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 the west-south-east boundary. Diversity is the most frequently adopted criterion for evaluation of environment (Usher 1986). The result compels to identify ecologically important habitats for conservation purposes. The study area lies in the path of the annual butterfly congregation and migration twice a year, and the study helps to visualize the dynamics.

Gaonkar (1996) has observed that no literature on butterfly diversity is available on important districts like Mysore, Hassan, South Kanara, Chikmagalur, and Shimoga of Karnataka. Gaonkar work covered the Western Ghats extensively. An article by Watson (1890) describes butterfly diversity briefly from Kolar to Kathlekan, adjoining present study area. Watson (1890), Yates (1933, 1931a & b) and Gaonkar (1996) report does not cover present study area. Present study outlines the baseline information on butterfly diversity and few Danaids migration dynamics.

Fig: Plum Judy by Vijayalaxmi Rao

Fig: Chocolate Albatros by Vijayalaxmi Rao

Fig: African Marbled Skipper

Fig: Common Banded Peacock

Location and vegetation characteristics:

The study area -Mysore, Mandya & Chamrajanagar districts of Karnataka is located in 11°30’and 13° 04’ North Latitude and 75° 45’ and 77°45’ East Longitude. Moreover, doesn't cover National Parks & Wildlife Sanctuaries (Nugu, Biligiri Rangaswamy, Cauvery, Nagarhole, and Bandipur).

The study area is located in the southern Plateau of Peninsular India and is part of river Kaveri basin. An average elevation of the area is 820 m ASL and Bettadapura hill (1338 m), Narayana Durga (1088m) and Chamundi Hill (1074m) being highest peaks.

The climate is moderate. The summer season is from March to May, followed by the southwest monsoon season lasting up to September end. October and November are retreating monsoon season. December to February is the dry season with the clear bright weather. Here, rains mostly during April to November and October is the wettest month. The area has the 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 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 using canals. Located in the angle where the Eastern and Western Ghat ranges converge into the Nilgiri hills. The cultivated area includes rainfed, irrigated, plantations and hedges.

The vegetation is thorn-scrub (Saldana 1984; Rao & Razi 1981) and non-forest habitat is due to prolonged disturbance of deciduous forest over an extended period. Remnant Dry and moist deciduous trees scattered amid the stretches of shrub, herb and grass undergrowth is common. Smaller patches of thorn-scrub are in the middle of vast open and fallow land, cultivated land, town, and villages.

Fig: Common Jay by Anagha Bagade

Fig: Gaudy Baron by Vijayalakshmi Rao

Fig: Common Lascar by M.Sahana

Fig: Emigrants and Albatross mud-puddeling

Study method

Conducted the study 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. More frequently visited the sites of higher nectar and larval host plant diversity.

Mysore flora is quite wealthy 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). Evans (1932), Wynter-Blyth (1957), Satyamurthy (1966), Kunte (2000) and Isaac (2008) field guides referred for butterfly identity. Also, considered the experts opinion on butterfly photographs for enlisting.

Table 1: Study area and vegetation features

# Reserved/Protected Forest

Fig: Congregation of migratory Double Branded Crow

Fig: Greater Oranger Tip by Kishen Das

Fig: Congregation of migratory Blue Tiger and Double Branded Crow

Fig: Indian Sunbeam by Kishen Das

Species distribution and composition

Totally 137 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, the abutting study area, is one of the bio-diversity hotspots supports 330 species of butterflies. Floral diversity and stability of the ecosystem are inferred by the presence of 330 species of butterflies in few districts of Western Ghat (Gaonkar 1996). Peninsular Indian diversity of 340 species indicates Western Ghat has almost all the species found in Peninsular India. Moreover, Butterfly diversity of Karnataka is 317 species. The presence of 137 species indicates the less diversity in natural vegetation cover.

Recorded butterflies represent all the major families, and the result shows the presence of nearly 9% of entire Indian and 40% of Peninsular Indian butterflies in the study area (Table 2). Of these 78, 25, 17 & 14 are considered as very common, common, uncommon and rare depending on the rate of occurrence. Comparison of butterfly diversity among Indian, Peninsular, Karnataka and Mysore area is depicted in Fig 1. Accounted highest abundance of Blue Tiger Tirumala limniace, Indian Common Crow Euploea core, Common Grass Yellow Eurema hecabe, Common Emigrant Catopsilia pomona, Common Four Ring 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. Moreover, rare species are Southern Rustic Cupha erymanthis, Plum Judy Abisara echerius, Cornelian Deudorix epijarbas, Common Albatross Appias albina, Dark Evening Brown Melantitis phedima, Anomalous Nawab Polyura agrarian, Red Spot Caltrois kumara, Shot Silverline Spindasis ictis and Monkey Puzzle Rathinda amor.

Table 2: Comparison of Diversity

(# Scoble 1992, $ Gaonkar 1996, @ Kunte 2000, ^ Kishendas 2009)

Fig 1: Comparison of butterfly diversity

Vegetation structure and butterfly abundance

Butterfly association with plants is well known. The 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 support the thorn-scrub type of vegetation in Aloka, Arabitittu, Arasanakere, Bettadabeedu, Bettadapura, Chamundi Hill, Chickanahalli, 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. The vast area is 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 shrub that gives continuous shade throughout 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 is found here. Common Banded Peacock Papilio crino population reaches the peak in November in Chamundi hill and Malleswara gudda. 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 was recorded once in Narayana Durga, Melkote Range.

Riverine: Thick growth of vegetation on either side of River is a common feature. These banks support 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 has been recorded.

Plantations: Mono-cultured plantations patches of Eucalyptus spp, Acacia auriculiformis, Casuarina 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 Jezebel Delias eucharis. In spring, fallen flowers of Gliricidia attracts a good number of Pea Blue Lampides boeticus and Common Four Ring Ypthima huebneri.

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 are Lesser Grass Blue Zizina otis, Tiny Grass Blue Zizula hylax, Pale Grass Blue Psuedozizeeria maha, Yellow Pansy Junonia hierta and Blue Pansy Junonia orithya.

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 Plum Judy Abisara echerius, 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.

Botanical Park: Kukkarahalli tank and its surroundings form 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. In Lingambudhi, Kukkarahalli, and Karanji Lake irregularly found Chestnut-streaked Sailer Neptis jumbah.

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. The single record of Red Spot Caltrois kumara is from here.

Canals fed irrigated fields or part of drainage system during the rainy season; on these banks, rich vegetation exists throughout the year, even during the 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.

Zoological, Butterfly Park & Recreation Park: About 65 ha of the Karanji tank and its surrounding is developed into boating center, bird sanctuary, animal safari, butterfly park and environmental education center 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 a variety of landscape, lawns, and colorful flowering plants are maintained within Mysore City and at Krishnaraja Sagar (Brindavan Gardens) entirely for the recreational use of visitors. These Parks improves the aesthetic beauty of the city. Multihued and nectar yielding flowers Cuphea, Wadalia, Turnera, Alamanda, Mussanda, Hemalia are some of the ornamental species presents 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 registered 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.

Fig: Southern Rustic at Narayana Durga

Fig: Common Grass Dart

Fig: Small Salmon Arab

Fig: Suffused Snow Flat at Chamundi Hills

Congregation and Migration

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 recorded in the study area either before actual migration or while resting on the way. Migratory butterflies have been followed for a short distance on many occasions to confirm the direction of arrival and departure; And, ascertained the advent, roosting and departure of swarms of butterflies during April-May and October-November. Thoroughly represented information on migration in Peninsular India (Williams 1938, Wynter-Blyth 1957, Larsen 1978) doesn't contain present study area. 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.

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 12 seasons since November 1999.

Doubtful sightings:

Unconvinced sighting of Commander Moduza proris, Common Bluebottle Graphium sarpedon, One Spotted Grass Yellow Eurema andersoni, White Four-ring Ypthima ceylonica, Glassy Tiger Parantica aglea ( a constituent of danaid migration), Plain Banded Awl Hasora vitta and Pale Palm Dart Telicota colon are not included in the present report. Around 6-7 species from Hesperiidae could not be identified with field photographs.


Lack of butterfly information from present study area limited our report to be a baseline data. Thus, the present study is the 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 disappear 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 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 would be useful for further studies, conservation and protection.


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We thank S.Karthikeyan for augmenting our butterfly desire; but, first seedling was by Vijayalaxmi Rao who introduced us to butterfly during birding heyday. Our professional team Teju, Yashaswi and Mohanakumar, seldom Deapesh pulled the chariot to all nook and corner of three districts and beyond. Kishendas took the batten and continuing marathon! Vijayalaxmi Rao is silently enumerating Mysore area butterfly checklist. Contribution from T.Girija, M.Sahana, D.H.Tanuja, Rohini Mehta, Anagha, and D.S.Srinivasa are remembered thankfully. And the list of participants accompanied in fieldtrips is extensive and they owe our thanks. We express our sincere thanks to K.B.Sadanand and K.Sampathkumar for identification of host and nectar plants.