I just tried to recollect how many types of butterflies I remember before I had started to observe them. I thought butterflies are colorful – some are green some are yellow and some of them are more colorful with patterns on them. I soon realized that it was much more than that.
I was lucky enough to be in the company of avid butterfly watchers and my eyes opened to the world of butterflies. I was astounded by the simple fact that there are about 20,000 species of butterflies in the world.Believe me butterflies are a delight to watch. It is really amazing to learn about them.
As I was browsing about butterfly wing patterns, I came to know about Dr. Cyril Clarke, a British physician and professor of medicine whose fascination with butterfly wings led him to pursue research that helped end infant deaths from a blood disease caused by incompatible Rh factors.He found parallels between the inheritance of wing patterns in butterflies and the inheritance of blood types in people. That insight led to discoveries by him and others that eventually enabled women with Rh-negative blood who produce antibodies to the blood of their Rh-positive babies to have them safely.
To read more about him
On one of the trails we visited the NCBS campus, where we were fascinated by the work going on in Dr Krushnamegh Kunte’s lab. One of the students, Gaurav, in his lab, was carrying the caterpillar of the Commander butterfly. I showed keen interest in observing it. He readily handed it over to me when I asked him if I can take it home for observation.
The caterpillars of butterflies feed are specific on the plants they feed .They are called the larval host plants. The host plant for Commander is Neolamarckia cadamba .
After feeding on the Kadamd leaves for a few days it started to pupate.Before pupating the caterpillar wanders around, often far away from the plant it fed on. It pupates among dried leaves and twigs. The pupa is brownish in color and rough in texture. It is angular with prominent wing expansions and bears flat processes on the head which curl together making a hole between them. It also has numerous lines and markings that make it look like a rolled up dried leaf.
Freshly formed pupa
The close-up of the pupa after a few hours
In the morning I had checked the pupa and observed that it had turned black in colour indicating that the butterfly would emerge any time.
I had stepped out for a while , Kannan kept a watch on it . Soon he realised that he had missed the emerging butterfly. But what he saw was amazing the Commander clinging to its pupal case.This Picture gives a clear indication of how compactly it was packed.
I had read somewhere that butterflies can be fed with ripe fruits so offered it a piece of ripe banana it tasted with its proboscis The Commander walked around for some time and then prepared for its first flight.