Monthly Archives: October 2011

Invite the wilderness into your garden


Somnath Paldas liked catching butterflies as a child
and capturing them in a jar, but now he and his four-year-old son Daiwik Paldas together set these butterflies free. Daiwik accompanies his father whenever
they release a newly emerged butterfly. “On weekends he spends time in the
butterfly garden and is also an enthusiastic butterfly watcher”, said Paldas.
Daiwik is in nursery in Indira Gandhi Memorial High School near Airport and his
father works as a Supply Chain Executive. “He got interested in it after
watching me work in my garden. Now he not only comes along with me but also
helps me when visitors come and visit our garden”, said Paldas.

Paldas has his own butterfly garden in Sodepur, Kolkata. There he also has
a caterpillar rescue and rehabilitation centre where people bring caterpillars
from various parts in and around Kolkata, where they take care of these
caterpillar and release them once they emerge into a full grown butterfly. “Daiwik
just loves releasing the newly emerged butterflies and has slowly developed it
as a hobby”, said Paldas. Paldas started studying about butterflies from 2005. He has
also started butterfly consultancy in 2010 which helps people in setting up
their own butterfly garden.

A butterfly garden is just like a normal garden
that we see at homes, parks, hotels or residential complex. The difference is,
it has some extra plants that attract butterflies. Attracting butterflies is
not a difficult task, all you need is a long term source of food, water, and a
place of safety. “Number of native plants are coming down in the cities as the
developers cut the old trees, do their construction and plant fancy trees in
their place. Butterfly garden requires native plants. So the indirect benefit
(of butterfly garden) will be ‘ Native Plants Conservation’ ”, said Paldas who has
been into butterfly gardening since 2005. “Butterfly garden can also be
small step towards saving our environment as it is part of the food chain of
ecosystem”, said Paldas.

“I got attracted to these beautiful butterflies at an abandoned corner
at Alipore Zoo in Kolkata where hundred of butterflies of different species
were fluttering around unnoticed. I came back to the zoo after some days to
meet them again but the zoo authorities had cleared the bushy area for winter
picnic parties. After this incident I really got interested and started
studying about them (butterflies) to know the cause which makes them, gather at
a particular abandoned corner whereas there were so many beautiful flowers
blooming at various places in the zoo”, said Paldas.

Paldas advises others on how to start a butterfly garden but as a starter
he committed a silly mistake. “While I was gardening, I got bitten by ants,
ants had covered on whole plant. I quickly sprayed kerosene on the plant, which
is not only harmful for the ant, but also the plant and the butterflies as
well. One should take care of such stupid mistakes”, said Paldas while sharing his
experience. Spraying of pesticides, insecticides and kerosene is not advisable
for such gardens as these chemicals repel the invitees.

Butterflies needs host plant to lay eggs and nectar plants to feed
themselves. Few nectar plants that can be planted to attract butterflies are
Ixora, commonly called Jungle Flame/ Geranium, Cosmos, Lantana, Marigold,
Sunflower and Pink cockscomb. Host plants provide food to caterpillars. Some
host plants that you can plant in your garden are Curry leaves plant, Lemon
plant, Cassia, Giant Milkweed, Kalanchoe Pinnata(also known as Air plant),
different kinds of bamboo plants and variety of grasses. Caterpillars mostly
feed on grasses, common weed and wildflowers. Generally butterflies require
fresh flowers and fruits to feed, whereas some of them feed on overripe and
rotten fruits. The male butterflies have mud-puddling behaviour. They sip in
moisture from mud puddles, which provides them salts and minerals from the

Butterfly gardening can be taken up by anyone at any age. From a school
going kid to a working professional to a retired person. Maximum it takes is
two hours of work for a big size garden and only once a week along with daily
watering of the plants. Students can easily maintain butterfly garden, which
gives them a practical study on the subject. “There is no hectic workload or
daily maintenance in butterfly garden, so any student can easily maintain a
butterfly garden of their own. All they need is love for these fluttering
creatures”, said Paldas who is a Procurement Executive.

A small piece of land is enough to start a butterfly garden. “One can
start a butterfly garden is any size of land but needs a big size space for
butterflies in their hearts”, said Paldas. Rs500/- is more than enough to start
your own butterfly garden.“A butterfly garden does not need a proper garden,
one can even attract butterfly on their terrace and balcony. Just grow few
nectar and host plants like marigold, curryleaves, cassia and cosmos. One can
even plant them around their building, office and in Municipal gardens”, said
Rajendra Ovlekar, the founder of Ovalekar Wadi who has recently been asked by
the Thane Corporation office to convert their garden into a butterfly garden.
Ovalekar Wadi Butterfly Garden is a home of 109 species of butterflies that are
seen throughout the year. It is an open-air butterfly garden located in Thane
(w) in Maharashtra. Visitors are welcomed on Sundays from 8am to 12.30pm. Best
season to visit is between October to November. They also organise workshops
and special sessions for school students to come and study these colourful
creatures and their life cycle.

“Butterflies are excellent pollinators. They help in increasing
your flower, fruit and vegetable production. The secret to successful butterfly
gardens lies in providing a wide range of flowers and shrubs. By adding a few
new plants in your garden you can attract varied range of butterflies”,
said Ovlekar who was inspired to start a butterfly garden after attending the
first butterfly meet held at Bombay Natural History Society at Goregaon in

Life Cycle of a

Every butterfly goes through four stages of development i.e. egg,
larva, pupa and adult and the scientific term to this process is metamorphosis.
A butterfly can live for one week to nearly a year depending on the species.
Many of them have long larval stages whereas others can stay dormant in their
pupal or egg stage to survive winters.

Butterfly eggs are fixed to a leaf with special glue produced by the
butterfly itself, which hardens rapidly. As it hardens, it contracts to take
shape of an egg. The egg stage lasts a few weeks in most butterflies and can
take longer for eggs hatched in winter and they hatch only in springs.

Butterfly larvae, which is commonly called caterpillar, feed on the
host plant on which the egg is laid. The caterpillars spend most of their time
in search of food. When the larva is fully-grown, it transforms into a pupa.
The pupa is incapable of movement. The pupa transforms into an adult, which is
also called imago once the wings emerge. But a newly emerged butterfly needs to
dry its wings before it starts flying which may take up to three hours and in
some cases only an hour. Most of the butterflies and moths excrete dye after
hatching which can be of white, red, orange or blue colour.

Tips to attract butterflies


Plant wildflower plants (Wildflowers are a good food source for
butterflies and caterpillars)

Grow sun-loving flowers.

Plant wide spectrum of flowers with colours like red, orange, orange,
white, purple and blue as butterflies are attracted to them.

Butterflies love flowers with abundant sweet nectar. Make sure to plant

Vegetation planted around running or dripping water is great for
attracting butterflies (butterflies like to take a drink, too)

Butterflies get attracted to native plants. Make sure you plant them in
your garden.

Organic gardening attracts more butterflies.

Do not use pesticides or insecticides on plants, as they are harmful
for the butterflies.

To know more about butterflies

The Butterfly museum at Riatsamthiah in Shillong gives lot of
information about various butterflies across the world. It was started in 1930
by Mr Sikdar and has collection from different parts of the world. At present
Ms. W. Wankhar runs it. It is the only museum in India devoted to moths and
butterflies. Shillong is 1181 km from Kolkata. Borjhar Airport in Guwahati is
the nearest international air link of Shillong while Guwahati railway station
connects the city with other parts of India through rail. You can reach
Shillong from Guwahati through NH 40 that links these two cities. The museum is
2km away from Police Bazaar of Shillong.