Friday, November 20, 2009

A gram of blue, please

One of the tiniest butterflies in my garden goes by the very odd name Gram Blue. When I first read it, I thought, "gram? A gram of what?
I kept linking it to the weight measure until I realised that it probably referred to its favoured host plants , beans and members of the lentil family. In other words, grams.

They are flibberty-gibbets (I even feel like one ofthose nuns from 'Sound of Music' when saying that) of the first order. Rarely ever still and never allowing one to creep up on them. The slightest movement and they're off again, dancing over the flowers.
For some reason though, they seem to be very partial to these Brazilian Button Flowers (Centratherum intermedium). So that's where I park myself when I want to see them sit still.

But where does the Blue in its name come in? Take a look ...

I've hardly ever seen it with its wings flat open, except for a quick flash once in a while. Open and shut before I even have time to press the button on my camera. But its such a beautifully vivid blue, isn't it?

I'm guessing that those two eye-like markings on its hind wing have helped it escape from many a predator. The funniest thing is that this one below kept rubbing its hind wings together so that it looked exactly as if those eyes were looking around.

I read that these 'eyes' along with the thin tail (yes, they have a tail on the wing. See the first photo) fool predators into thinking that that is the head. So even if a nasty latches on to the hindwing thinking that's the head, the Gram Blue can break off easily and escape. Smart!
By the way, this guy looks like a real survivor, doesn't he?

The Gram Blue is not exactly a welcome butterfly, especially when I'm struggling to grow some beans. A handful of caterpillars can soon make sure that all my effort is for nothing. And I wouldn't even know it is there because it usually hides inside the pods while feasting! So no Favoured Visitor tag for this guy.
But if I could see that flash of blue more often, I think I could definitely reconsider.


  1. Hi Sunita,
    I discovered your blog sometime last month and have been reading up your beautiful posts ever since.. lovely photos and informative write-ups

  2. Hi Sunita,
    Love to see your butterflies ...I think as much as I don't like it ... being an apartment dewellr robs you of these pleasures ... but then I got you to remind me of these beautiful pleasures of life ... thanks Sunita ... love to see and read your stories ... as always ...

  3. That powder blue is so very very beautiful. Glad you studied it more closely for us.

  4. We call it the grass blue I think. But I have not managed capturing the blue side either!

  5. Nice pictures! The ones in my garden seem to favor the portulacas -

  6. Sunita the first picture is absolutely fabulous.

  7. Such lovely pics. You are a hot-shot, Sunita. :)

  8. Lovely post ... it is amazing what we will sacrifice for beauty... maybe you could plant more beans? What a dear butterfly and you were able to show us the blue! Beautiful colors and photos! Carol

  9. Sunita,
    Butterflies are so elusive! Yet you have managed to capture their beauty here. I love these gram blues. Never seen one in my garden but we have some really tiny blue and green types that come in the spring that I can never get photos of because of their hyper nature.

  10. Hi Gauri! Thanks, I'm so glad you enjoyed my posts. Keep checking in, okay? Hopefully my busy spell will get over soon and I will post more often.

    Hey Rajee, here's a deal ... you keep showing me all those mindblowing photos of the most stunning interiors and I'll try to show you some of the outdoors. Okay? ;D

    Anna, I saw the blue in a couple of photos on Google Image. Its a gorgeous shade! I wish my butterflies would show me their blue side.

  11. Hi IndianWildlifeClub! They're very similar, aren't they? But equally pretty.
    The Blues are slightly infuriating, aren't they? With all that lovely colour on them and they refuse to show it to us.

    Arati, that was a fun photo. That butterfly was so deep in the cups that he didnt notice he was being photographed! Thanks!

    Thanks, Mridula! I'm a bit partial to it myself :)

  12. Thanks, Raji! Glad you liked the photos :)
    By the way, are you back in India yet?

    Thanks, Carol.
    I think I would sacrifice the entire crop, if they would only be a bit more free with the open-wing views.

    Rosey, I'm sure our butterflies must be related because mine are equally hyper and very fidgetty. They remind me of little kids in the playground!
    That blue and green must look stunning! I hope you get a chance to photograph them soon. Maybe in the coming Spring?

  13. Wonderful photo captures - as always! I'm grateful that you questioned the 'gram' in its name and were able to enlighten us. It is a beautiful creature. You are lucky to have its beauty if not its hungry babies.

  14. These gram blues are so tiny, I wonder how their caterpillars look like. You have done an excellent job about them here. The pictures are great too.

  15. What a pretty little butterfly! I wonder if it's related to the little blue ones we have around here. Not likely but you never know. Funny, but recently I've been trying to sort out the multitude of different dal/pulses/beans/gram called for in an Indian cookbook I have. It's a real vocabulary lesson and an eye-opener to the variety that are available.

  16. Thanks, Autumn Belle. Here's a link to a photo of the Gram Blue's caterpillar:
    The gentleman whose page this is has the most amazing butterfly photos. Well worth taking a look at.

  17. I wouldn't be surprised if they are related, Shady C. The Lycaenidae family to which the Gram Blue belongs, is the 2nd largest family of butterflies worldwide. It has about 6000 species belonging to it, can you believe that?
    You're right about the wide variety of grams used in Indian cooking. Since the majority of Indians are vegetarian, lentils are the major source of protein, so there's a lot of competition for the Gram Blue.

  18. Hi Stephanie! I really did wonder about that name and thought that the name-dealers had given a raw deal to such a pretty butterfly.
    You're right about the babies. I wish there was some way they could bring up the babies elsewhere and then come to frolic in my garden when they're full-grown.

  19. Hi Stephanie! I really did wonder about that name and thought that the name-dealers had given a raw deal to such a pretty butterfly.
    You're right about the babies. I wish there was some way they could bring up the babies elsewhere and then come to frolic in my garden when they're full-grown.

  20. Hi Sunita...I love to photograph these butterflies too but it's difficult to get them with their wings open. Your shots are beautiful!!

  21. Thanks, Kanak :)
    You're absolutely right about how difficult they are to photograph with their wings open. You would think that they would love to show off their lovely colour. Maybe they're shy.

  22. Sunita,
    How have I missed your site up until now? I will add it to my blog list.

    This Gram Blue must be a relative of our Eastern-Tailed Blue here in the Eastern US. The ETB as we often call it the males are blue inside and the females are charcoal gray inside. See my page on them at

    Looking forward to more butterflies here.

  23. Sunita, beautiful butterfly, but not so for the destruction of your beans. You have so many more varieties than we have in our garden.

  24. Sunita, you are very patient to catch all this lovely pictures of this "jitterbug" butterfly. It is so tiny and I could never really catch its beautiful blue colour. Ah, it is the culprit who goes after my beans! Good information again. Thanks. Sunita I have also a question if you do not mind! I have a good friend here, Nupur,she is a dentist and goes every year back to India to some place to fix the teeth of children whom are living in an orphanage. She would like to make them also a garden. She has designed different "rooms". She would like to know some tough, native plants growing in Kolkata.
    Would you know what grows in this area. The piece of land she wants to make the garden has 6 Mango trees. The rest is concrete. She also wants to make a butterfly garden; hopscotch garden where they can play, ec. I think she is departing for India before Christmas. Please let me know.

  25. Hi Sunita you are so good with your camera, I find it rather impossible to get a dicent photo of the butterflies. Very skilful.

  26. Hi Randy! The Eastern Tailed Blue could be an almost-identical twin of the Gram Blue, couldn't it? I wonder whether the Gram Blue is just as vividly blue with its wings open.
    Your photos are amazing, by the way, and your blog is a favourite stop-over for me.
    Randy, thank you so much for adding The Urban Gardener to your blog-list. I really appreciate that.
    By the way, there are some more posts on butterflies here if you're interested.

  27. Hello Di!You're right, I do get annoyed when I see the caterpillars inside the beans. But then when I see these oh-so pretty butterflies, I mellow down a bit. I guess beauty means a lot of sacrifices.

    Thanks Tyra. You have no idea just how much time I spend in stalking these butterflies hoping to get an okay shot. I'm sure all passers-by who can see into my garden must think me loony! They cant see the butterflies but they can see a crazy lady spinning around, running up and down, creeping around ... :D

  28. Hi Sunita, Stunning pictures, I love the blue edges on the wings in the 2nd picture.

    Also wanted to let you know that I’ve given you the Beautiful Blog Award, you can visit my blog for details. Totally up to you if you want to participate or not, I understand completely if you don’t. Thanks for all of the info & inspiration you’ve provided me since I found your blog :) Rebecca

  29. 'Jitterbug' describes it so well, Trudi :)
    About the Kolkata garden, I must confess that I've never been to Kolkata so I really don't know much about the climatic and other conditions there. But I think you cant go wrong with Vinca, Ixoras and Lantana to start with. They're all tough plants but very colourful too. Marigolds and bougainvillea are another option though with little children playing around you may need to be careful with the bougainvillea. Gomphrena globosas are practically indestructible. And I love jasmine for the fragrance.
    I think that a garden for little kids should have lots of bright colours. Ixoras will help you out there.
    Do you know how much area is available for the garden?
    I'll definitely try to find out more and I'll mail you soon, okay. (If you dont see my mail in about 2 days time maybe you'd give me a reminder-nudge? My memory is not the best there is :P )

  30. Thanks, Rebecca, I love that blue too :)
    And wow! an award for me? Thank you so much. I really appreciate it. I just dropped by your blog and left you a message.
    I love awards but I'm quite terrible at participating in them. I never seem to get around to following up on them. Terrible of me, I know, but I hope that sometime soon I'll make that grand post where I reciprocate for all those wonderful awards I've been given by so many of my blog-friends.

  31. Hi Sunita; thank you so much for your help. Your suggestions are very helpful and I will forward them to Nupur. She does all this work voluntary, once or twice a year.

  32. You're welcome, Trudi :)
    Please tell your friend that she's doing something truly wonderful.
    I'll mail you soon, okay?

  33. Yes practically all butterflies have those huge "eyes" markings ......maybe to scare away the predators as you said.

  34. Nature never ceases to amaze me, Haddock. The fact that the butterfly has developped such an effective deterrent says a lot.

  35. Whoa! What great shots. I observed that butterflies have taken resort in my garden too lately! Yay! Hi5 to that.

  36. Hi Chandramouli! Its good to see you in blog-land again. Good for you if your garden has become b'fly-popular. Doesn't it make you feel good to see them enjoying the flowers you planted?
    Apparently this is one of the best times to spot butterflies in the garden. Butterfly enthusiasts up and down the country have been commenting on seeing swarms of butterflies in the last few weeks.

  37. sunita, i am so happy to see this post of yours as i posted few pics of gram blue on my snail vine but did not know name of this butterfly. Thanks so much. The blue is truly enchanting!!!!!

  38. Hi Muhammad, you're so right. The Blues are really pretty butterflies.
    I think yours is a Pea Blue or Long Tailed Blue (you may want to Google for pictures and check on this as I'm no expert at ID ing butterflies), though. You'll see that there are more lines on the wings of the butterfly in your photos and they're missing the black spots which the Gram Blue has.
    Still, one Blue is as pretty as another, dont you think?

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  40. Thanks, Deepa! :)
    I just had a quick peep at your blog. Very interesting!

  41. hello Sunita

    I have an award for you to collect! pls visit my blog

  42. Your garden is evidence
    of a well thought, wise
    With FLORA/FAUNA in mind.
    Every time I drop by
    from the Caribbean, I leave
    satisfied, since all my
    critical views on the LAME,
    lacking aesthetics gardens
    in Puerto Rico, forget THAT.
    Nature is for ALL.
    I think is silly to have a
    garden without, all the creatures
    that hang out and visit
    your exemplary garden.
    I certainly appreciate such
    biodiversity, missing from
    most gardens out of context,
    with humans in mind only.

  43. Antigonum Cajan, I'm going to print out and frame that remark of yours. That's truly music to a gardener's ears .... sigh!
    I do agree wholeheartedly with you, a garden has to be seen as a whole, including all the little creatures that make it such a pleasurable place.
    Thank you for this lovely comment.

  44. I'm missing the lovely "flying flowers" during these long winter days, so it's wonderful to see them here on your blog.
    This little Gram (of) Blue is so sweet. Clever you to catch the blue! :)

  45. Living in the tropics, I sometimes forget just how much we are blessed. I can't imagine my garden without its 'flutters of colour'.
    Go ahead, Kerri, feast your eyes on them here. I'm sure in our summer months I'd love to see some snow from your blog (but then you always have loads of colour in your garden no matter what the season, right?).
    Oh yes, the Gram Blue is special. A tiny bit of colour that flies up when I least expect it.


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