Butterfly trackers help lift the mystery surrounding rare butterflies in the Nilgiris

A group of hobbyist butterfly trackers attempting to document and learn about the different butterfly species in the Nilgiris has helped expand the knowledge-base of the life cycles of two rare butterfly species in the district.

The Wynter-Blyth Association (WBA), stated that in 2020, members of the group have successfully “rediscovered” the Branded Royal (Tajuria melastigma) after a period of 130 years, while also recording the early life cycle of the Nilgiri tit (Hypolycaena nilgirica), which the team found laying eggs on a species of ground orchid.

“Based in Coonoor, the WBA has made quite a few revelations and discoveries in documenting rare butterflies in the Nilgiris this year,” said Manoj Sethumadhavan, a trustee of WBA.

“The Branded Royal, which was last observed in the Nilgiris in the 1880s was not only rediscovered in the hills, but has also had its entire lifecycle documented. This elusive butterfly has been sighted hardly in three places in Tamil Nadu and there are only a handful of overall sightings of the adult from the Peninsular India. It was observed and recorded that this butterfly breeds in a species of Loranthus (Scurrula parasitica) during its larval stage after which it goes through a series of physiological changes to dissolve itself into a beautiful pupa and to finally emerge as an adult,” a statement from WBA read.

Meanwhile, members of WBA also recorded that the Nilgiri tit lays its eggs on a species of ground orchid (Eupholia epidenraea). There had been little understanding of which species of orchid the butterfly prefers to lays its eggs on previously.

Other rare butterfly species such as the Common Onyx, Silver Royal, Banded Royal, Yellow-breasted flat, Pointed lineblue, White-tipped lineblue, Tawny Raja, Black Raja, Silver streak blue, Silver-streaked acacia blue, Clipper, Striated Five-ring, Large Guava Blue, Common Tinsel, Acute sunbeam, Pale four-lineblue and Restricted spotted flat, all considered as uncommon species, were also sighted by the team this year a press release from WBA said.

“WBA considers this as one of the best years in which so many rare species have been sighted and attribute this to the timely monsoons and abundance of botanical diversity which flourished because of this,” said Vinod Sriramulu, another trustee of WBA.

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