Saturday, April 3, 2010

Of tigers, crows and handmaidens

Tigers are frolicking all over my garden these days. Tiger butterflies, that is.
The hotter days and blooming trees in Mumbai have something to do with that I think. Everywhere I look there are trees in bloom and an attendant cloud of butterflies and other nectar-loving insects dancing around them. They act almost besotted with the heady summer fragrance. Can't blame them!

This gorgeous Blue Tiger butterfly refused to leave the lantana bush alone. I usually have to chase and stalk them all over the garden to get a half-way decent photo, but here they were, cosying up to the lantana blooms mindless of who else was around.

Could this be the reason why?

The Common Crows are making their presence felt too. But then, they are rarely shy and don't mind intrusive bloggerazzi following them around.

This tiny little butterfly hides one of the most brilliant blues I've ever seen within its wings. At rest, no one would give them a second glance but like the other butterflies of the Lycaenid or Blues family, their flight is punctuated by brilliant flashes of the most vibrant blue from the upper part of their wing which is usually folded and hidden away.
Almost like butterfly Morse code!

Another Tiger, the Striped Tiger butterfly, loves the banana grove. I love its tiger-y colours and I can see where it got its name, can't you? What a contrast in their personalities though!
Isn't it amazing how much it resembles the Monarch butterfly?

I found this Striped Tiger hanging around the cashew tree which is in full bloom now. I've always considered the cashew flowers no great shakes in the looks department but the butterflies are mad about them. True butterfly magnets!

The cashew blooms also attracted this stunning Handmaiden Moth which has to be the most impossibly colourful creature I've ever seen.

Don't believe me? Take a look at her close up. And keep in mind that the camera couldn't capture the deep jewel reds and blues which look a bit faded here. This is one creature that makes you gasp in awe. And makes me thank my lucky stars that I have them around in my garden.

So were these butterflies the prototype for some of the most beautiful flowers? Or is it the other way around?


  1. ditto, Butterflies are frolicking our garden here as well. Lovely post... i am tempted to capture them myself and do a post on these small wonders of nature.

    Thx for sharing.... Stunning shots!

  2. Blogerrazi is up to a real good job there! Already the flora and fauna in your garden is very diverse, impressive and colorful; your photography and words have added more colors to the rainbow.

  3. Such a beautiful variety of butterflies you have visiting your garden ... great photos! The Blue Tiger is just gorgeous and the Handmaiden Moth is simply stunning! How lucky you are to see these beauties!

  4. Sunita are you fooling us that you live in the city ? What an array of colours and species. You have awakened the sleeping tiger! :-)

  5. I can also see a lot of butterflies around but then clicking them is a different story, I find them harder than birds!

  6. Beautiful Lepidopterae! No butterflies and moths that I've seen here yet so I appreciate your preview.

  7. How lucky to have them breeding in your garden! Wonderful shots, Sunita!

  8. No butterflies here yet It is way too cold. Your are beautiful.

  9. What a treat your pictures are! They speak volumes for your artistry and patience. Thank you , and also for giving the name of the flowers - never knew they were called lantana blooms.

  10. I have never seen so many pretty bugs on one blog entry! I LOVE IT! Your images are wonderful. I can't wait to return to see what you share this spring.

    I am adding you to my Inspire page because your photos rock! Stop by :

    BGgarden Inspire

  11. Sunita, the butterflies are so beautiful and I especially love the Blue Tiger, one we do not have. We have seen a few in our garden, the Painted Lady, but as of this morning we have a dusting of snow on the ground, so it will be a while before the butterflies return. Have a wonderful weekend.

  12. Beautiful and looks like you are going to have a lot more of them soon:-)

    A Very Happy Easter to you and family!

  13. Yeah, i noticed the flutter-bys have started arriving here too !
    Stunning pictures ! The moth, especially, is an explosion of colours !

  14. Hi Sunita. What wonderful and beautiful pictures of the butterflies. They do love Lantana. The moth is gorgeous! My electricity went off in the middle of commenting to you so if you get this comment twice please forgive me. The wind is terrible here today.

  15. Ever Green Tree,go on... get your camera out and start clicking them. Its such great fun! And do post the photos for us to see?

    Thanks, GT :)I think the trick is to leave them alone. Avoid chemicals and you have garden which is very welcoming to the birds and buttrflies. Okay you'll get the other unwanted bugs too but usually the birds'll get them. Natural cycles.

  16. Thanks, Bernie :) I really count myself very lucky to have them in my garden. But seriously, until I started blogging, I really didnt pay much attention to just how many of them were around.

    Helen, both my gardens are very much in Mumbai city :D Okay, my apartment garden is more 'city-fied' than the other but I see a lot of birds and butterflies here too. I think that if you don't really look, you'll only see the dust and grime and walls, but if you do... a whole new world opens up :)

  17. Mridula, they are very flighty, aren't they? Trying to photograph them makes for a great exercise routine anyway :)

    Shady C, you're welcome! And then in May, I'll drool all over your cool weather photos :D

    Thanks, Chandramouli! Yeah, lantana is perfect for that, isn't it? Frankly, I would prefer that they do their breeding outside my garden and then show up here as adults ;D

  18. Thank you, Keewee. ts quite hot here so that's probably why the butterflies are out in force.

    Thanks, Raji :)The wild lantana is so much a part of our Indian countryside, isn't it? They butterflies love the blooms and the birds love the berries. Perfect!

  19. Of late I have been seeing a lot of beautiful butterflies around here too, mostly yellow - but they move too fast to capture!! :(

    Loved the description of the moth :) And the Tiger does look like the Monarch Butterfly!!
    And now I must spot the blue tiger...

    All those are butterfly caterpillars on the Lantana leaf!! How I envy you!!!!!

  20. What beautiful butterflies! They rival your colorful flowers. Oddly, though, I am drawn again and again to the leaf full of caterpillars. It's such an amazing transformation.

  21. Lovely butterflies,come summer and lot of them.i have been missing from the blogger world for along time,will read all your posts in a while

  22. Bren, thanks!:)
    Oh yes, these bugs seem to be made just to make us happy, aren't they? (except when their babies start eating up our beloved plants, but that's another story)
    I hope we'll see you here very often. I'm planning a lot of posts which I think you'll like.

    Di, that snow must've beensuch a party-pooper! I hope your butterflies show up again soon. You're right, the Blue Tigers are gorgeous. And so are their paler cousins, the Glassy Tigers.

    Thanks, Bindhu. I hope so too :)
    Happy Easter to you and yours .

  23. Yosee, I think the handmaiden moth must be the bohemian of the insect world! It has splashed on all the possible colours... much like a little girl with her mom's cosmetics!

    Lona, I'm glad you wrote in again because I didnt get it the first time. I can't imagine you having such fierce winds at this time, that take out the electricity!
    You're right, Lantana must be one of the most loved flowers for butterflies. Maybe I should plant more of them?

    IHM, I think te trick is in identifying one of their fave hang-outs and then wait next to it, camera ready in hand! (I'm becoming an expert stalker!)
    Are the yellows you mentioned tiny? Then they could mot possibly be Grass Yellows. Try your hand at photographing them, they're just as much fun as birds.

    Stephanie, I could almost imagine I heard a concentrated chomping coming from that plant! I'm waiting to see all those caterpillars turned into b'flies.

    Lakshmi, good to see you here again. Oh yes, b'flies and summer go hand in hand, don't they?

  24. Wow.. a true feast for the eyes!!
    Loved the butterflies and the moth is surely magnificent.. liked your analogy of a little girl with her mom's cosmetics :)

  25. These pictures/words
    are evidence that a well
    thought garden with Flora/Fauna
    in mind, produce in return
    constant pleasure for all senses.


  26. Thanks, Priya :)

    Thanks, Antigonum Cajan! But I must confess that not much thought went into this. Except for the decision not to cut down the wild lantana bush, that is. Too many birds and butterflies (and a snake who lives inside that big cluster) seemed to enjoy it.

  27. Sunita girl ! Thanks for dropping by my blog : ) My goodness you are taking incrediable pictures of these gorgeous butterflies ! I am so hoping to see some in my garden this year .. I swear they only come out when I am in the house and don't see them ? LOL
    You talk about how hot it is there and I literally beging to shrivel .. that is the one thing I hate about our summers heat and humidity .. but you take it on with no effort .. wish I could be like you girl ! LOL
    Joy : )

  28. Your pursuit of the beautiful creatures in your colorful garden really pays off, Sunita, and you share them so joyfully :) Thank you!
    You're lucky to have so many gorgeous butterflies enjoying your prolific blooms.
    I can't help but think it's a shame a more suitable name wasn't bestowed on that vibrant Handmaiden moth. She's more of a Cleopatra than a handmaiden, don't you think?
    That orchid is truly breathtaking!
    Happy Easter to you, Sunita!

  29. Joy, there's nothing incredible about the pictures. With such beautiful models what else can you expect?
    And I so understand what you're saying ... there're a couple of Jezebels that flit around my garden ALL the time. Except when I have a camera with me.
    Yes, it's really hot here now but I keep my spirits up by thinking that it's not yet as hot as it's going to get! ;D

  30. ERR, thank you for stopping by. I'm glad you enjoyed the photos :)

    Happy Easter to you and your family too, Kerri! As always it's a pleasure to read your comments :)
    Cleopatra? Oh I can see that!:D You're so right, the Handmaiden Moth deserved a much more glamourous name.

  31. Hi Sunita! It has been a while since I have been in Bloggerland. I am glad to see you are still stalking all the pretty butterflies, dragonflies and flowers in your garden. Love the colors on the Hand Maiden Moth.

  32. Hi Jessica! Isn't that moth gorgeous? I bet she's the envy of all insectdom.
    Oh yes, the stalking goes on as ever :D

  33. What gorgeous creatures Sunita, and what beautiful colors they add to your garden!

  34. Hi Sunita, just wanted to say I enjoy your blogs and pictures. I do not get time to follow all blogs all times but when I do peek into some blogs, invariably yours is one of them! From your older posts I see that you grow orchids and cashews in your garden. All I can say is - WOW!

  35. Sunita, each time I read your blog, I am amazed that you have such a haven in Mumbai! Butterflies, parakeets 0 you have built a paradise, woman!

  36. Gorgeous flying flowers in your garden Sunita. No signs of these beautiful creatures here in my area yet. Soon... :)

  37. Wow Sunita, fabulous photos! Thanks for sharing what must have been a heart stopping photo shoot.

  38. I've never seen anything like the Handmaiden Moth! It's just amazing. I hope we see lots of butterflies this summer, last year we didn't have many. You sure see some pretty ones there.

  39. Oh Sunita, those butterflies and moths are just stunning, they make our local ones look quite dowdy! The handmaiden moth almost looks like she is made of velvet!

  40. Thank you, wannabegardener! That has to be one of the nicest things that anyone ever said about my blog :)
    Yes, I do grow a lot of orchids but the cashew trees were here long before we bought this place. They're more or less like the guardian spirits of my garden.

    Thank you, Sharon. I guess I have to thank my "let-it-be" attitude for the surplus of butterflies, birds, etc in my garden ;D
    I'm not a fan of the over-manicured garden. Over-zealous weeding uproots the food and host plants of so many butterflies. At least, that's my story and I'm sticking to it! ;D

  41. Ah but Racquel, we're well into Summer here in Mumbai so that explains the flitterati. I'm sure yours are going to turn up soon. I'm looking forward to seeing you post about them :)

    Thanks, Joey :) Heart-stopping is right. The lantana bush which was the site of some of those photos also houses a resident snake. I'm not sure what snake it is but there's every chance that it is a poisonous one. I've no problem with it living there but every time I was moving around to get a better shot I was so scared that I would step on it accidentally!
    The things we bloggers do for more interesting posts ...! ;D

    Catherine, the Handmaiden is gorgeous, isn't she! And to think that after gardening here for so many years, I just spotted her a couple of years ago ...
    I hope you see a lot of butterflies this year too.

    Hi gippslandgardener! Velvet... of course! I kept thinking that there is something the handmaiden reminds me of and you've got it spot on :D
    Yes, some of our butterflies are really colourful but there are several of the rather dowdy ones here too. I guess it's Nature's way of counterbalancing.

  42. Garden girl, you're absolutely right ... the butterfies have to be the most colourful part of my garden. I love waiting near the vincas and lantanas and other butterfly-magnets to see who comes visiting

  43. the handmaiden is awesome!! thanks for sharing!

  44. I have never ever seen a moth as colourful and beautiful as the Handmaiden! I thought all moths are dull.

  45. Hi Sunita!
    I photographed that exact Handmaiden Moth in my local wetland patch last month. It is Uber cute! This surely must be Katrina Kaif in Handmaiden Moth lineage. I am struggling to find its scientific name.

    How is the mood in the camp with Mumbai Indians going great? I think MI and RC are strong contenders for the title this year.

  46. Hmmmm.... I ad replied to Arati, DGG and Autumn Belle days ago but cant see it posted here. Looks like Cyber Monster has gobbled it up! Sorry...

    Arati, the handmaiden always leaves one awestruck, doesn't she?

    Thanks, Dirtygirlgardening! I must say that I enjoyed those very colourful frogs in your blog.

    So did I, Autumn Belle. This one really busts all myths, doesn't she? :D

    Yeah, I know, Lisa and Robb, they do provoke that reaction, don't they?... sigh!

    Hi Amila! :)
    I agree about the cuteness but Katrina Kaif? I think Ms. Kaif can only dream of the kind of flamboyance that the Handmaiden flaunts!
    Why is there so little info about the Handmaiden, I wonder? I did a lot of googling but couldn't find out much about it. If you find out anything, will you please let me know?

  47. Lovely pictures. Totally agree that the camera cannot capture the beauty we see with our eyes. Do you know how the Handmaiden moths got their names? I searched quite a lot but couldn't find any information on that. Kindly share of you know. 🙏

  48. Thank you, Bindu :) No, I'm sorry, I have no idea how they got that name. But if you do find out, please tell me too?


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