a pictorial guide to the butterflies of West Bengal, India.

Foreword

 

Welcome to BengalButterflies.com, a website dedicated to the butterflies of West Bengal.

The remarkable richness of butterfly diversity in West Bengal has made this eastern Indian state a heaven for butterfly-lovers.

The district of Darjeeling is undoubtedly the most species-rich but other districts have their share of glamour too. For instance the White Tiger (Danaus melanippus) and very rare Spotted Black Crow (Euploea crameri) are available in Sundarban area in South 24 Parganas only.

World has 17000+ different species of butterflies. India has about 1500. How many are there in West Bengal?

As more and more butterfly enthusiasts are coming out to explore the far and near corners of this state, the diversity is expanding. Combining the butterfly checklists available from 1880's to the present date, the total no. of species have already been found to cross 450. Comparison with the butterfly fauna of the neighbouring state Sikkim indicates the total no. of species may probably reach close to 600. The group awaiting much exploration is Hesperiidae.

Who ever have failed to get amazed by the beauty of these ephemeras? In March-April or September-October every riverbed in the Dooars looks like a flowerbed and viewers stand mesmerized by merely the sheer number of the butterflies, not to mention the intricate patterns and colours of their wings. Peacocks - restless, their powdery green wings flashing the iridescent greenish blue patches and bands, drink from wet sand. Maps sail effortlessly. One can not miss closely packed mixed flocks of Sawtooths, Gulls, Jezebels, Helens, Bluebottles, Jays and dozens of other butterflies, creating colourful pastelsplashes here and there.

The bushes with small flowers like that of lantana get invaded by hordes of Jezebels, Pansies, Mormons, Peacocks and Tigers etc. In the late afternoon some Windmills or Batwings flutter down from the treetops where they spend most of the day, to the bushes near the ground and seek nectar.

In West Bengal one can find the largest butterfly of India, the Common Birdwing, with a wingspan of up to 19 cm. and also the smallest of the world, the Grass Jewel (wingspan 1.5 - 2.2 cm.).

One true but bleak fact is this: today there are more butterfly-lovers than there were twenty or thirty years ago, but at the same time there are much less space for these species to live in. We are destroying, knowingly or unknowingly, the places where these creatures are born, where they grow, where they search for and find their mates.

If we wish that our children and grand-children be awarded the joy of watching a butterfly wing awash in the beam of morning sun, transcended to a form that epitomizes happiness and freedom, then we have to act fast.

We are sure that we are not alone to have these feelings. We wish this site bring all the butterfly-lovers together.

Enjoy.

Explore Butterflies

Family-wise distribution of butterflies

PAPILIONIDAE

PIERIDAE

NYMPHALIDAE

LYCAENIDAE

HESPERIIDAE

Butterfly Conservation

 

Why to conserve butterflies?

These unique creatures of nature are found in a variety of habitats. Conserving butterflies means conserving that particular habitat or that particular ecosystem. There is positive correlation between the species richness of butterflies and the host plants. They being the important food chain component, their sheer numbers supply a vast food sources for predators like birds, reptiles, spiders and predatory insects. They are significant plant pollinators too. The rich floral diversity of a place having significant numbers of medicinal herbs, shrubs, climbers and trees offers us great opportunity to study its faunal diversity in detail.

The life span of butterfly being short, they become an important subject for genetical research. The migration behaviour, seasonal variation, feeding habit, mating behaviour, colouration, prey-predator relationship, butterfly-flower association, species indicator to environmental changes are some of the interesting subject on which the biologists are conducting research and the butterfly being short-lived species, they become very helpful to the scientists for their research works.

In the present days conserving wild life largely means conserving larger life forms like Tiger, Rhino, and Elephants etc. Smaller life forms like butterflies, spiders, dragon flies etc. are treated as non-target species. Nowadays, of course the conservation effort of smaller life forms has gained momentum with introduction of concept of "biodiversity conservation". The Wild Life (Protection) Act 1972 has enough provisions for conservation of butterflies. Under this Act, around 120 species and sub-species of butterflies and moths are in Schedule-I and nearly 292 species and sub-species are in Schedule-II. But the legislation alone can not save and protect the species from being extinct from nature. Effective steps in maintaining the wild life habitat through continuous process of awareness generation among the local community, young generation is required.

Conservation measures and techniques:

Conservation of a group of species like butterfly can not be achieved in isolation. Our approach should be "in-situ conservation" i.e. to conserve the biodiversity at all its levels, specific ecosystem and habitat which supports that particular group of species is to be conserved. Although this conservation approach will vary according to the specific location, there are some basic guidelines which can be classified as under:

Threats to butterflies:

There are many factors affecting the butterfly habitat adversely. While initiating conservation approach for butterfly these threats are to be taken into account.