The Tropical Butterfly Conservatory – Tiruchi (TBCT) in the Upper Anicut Reserve Forest welcomed its 101st winged visitor recently in the shape of a brown ‘Common Nawab’ (Polyura athamas).
Spotted resting on a rock in the mid-afternoon a fortnight ago by conservatory officials, the Common Nawab is just one of over 50 resident species and 98 migrant varieties of the insect that may be seen in TBCT, considered to be Asia’s largest such facility set in a natural habitat.
“In Tamil Nadu, around 323 species of butterfly were recorded during the British Raj. After Independence, this number declined to 309. We hope the numbers will increase soon,” a senior official said.
The Common Nawab is a fast-flying canopy butterfly that occurs in the Himalayas from Kashmir to Sikkim, the hills of central India and the Eastern Ghats, the Western Ghats and southern India, Sri Lanka, Assam and onwards up to Indonesia.
Plants of the Fabaceae or legume (pea) family are the hosts for this butterfly that has brown upper- and twin-tailed hindwings with distinctive green-yellow markings in the centre and creamy white bands on the side. The physical appearance of the Common Nawab varies according to seasons.
The insect can be seen usually hovering around overripe fruit and is found in forest areas at heights between sea level and about 800 metres. It takes approximately three months to complete metamorphosis.
The roads to TBCT are being widened to facilitate bus services right up to the park, said the official. “We hope to be ready to receive more visitors when the summer vacation starts,” he said.