gather up a sleeping bee when I cut some flowers this morning .. I heard a little buzz in my hand but I just wasn't seeing anything ..as soon as I put the flowers down on the garden table .. there he was !! .. I can't believe how sweet he was NOT to sting me .. or was that SLEEPY he was ? LOL
    Awesome pictures girl !! : )

  2. So beautiful and your photos of them are wonderful! I don't like playing favorites, but that Blue Tiger is just gorgeous, and the Blue Moon Butterfly. Apt names. Also, it looks like the one on the lantana has had a few close encounters with birds. Thanks for the great photos!

  3. Joy, at least out of sight is out of mind. In my case, I see so many gorgeous butterlies and they just refuse to sit still for a photo. Very frustrating! I run all around the garden after them, try to sneak up on them, try every stunt in the book but I just cant photograph most of them :(
    OMG, you were so lucky not to get stung! Or maybe he recognised the hand behind his daily meals ?;)

  4. The Blue Tiger is pretty, isn't he Shady C ? I think I have another photo of one in one of the posts I linked to. Take a look.
    The poor butterflies! I'm seeing so many of them with tattered wings nowadays. Maybe the rains are making the birds extra hungry?

  5. these are so very beautiful! I love seeing your butterflies and the Blue Moon is a fantastic one...I too love that shot of blue on its upperwing! Beautiful...the egg photographs are my favorite. I do love seeing the beautiful butterflies but the eggs are what fill my heart with hope.
    Thank you for a wonderful post. I shalll go back and check your links...
    Lovely butterflies,

  6. Sunita good to read that it is not only me who has to run after butterflies when I wish to click them. They treat you also the same!

  7. Whoa! Your garden must be a have for butterflies! I love em and it's such a pleasure to see them flitting by when you are working in garden, isn't it? I too like the Blue Moon Butterfly.

  8. That is the most stunning collection of garden insect photos. I'm particularly impressed with the little eggs that look gooseberries laid on a stinging nettle leaf. Impressed by mam as well as your skill in locating them. Wonderful start to my day. Thank you so much.

  9. OOOOh...! That must have taken an enormous research and patience.
    Your place feels like a big botanical garden, and the way you know about things around is astounding. The photographs of butterfly eggs are amazing; I've never before seen such a beautiful specimen of nature.
    Have a great time flitting with your gorgeous friends, as nature has its home in your garden...

  10. Cool! Good blog! I'll mention it in my next blogpost and it'll turn up on my new blogroll.

  11. OOOh la la Sunita! What a refreshing post! In fact they are all refreshing and rejuvenating! I enjoyed reading about your butterflies and since I have an interest in lepidoptery this post has been special to me. There haven't been too many in my garden this year and am worried that the farmers are spraying too many insecticides and herbicides. Most butterflies' larval foods are wild plants and many are removed and killed to make way for housing and farming. The one with the white spots photo #10 on the pumpkin /squash vine looks like the mimic. The female mimics the monarch family to avoid predators. Butterflies are such clever creatures.

  12. Hallo Sunita
    Du machst soooo wunderschöne Fotos und so herzliche Komentare dazu. Danke vielmals. Hier ist es Nachts schon recht kühl und die Schmetterlinge sind fast nicht mehr zu sehen, schade. Einige Libellen fliegen noch umher.

    liebe Grüße Dörte

  13. What gorgeous shots of the butterflies! The Tawny Coster is a pretty one but it hasn't visited me as yet:( The robberfly/bee shot---wish I could capture a scene like that! But the eggs! Wow...how wonderful to know that these beauties will always be around in the garden.

  14. Hi Sherry! Getting the egg photos really excited me. I am so glad my camera has a Macro setting which allows me to capture such tiny details!

    Mridula, maybe we could devise some fitness routine around this. Forget gymming, just chase butterflies ! ;D

  15. I know exactly what you mean, Chandramouli! It just adds to the fun of gardening, doesn't it?

    Thanks, Stephanie! You give me too much credit, though. I didnt need much skill in locating the eggs as the mothers were busy laying their eggs on plants right next to me. I was busy tying an orchid onto a tree next to where those nettles were growing and was distracted by this big butterfly which seemed to be landing and fluttering on all the nettle plants. From there it was just a quick step to turn a leaf over with my scissor and spot those perfect eggs :)

  16. Not really, Green Thumb. My interest in these butterflies led me to find out more about the ones in my garden, That's all. But yes, I do have a file with larva plants and nectar plants and other interesting tit-bits stored away in my computer. Plus I joined an online group with a lot of very knowledgeable butterfly enthusiasts. So not much of research. But patience? ... by the truckload, if you please!

    Thank you, IGL.

    Hi Helen! Thanks, I'm glad you liked this post.
    You're right, all those chemicals being sprayed everywhere is really worrisome. And then we go with great intentions, but oh so clumsily, to make the world a better place and weed out all the remaining plants that the butterflies depend on!

  17. The great eggfly's eggs look like jewels under the leaf. Photographing the butterflies is my most difficult job. I have been stalking them for months, but they are so fast. I think the best time is when they are busy laying eggs. I have enjoyed reading this post, Sunita. Thanks for sharing it with us.

  18. Wonderful shots Sunita. One of my favorite places to visit are Butterfly houses and they always have beautiful tropical butterflies...Like yours! Btw, I love the shape and color of the eggs...interesting little spheres aren't they! gail

  19. Hello Dorte :) Thanks, I'm glad you liked the photos. Do you have any photos of your dragonflies?
    I've been to Augsburg years ago and was totally fascinated by the big pots of geraniums that were placed all along the pavements and dividers. I'msre that must attract a lot of butterflies.

  20. Kanak, you have so many more beautiful butterflies in Assam. I'm quite envious, actually ;)
    I dont think you would really want to see that robber fly in your garden. I know its Nature's way but it felt like watching a murder!
    As for those eggs, they're safe in my garden so long as no one tries to pull out the weeds.

  21. Autmn Belle, I know just what you mean. Sometimes I think I should just balance a flower pot on my head if I want the butterflies to come to me! :P
    But yes, you're right, when they're laying eggs, nothing seems to disturb them.

  22. Hi Gail! You're right, those eggs really have an interesting shape.
    I've been to just one Butterfly House and that was on Sentosa Island in Singapore. That was amazing! It was almost impossible to believe that so much beauty exists... sigh!

  23. Great pictures. The lantana species which is most favored in lahore by butterflies is lantana montevidensis the purple creeping lantana. you have captured some nice pics of butterflies.just adorable.

    The other flowers, butterflies enjoy here are senecio confusus and hanging vinca.

  24. Wonderful post, Sunita. I know how difficult it is to take photos of butterflies and you have done a fantastic job. I thought the text was very good, too. The combination of text and pictures flowed effortlessly.

  25. Hello Muhammad Khabbab, and thanks!That's interesting. I assume the lantana is a cultivated species there? I think its very pretty. I dont know why I dont grow it myself. I'm glad you put the idea into my head :) I have so much of the wild bush-type lantana growing around that I didnt think of the creeping ones.

  26. This comment has been removed by the author.

  27. Thank you so much, Prospero! You have no idea how encouraging it is to read such comments from fellow garden bloggers who know exactly what I'm going through :)

  28. Indeed its so lovely when butterflies visits to drink nectar & pollinate.

    But I'm not so gracious when I see caterpillar races themselves in finishing off my plants!

    I guess you are very merciful and love butterflies. But I love dragonflies more...because they eat mosquito!
    There have been so many cases of denggi fever in my place - so much so, mosquito is very much feared as a plague.

    May you have more butterflies to brighten your day!

  29. You have some beautiful flying flowers in your area Sunita.

  30. Sunita, just great your nature posts. Love to see and read about your butterflies. They are all so beautiful even the tiny eggs look intricate. Your garden seems to be a heaven for all these beautiful critters. Love the Vinca too, a hardy, splendid plant. Now it is available in the most gorgeous colours. I have similar butterfly looking like the Tawny Coster it seems to hover always on the ground only flies up when disturbed. Do you know it? Thanks for your kind comment on my SWF.

  31. Beautiful images of the dragon flies, butterflies and the eggs.

    We are trying to get a terrace garden going, I hope we are able to get close to what you have achieved.

  32. Stunning photography! You do a great service to these flutterbys by choosing their hosts plants... and great joy for you and those of us who find your beautiful blog!

  33. WoW...simply beautifully captured shots...Gorgeous!

  34. James, I know exactly what you mean! Butterflies under pupa stage not welcome :D
    I used to think the same way but now that I'm reading up a bit more about them and can sometimes link the before and after photos, I'm a bit more lenient with them. Right now I've got a Common Mormon caterpillar chomping up my curry leaf plant in my apartment. Can't wait till I see the flying version!

  35. Thanks, Racquel! But I still wish I could grow Hydrangeas like you do ;)

    Thanks, Trudi! The eggs are amazing, aren't they? Luckily the macro setting in my camera is showing me how great they look.
    I love the many varieties of Vinca that are available now. So very colourful! But the butterflies seem to prefer the plainer versions, though. I wonder why?
    I'm not really sure about the butterfly that you're talking about. Could it be a Leopard butterfly (yes, it is actually called that!)? The colouring is quite similar to that of the Tawny Coster.

  36. Thomas, plant a lantana bush and you'll have enough butterflies to enjoy. Plus a lot of birds too when the berries appear.
    I didnt really set out to plant a butterfly garden. It just happened as a bonus :)
    Vinca is another butterfly magnet, so are Zinnia, marigold, cosmos, pentas ... all the old-fashioned ones as a matter of fact! The b'flies dont seem to be very impressed with the hybrid varieties.

  37. Carol, believe me, I enjoy seeing them in my garden . And all the passers-by are thoroughly entertained by my acrobatics in trying to get reasonably decent photos of them. Those b'flies have a lot to answer for! :D

    Thanks, flyingstars. Glad you liked them :)

  38. Hi Sunita,

    Have been trying to follow your blogs these last few days.... i must compliemnt you for all these Beautiful snaps. Can relate how difficult it is to capture these fluttering small wonders in the garden. I tried doing a video on them sometime back :)

    Colourful n Cheerful Garden Blog!

  39. How did you get such good pictures of the eggs? I never find them in my garden though I look and look. That tawny coster is definitely an eye catcher!

  40. Nothing but pure luck, Tina. I was standing right next to it so I saw where it was trying to hide the eggs. When it was done, I just flipped the leaf over and ... there it is! :)
    I think you've got to be on the lookout for the plants that the butterflies like to linger over ... not on the flowers but on the leaves. That's most probably where they're laying their eggs.

  41. Hi Sunita, I never tire of visiting your wonderful garden and seeing the creatures and flowers so happily living there. The mama butterflies laying eggs are the most fascinating shots, you are a true nature observer! If anyone doubts butterflies in Mumbai, they need to come to your little piece of paradise! :-)

  42. Interesting, I guess I always assumed most places have Butterflies.


  43. Hi Radhika! Thanks, I'm glad you've enjoyed my blog.
    Do you run after butterflies too? You did a video on them! Wow! Why dont you post a link to it on your blog? It must be really interesting! Do you have the same butterflies in Lucknow too?

  44. Frances, I think these are the obvious advantages to not having a manicured garden! The butterflies and other creatures wouldn't dare step foot in those, I think ;)
    And why just butterflies, we even have leopards in Mumbai. Safely within the confines of our wildlife park thankfully, but they're there too!

  45. Lovely, Sunita! Love the butterflies. Even the eggs look marvellous.

  46. Jake, sometimes a hyper-busy city like Mumbai is the last place one could possibly associate with butterflies. It is seriously deficient in plant cover and is so over-crowded in places that it is like a sea of humanity with no space for other beings. At least, it looks like that, but it obviously isn't. Thank goodness for that!

  47. Beautiful post, Sunita!
    Looks like our gardens share a lot similarities. That dragonfly looks like a female Blue Percher Diplacodes trivialis. I like the robber too.

  48. And it looks like we'll soon have more similarities ... I'm busy converting an old tank into a pond for the dragonflies. And waterlillies. Any suggestions will be more than welcome.
    Oh... he's a she? oops! My mistake. But she doesn't look blue at all, does she?


Hi, hope you enjoyed reading this post? Tell me what you think about this post; I love hearing from you.
But please note ... if there's a link in the comment, it will not be approved for publishing (sorry, but I'm getting way too much spam with links).