September is observed as Butterfly Month in India. We have about 1400 species of butterflies–from the 190 mm wingspan Southern Birdwing, to the tiny Grass Jewel with a 15 mm wingspan. And we are yet to discover all the species there are—in the last few years, 77 species have been discovered in just the Matheran Hills near Mumbai.
Citizen-scientists who sight, record and report their findings are critical in any exercise of species monitoring. So here is a list of some popular guides to Indian butterflies which can get you started on your butterfly journey. Who knows, you may discover a new one, or help to expand the understanding of range or behavior! Good luck!
- Butterflies of India. Thomas Gay, Isaac Khemikar and JC Puneetha. WWF/Oxford University Press.
- A Naturalist’s Guide to the Butterflies of India, Pakistan, Nepal, Bhutan, Bangladesh and Sri Lanka. Peter Smetacek.
- Identification of Indian Butterflies. J.H. Evans. BNHS.
- Butterflies of the Indian Region. MA Wynter-Blyth. BNHS.
- Butterflies of India. Arun Pratap Singh. Om Books International.
There are several excellent region-specific guides too, including:
- Butterflies of the Western Ghats. H. Gaonkar.
- Butterflies of Peninsular India. K. Kunthe, G. Madhav.
- Butterflies of Sikkim. Meena Haribal. Nature Conservation Foundation.
- Butterflies of Delhi. Peter Smetack. Kalpavriksh.
(Unapologetically non-conforming to APA or any other referencing style!)
And a few tips to help butterflies along:
- Butterfly gardening is a great way to provide a hospitable environment. Butterflies need different plants for different stages of their life-cycles. So planting a garden with many different types of flowering plants (or having pots with different kinds of plants) is a good first step. On the whole, plants like hibiscus, shankpushpi, sunflower, chrysanthemum, marigold, mint etc. are among those preferred by butterflies.
- Wherever you live, see if you can have some small areas which are left wild, with local species of wild plants. This will help butterflies, as these are probably their preferred vegetation.
- Stop use of chemical pesticides in your garden. These can cause serious harm to the butterfly at the various stages of its development.