Pune based professor creates habitat for butterflies
Ankur Patwardhan, head of the Annasaheb Kulkarni Biodiversity centre at Abasaheb Garware college
Q: You have been creating a habitat for winged insects for a year now. Why?
Like honeybees, butterflies too play a major and important role in pollination. I along with my few students have been working on understanding the effect of pollination, composition, composition of nectar, colour influences and climate change.
Q: How did this concept come into being?
Nearly two years ago I decided to create a habitat for the butterflies. And the first step towards it was selecting the right kinds of plants and flowers where the butterflies can live in abundance. For creating such a habitat, I already had a few such plants like curry leaves, lemon, calotropis while a few more I planted for their convenience. Apparently, there are 1320 species of butterflies that are found in India of which some 350 are found in the Western Ghats. A few of these found in Western Ghats are very unique. There are two types polyphagous and monophagous of which monophagous are in critical conditions since the kind of plants they survive on are vanishing. Currently, I have some 15 to 20 species of butterflies in my garden. Among them Plain Tiger, Blue Tiger, Common Crow, Common Mormon, Common Lime, Tailed Jay, Common Jay, Red Pierrot, Grass Yellows, Common Castor among many others.
Q: What is your goal?
I want to develop a natural habitat for them so that they can flourish. Thus selection of larval host plants and nectar plants was important. Right from laying eggs to becoming an adult butterfly, we want to observe and study all the stages of the life of a butterfly. One of my students is working on the pollen load of the butterflies as they are second most important polling agents. Another student is working on the nectar crops which attract the butterflies. While yet another student is working on the sucrose in the nectar, it’s composition, The male and female ratio among butterflies, these are a few of the areas which we are currently looking at. Butterflies are second most important chain in the pollination.
Q: What should be kept in mind to promote such a garden?
Maintaining a balance between aesthetics and feeding plants will help to maintain a healthy population of the butterflies. Spread over seven hundred sq feet, my terrace garden also has generated curiosity and awareness among the people. My maid too has started asking me about the type of the butterfly species whenever she comes across any butterfly. Many people send me photos to know which species is this. This is very exciting and interesting to know that people are interested in protecting the environment. All we need is someone to encourage them. Even my nine-year-old son has started understanding the various stages of a butterfly. Although, he has everything in his school syllabus, he’s getting practical knowledge.