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  Life   More Features  09 Jan 2018  An urban paradise for butterflies

An urban paradise for butterflies

Published : Jan 9, 2018, 12:27 am IST
Updated : Jan 9, 2018, 12:27 am IST

Geeta opted to have nectar plants, including ones like periwinkle, hamelia patens and ixora, to attract the flitting creatures.

Dr Geet Arun Samant at her terrace garden
 Dr Geet Arun Samant at her terrace garden

Bursting at the seams with skyscrapers, Mumbai has little greenery to witness any longer. One’s forced to take a drive out to the outskirts of the city to enjoy some time with Mother Nature. For it’s only there that you can now see creatures like butterflies that you can rarely spot in the city anymore.

However, the Bombay Natural History Society (BNHS) has a solution — a workshop that can help people develop gardens in their own little space that will attract butterflies.

The workshop is being hosted by Dr Raju Kasambe, in charge of the BNHS Conservation Education Centre and IBA programme manager at BNHS. Raju had started a six-month certified course on butterfly studies last year, and noticed that his students had started to rear the beautiful insects.

“They had started to raise host plants for the butterflies to lay eggs in and they witnessed various types in their homes. I then started a day-long workshop to help others do the same and create butterfly gardens,” he smiles.

Commander caterpillar on mussaenda flower Commander caterpillar on mussaenda flower

From choice of plant to butterfly identification, basics of gardening and understanding the plant-butterfly association, the module tries to help enthusiasts grasp butterfly gardening better. “The idea is to make people understand that with the right tools, it’s possible to have a butterfly garden even in your own balcony,” he adds.

Giving a hint of what his workshop covers, Raju lists a sure-fire way of attracting butterflies — nectar plants. Some, he says, can be planted even in a pot, and kept on a windowsill, to get the butterflies to swarm in. “There are some basic host plants that butterflies use to lay eggs — curry leaves and bael leaves are some of them. There are also nectar plants like passion flower, kalanchoe plant (or widow’s-thrill), lantana flower, pentas flower, Jamaican spike and ixora flower,” he says, adding that even four or five sets of these will attract butterflies.
But most important of all the requirements, says Raju, is the person’s willingness to have such a garden. “There needs to be enthusiasm to keep the plants alive by regularly watering them. And then even a small society space is enough to attract 40-50 types of butterflies,” he asserts.

While about 150 species of butterflies have been recorded in Sanjay Gandhi National Park in Borivali, around 100 of those can be see in the city, says Raju, who also authored Butterflies of Western Ghats. With a sigh, he states that concretisation is the reason why one can’t often spot these winged beauties in the city any more.


“There’s just no habitat for butterflies in the city. They’re always there, but if you have a garden, their number will increase. They start realising good habitat is available, and they’ll visit regularly,” he says.

Dr Geeta Arun Samant, who did the six-month course at BNHS, started off with 20 plants on her terrace in April last year, but now takes care of about 150 of them, which attract various species of butterflies.

“In the last eight months alone I recorded 42 species of butterflies on my terrace,” she says proudly. “I have also captured the life cycles of 30 caterpillars.”

Geeta opted to have nectar plants, including ones like periwinkle, hamelia patens and ixora, to attract the flitting creatures.

Raju points out that besides helping Mother Nature, butterfly gardens can help humans too. Waking up to a colourful sight has hidden benefits, he says. “With all things done to create a butterfly garden, it increases the gross happiness index,” he concludes.

Tags: bnhs, butterflies, enthusiasm