Butterflies of Mysore Area
An attempt is made to derive the baseline information of butterflies on diversity and species composition of Mysore area. Mysore area represents three southern districts of Karnataka state, namely Mysore, Mandya and Chamarajanagar excluding National Parks & Wildlife Sanctuaries ( Nugu, Biligiri Rangaswamy, Cauvery, Nagarhole and Bandipur) situated on west-south-east boundary. Diversity is the most frequently adopted criterion for evaluation of environment (Usher 1986). The result is more significant for further studies to identify ecologically important habitats for conservation purposes. Since the study area lies in the path of the annual butterfly congregation and migration twice a year, the study helps to visualise migration dynamics.
Gaonkar (1996) has observed that no literature on butterfly diversity is available on important districts like Mysore, Hassan, South Kanara, Chickmagalur and Shimoga of Karnataka. Gaonkar work covered Western Ghats extensively. An article by Watson (1890) describes butterfly diversity briefly from Kolar to Kathlekan, adjoining present study area. Present study area was uncovered by Watson (1890), Yates (1933, 1931a & b) and Gaonkar (1996). Present study outlines the baseline information on butterfly diversity and Danaids migration dynamics.
Plum Judy by Vijayalaxmi Rao
African Marbled Skipper
Chocolate Albatros by Vijayalaxmi Rao
Common Banded Peacock
Location and vegetation characteristics:
The study area is spread between 11°30’and 13° 04’ North Latitude and 75° 45’ and 77°45’ East Longitude. Area is situated in southern Karnataka comprising Mysore, Mandya and Chamarajanagar districts excluding National Parks & Wildlife Sanctuaries (Nugu, Biligiri Rangaswamy, Cauvery, Nagarhole and Bandipur). Mysore region is saddled within hill ranges of Western Ghat, Eastern Ghat and confluence of these two hill complexes, spread on three sides with unique habitat and butterfly diversity.
The study area is located in southern plateau of Peninsular India and is part of river Kaveri basin. An average elevation of the area is 820 m ASL and dotted with few isolated hillocks like Bettadapura hill (1338 m), Narayana Durga (1088m) and Chamundi hill (1074m) being highest peaks.
The climate is moderate. The summer season from March to end of May is followed by the south-west monsoon season lasting up to September end. October and November are retreating monsoon season. December to February is the dry season with generally clear bright weather. Most of the rainfall in the area is confined to April to November and October is the wettest month. The area has record of receiving on an average of 761.9 mm (Mysore & Chamarajanagar) and 691.2 mm (Mandya) rainfall during last century (Anon, 1988 & 2003).
Mysore area is described as an undulating table land, fertile and well watered by perennial rivers whose waters dammed by anicuts (check dams built across rivers of different sizes) enrich their banks by means of canals. Mysore area is situated in the angle where the Eastern and Western Ghat ranges converge into the Nilgiri hills. Cultivated area includes rain fed, irrigated, plantations and hedges.
The vegetation is described as thorn-scrub (Saldana 1984; Rao & Razi 1981) and non-forest habitat is due to prolonged disturbance of deciduous forest over a long period. Remnant Dry and moist deciduous trees scattered amid the stretches of shrub, herb and grass undergrowth is common. These thorn-scrub protected areas are located in the middle of vast open and fallow land, cultivated land, town and villages.
Common Jay by Anagha Bagade
Common Lascar by M.Sahana
Gaudy Baron by Vijayalakshmi Rao
Emigrants and Albatross mud-puddeling
Study was conducted in varied vegetation covering thorn-scrub forests, fallow lands, farm lands, garden, surroundings of water-body, riverine, hedges along cultivated land and mixed combination. Locations studied are tabulated in Table-1. The sites of higher nectar and larval host plant diversity were visited more frequently.
Mysore flora is quite rich and diverse with 1601 species of flowering plants belonging to 170 families and 778 genera (Rao & Razi 1981). Impressive plant wealth consists of 147 known host plants described in Peninsular India (Wynter Blyth 1957, Sevastopulo 1973, Kunte 2000). Butterflies were identified with the help of Evans (1932), Wynter-Blyth (1957), Satyamurthy (1966), Kunte (2000) and Isaac (2008 & 2016). Also, Field-experts’ opinion on butterfly photographs is taken into consideration during enlisting.
Table 1: Study area and vegetation features
# Reserved/Protected Forest
Greater Oranger Tip by Kishen Das
Indian Sunbeam by Kishen Das
Congregation of migratory Double Branded Crow
Congregation of migratory Blue Tiger and Double Branded Crow
Species distribution and composition
Totally 169 butterfly species were recorded in Mysore area (Table 1). Indian butterfly diversity is understood to be 1501 species, approximately 9% of world diversity. Diversity rich Western Ghat, abutting study area, is one of the bio-diversity hotspot supports 330 species of butterflies. Floral diversity and stability of the ecosystem is inferred by the presence of 330 species of butterflies in few districts of Western Ghat (Gaonkar 1996). Peninsular Indian diversity of 346 species indicates Western Ghat has almost all the species found in Peninsular India. And, Butterfly diversity of Karnataka is 324 species (2018). Presence of 169 species indicates the less diversity in natural vegetation cover.
Recorded butterflies represent all the major families and the result shows the presence of nearly 10% of entire Indian and 49% of Peninsular Indian butterflies in the study area (Table 2). Comparison of butterfly diversity among Indian, Peninsular, Karnataka and Mysore area is depicted in Fig 2.
Excluding migratory population of Dark Bue Tiger Tirumala septentrionis and Double Branded Crow Euploea sylvester, accounted highest abundance of Blue Tiger Tirumala limniace, Indian Common Crow Euploea core, Common Grass Yellow Eurema hecabe, Common Emigrant Catopsilia pomona, Common Fourring Ypthima huebneri and Tawny Coster Acraea violae.
Very common species are Tawny Coster Acraea violae, Common Grass Yellow Eurema hecabe, Common Emigrant Catopsilia pomona, Mottled Emigrant Catopsilia pyranthe, Common Evening Brown Melanitis leda, Common Bushbrown Mycalesis perseus, and Nigger Orsotrianea medus. And rare species are Southern Rustic Cupha erymanthis, Double Banded Judy/Twospot Plum Judy Abisara bifasciata, Red Helen Papilio helenus, Fulvous Pied Flat Pseudocoladenia dan, Common Snow Flat Tagiades japetus, Tamil Grass Dart Taractrocera ceramas, Bevan’s Swift Borbo bevani, Pygmy Scrub Hopper Aeromachus pygmaeus, Indian Cupid Everes lacturnus, Malayan Megisba Malaya and Indian Red Admiral Vanessa indica.
Unusual occurrence of gynandromorph Southern Birdwing Triodes minos from BR Hills has been recorded by Arun Urs. And, a hybrid variety of Danaid Eggfly and Great Eggfly was observed by Shwetha B.
The Water Snow Flat Tagiades litigiosa was photographed in Muddahalli by Vijayalaxmi Rao in August 2020. TheTransparent Six-line Blue Nacaduba kuruva was recorded by Arun Urs from Chamundi Foothills in September 2020 along with Water Snow Flat Tagiades litigiosa. The Orange Awlet Burara jaina was photographed by Dr. Shwetha B with Pallavi M, Dhananjay, Kashyap R & Yogendra HS from Piriyapatna sector in October 2020.
Table 2: Comparison of Diversity
(# Scoble 1992, $ Gaonkar 1996, @ Kunte 2000, ^ Kishendas 2009)
Vegetation structure and butterfly abundance
Butterfly association with plants is well known. Occurrence of butterfly depending on the presence of plants at different habitats in the study area is discussed below.
Thorn-Scrub forests: Poorer soil and scanty rainfall supports the thorn-scrub type of vegetation in Aloka, Arabitittu, Arasanakere, Bettadabeedu, Bettadapura, Chamundi hill, Chickanahalli, Konanur, Malleswara Gudda, etc., reserve forests. Here trees are armed, stunted and slow growing. Species include Acacia leucophloea, A. suma, Capparis sepiaria, Chloroxylon swietenia, Dichrostachys cinerea, Erytgroxylum monogynum, Gmelina asiatica and Ziziphus species. Vast area is covered with bushes of Pterolobium hexapetalum, Toddalia asiatica, Rhus mysorensis, Ziziphus oenoplia forming impenetrable undergrowth. On these thorny bushes Gymnema sylvestre, Ichnocarpus frutescens, Sarcostemma acidum, Tylophora indica, Aristolochia indica are very common.
The habitat supports more butterflies during healthy Southwest, Northeast monsoon, and post -monsoon. A well-grown thicket that gives continuous shade through out the day accommodates roosting migratory butterflies. Repeatedly Southern Birdwing Troides minos, Blue Mormon Papilio polymnestor, Common Banded Peacock Papilio crino, Small and Large Salmon Arab Colotis danae, Common Four Ring Ypthima huebneri, and rarely Dark Evening Brown Melantitis phedima, Banded Blue Pierrot Discolampa ethion, Peacock Royal Tajuria cippus are found here. A small patch of Chickanahalli Reserve Forest is the only habitat with very few remaining Miliusa tomentosa trees supporting Spot Swordtail Graphium nomiu in the study zone. Southern Rustic Cupha erymanthis and Malayan Megisba malaya was recorded once in Narayana Durga, Melkote Range. For the first time Spotted Royal Tajuria maculata has been recorded from Chamundi hills
Riverine: Thick growth of vegetation on either side of River is common feature. These banks supports trees like Terminalia arjuna, Pandanus fascicularis, Salix tetrasperrma, Creteva nurvala, Hyptage benghalensis. Butterfly like Grey Pansy Junonia atlites, Peacock Pansy J. almana, Chocolate Albatross Appias lyncida, Large Oakblue Arhopala amantes have been recorded.
Plantations: Mono-cultured plantations patches of Eucalyptus spp, Acacaia auriculiformis, Casurina equisetifolia, Species of Cassia and Gliricidia sepium thriving well in all reserved forest like Chamundi hill, Chickanahalli and Varakodu. Of which Gliricidia sepium is one of the nectar plants for Blue Tiger Tirumala limniace, Dark Blue Tiger Tirumala septentriois, Common Indian Crow Euploea core and Common Jezbel Delias eucharis. In spring, fallen flowers of Gliricidia attacts good number of Pea Blue Lampides boeticus and Common Four Ring Ypthima huebneri. Arun Urs has recorded 78 species in the month of July 2015 at Chamundi foot hills.
Fallow Land: Non-cultivated, extensively grazed and browsed vegetation is completely dry during summer months. Vegetation like procumbent Poaceae members, Vigna trilobiata, Desmodium triflorum, Indigofera linifolia exists. Some of the butterfly species commonly encountered in this habitat is Grass Jewel Freyeria trochylus, Small Grass Jewel Freyeria putli, Lesser Grass Blue Zizina otis, Tiny Grass Blue Zizula hylax, Pale Grass Blue Psuedozizeeria maha, Yellow Pansy Junonia hierta and Blue Pansy Junonia orithya
Botanical Park: Kukkarahalli tank and its surroundings forms part of Mysore University campus. The gardens, lawns and avenues of campus along with Kukkarahalli accommodates 432 species of plants spread over 85 families (Rao & Razi, 1974). Regularly Common Sailer Neptis hylas, Blue Tiger Tirumala limniace, Psyche Leptosia nina and rarely Bamboo Tree Brown Lethe europa, Pointed Ciliated Blue Anthene lycaenina, Common Silverline Spindasis vulcanus are met with. Chestnut-streaked Sailer Neptis jumbah is observed in Lingambudhi, Kukkarahalli, and Karanji Lake.
Farm Land (Rain-fed & Irrigated): Depending on rain and irrigation, food crops like Oryza satis, Eleusine corcana, Sorghum halpense, Zea mays; pulses like Cajanus indicus, Vigna radiata, Phaseolus aureus, Vigna sinensis and Dolichos biflorus; plantation crops like Cocos nucifera, Musa paradisiaca, Mangifera indica are cultivated. Several species of butterflies which are Gram Blue Euchrysops cnejus, Pea Blue Lampides boeticus, Dark Palm Dart Telicota ancilla, Rice Swift Borbo cinnara, Giant Redeye Gangara thyrsis and Common Sailer Neptis hylas.
Canals fed irrigated fields or part of drainage system during rainy season; on these banks rich vegetation exists throughout the year, even during absence of water flow or wetness. Species like Asclepias curassavica, Asystacia gangetica, Ludwigia spp, Hygrophila auriculata, Tragia involucrata thrive well in the wet zone. Grey Pansy Junonia atlites, Peacock Pansy J. almana, Great Eggfly Hypolimnus bolina and Joker Byblia ilithyia are recorded from this area.
Hedges: Protective hedges around cultivated fields are rich in Jatropha curcas, Capparis spp, Azima tetracantha, Lantana camara, Tecoma stans, Commiphora berryi, Justicia spp. Some rare species like Twospot Plum Judy /Double Banded Judy Abisara bifasciata, Red Helen Papilio helenus, Large Salman Arab Colatis fausta, Small Salmon Arab Colotis amata and Common Wanderer Pareronia valeria and Great Oranger Tip Hebomoia glaucippe are recorded here.
Zoological, Butterfly Park & Recreation Park: About 65 ha of the Karanji tank and its surrounding is developed into boating centre, bird sanctuary, animal safari, butterfly park and environmental education centre by the Karnataka Zoo Authority under the guidance of Forest Department. Some 27 species of nectar and larval host plants, both wild and ornamental, available in and around Mysore have been introduced in addition to existing ornamental plants to attract and sustain the species diversity and abundance.
An area of open space with variety of landscape, lawns, and colorful flowering plants are maintained within Mysore City and at Krishnaraja Sagar (Brindavan Gardens) entirely for recreational use of visitors. These Parks improves the aesthetic beauty of city. Multihued and nectar yielding flowers Cuphea, Wadalia, Turnera, Alamanda, Mussanda, Hemalia are some of the ornamental species present here. Species richness increment from 81 to 97 within a span of two years was recorded in Karanji (end of 2005). Some rare butterflies like Common Hedge Blue Actolepis puspa, and Indian Palm Bob Suastus gremius are recorded from here. Very common species like Common Grass Yellow Eurema hecabe, Common Emigrant Catopsilia pomona, and Mottled Emigrant Catopsilia pyranthe alike are found almost throughout the year.
Southern Rustic at Narayana Durga
Suffused Snow Flat at Chamundi Hills
Small Salmon Arab
Common Grass Dart
Congregation, Migration and Dispersal
Several Indian butterflies sometimes roost in communes numbering thousands of individuals. Such roosts are usually on one or a few closely grouped trees or bushes, while neighboring vegetation is often entirely without roosting butterflies (Gay et. al., 1992, Smetacek 2002).
Such congregations are recorded in the study area either prior to actual migration or while resting on the way. We have come across first massive congregation on 8th & 9th April, 2000 at Bhogeshwara, Balle range of Nagarhole National Park along the shores of Kabini reservoir on bamboo groves and Heliotropium indicum.
We chanced upon a swam of migratory butterflies flying from east to west, for six days from 30/10/199 to 04/11/1999 in Mysore City. Again, found them moving from west to east during 04/04/2000 - 07/04/2000, all on sunny days. They were flying within the height of 15 m from ground level, would exceed this height limit when they occasionally came across multistoried buildings, in which case they preferred flying over high rise buildings or trees to going around them. There on regular migration and congregation documented every year. These were recorded residing in Brahmagiri range forests of Kodagu (Coorg) during post monsoon till next season’s good pre-monsoon showers. They start eastwardly migration after first few good rains in western ghat region. They arrive in massive numbers at the end of the monsoon and settle here. They can be studied in Kodagu (Coorg) from Perambadi to Makutta in Kodagu during their stay.
Migratory butterflies have been followed for a short distance on many occasions to confirm the direction of arrival and departure; And, ascertained the arrival, roosting and departure of swarms of butterflies during April-May and October-November. Though information pertaining to migration has been recorded in Peninsular India (Williams 1938, Wynter-Blyth 1957, Larsen 1978) specifically Mysore region is not spelt. Totally 12 Species have been recorded during migration out of which only four species, Blue Tiger Tirumala limniace, Dark Blue Tiger Tirumala septentrionis, Indian Common Crow Euploea core and Double Branded Crow Euploea sylvester constitutes major share. In southern India 46 species have been considered migrants and 60 species
Karanji Nature Park (Butterfly Park area), Lingambudhi, Kukkarahalli, Malleswara gudda, valleys and foothill of Chamundi hill are most favoured locations for congregation observed in all the seasons since November 1999.
Dispersal of Common Emigrants (Catopsilia Pomona) on population explosion (over population) has also been observed in the study area. Here the movement is haphazard, and the newly emerged fly in different directions and get settled in resourceful habitat that takes care of their future needs. Dispersal is also observed in - Pea Blue (Lampides boeticus) but in less numbers and still less - Lime butterfly(Papilio demoleus).
For more information on migratory Indian butterflies, refer:
Moores Ace by Arun Urs
Cojoined Swift by Arun Urs
African Babul Blue
Water Snow Flat by Vijayalaxmi
Unconvinced sighting of Commander Moduza proris, White Fourring Ypthima ceylonica, Glassy Tiger Parantica aglea (could be constituent of danaid migration), Plain Banded Awl Hasora vitta are not included in the present report. Around 6-7 species from Hesperiidae couldn’t be identified with field photographs.
Present report is an initial baseline data of butterfly diversity and composition of Mysore region. The species richness of butterflies peaked at thorn-scrub sites while the relative abundance decreased from the thorn-scrub to the urban areas. Butterfly species and abundance increasingly disappears as the thorn-scrub becomes farm lands and more urban. This trend is considerably related to habitat modification. The trend may be related to life history and resources used by the individual butterfly species.
Since, the study area witnesses the Danaids migration twice a year, consistent persuasion may evaluate the migration dynamics and the reason behind it, and is possible by forming a network of ecologists, amateurs and students. An effort is made to provide fundamental information on Butterflies of Mysore area, Karnataka that will be useful for further studies, conservation and protection.
Anon. 1988: Karnataka state gazetteer, (Chief Editor: Suryanath U. Kamath) Mysore district. Bangalore: Government Press., Bangalore. Pp.1047
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Evans,W.H.1932. The identification of Indian Butterflies, 2nd ed. Bombay natural History Society, Mumbai. Pp. 464.
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Gay,T., Isaac Kehimkar,D., Puneetha,J.C. 1992. Common Butterflies of India, Oxford University Press, Bomaby. Pp. 67
Isaac Kehimkar. 2008. The Book of Indian Butterflies, Bombay Natural History Society, Mumbai.
Kishendas, K.R.2009. Chittegalu. A Book on Butterflies with special reference to those of Karnataka State. Pp 104
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Rao,R.R & Razi,B.A. 1981. A synoptic flora of Mysore district, Today & Tomorrow's printrs and publishers, New Delhi. 20- 22
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Watson, E.Y. 1890. A preliminary list of butterflies of Mysore, Journal of the Bombay Nat. Hist.Soc. 5:28-37
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Wynter-Blyth, M.A. 1957. Butterflies of the Indian Region, Journal of the Bombay Nat. HIst. Soc. Mumbai, Pp. 523
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We thank S.Karthikeyan for augmenting our butterfly desire under the umbrella of Mysore Amateur Naturalist headed by Manu K; but, first seedling was by Vijayalaxmi Rao who introduced us to butterfly during birding heyday. Our professional team Tejaswi S, Yashaswi S and Mohanakumar M, Deapesh Misra pulled the chariot to all nook and corner of three districts and beyond. Kishendas took the batten and continuing marathon! Sahana & Vijayalaxmi Rao are silently enumerating Mysore area butterfly checklist. And now, for the past 3 years Arun Urs and Namratha Urs consistent documentation enhanced the checklist. We owe thanks to Arun Urs for sharing butterfly data of mysore region and also sparing butterfly photos that appeared here. Contribution from T.Girija, D.H.Tanuja, Rohini Mehta, Anagha, D.S.Srinivasa, and Kashyap R are remembered thankfully. And the list of participants accompanied in fieldtrips is extensive and they owe our thanks. We are indebted to K.Sampath kumara and late K.B.Sadanand for identification of host and nectar plants and guiding us during field visits.
-KRKD & ASP