BENGALURU: Twenty-three species of butterflies have been spotted for the first time in the city, by the Bengaluru Butterfly Club or BBC. The city is now home to 176 species, according to the Club’s members. The highly respected naturalist S Karthikeyan recorded 153 species in the 1990s.
“These species were present elsewhere but weren’t sighted in this city before,” says Nitin R, one of the Club’s founding members, who was part of the team that recorded the species’ presence. This count by BBC was done over five years between 2012 to 2017.
The BBC was founded in 2012 by three butterfly enthusiasts – Ashok Sengupta, Haneesh KM, Rohit Girotra and Nitin. They organise walks to familiarise people with butterfly habitats and are part of a citizen-science initiative suggested by Dr Krushnamegh Kunte, who is a Reader (Assistant Professor) at National Centre for Biological Sciences. As citizen scientists they collect quantitative data on butterfly populations.
Nitin had spotted the Lilac Silverline (Apharitis Lilacinus) in Hesaraghatta Grasslands in 2012, 90 years after its last sighting. “This species was last spotted in 1922 where only one individual species of the butterly was captured and preserved,” says the researcher who works under Dr Kunte at NCBS. “I spotted it on December 23, 2012, in Hesaraghatta grasslands. There were sightings of them till February 2013 after which they disappeared. We didn’t spot them again till April 2017, after a five year gap, and we are continuously monitoring its population now.”
Dr Kunte believes that all of India could do with more citizen scientists who track “populations of butterflies, dragonflies, birds and plants that are sensitive indicators of health of habitats that support a broad spectrum of biodiversity”. Such groups and their records can reveal how a city is affecting the ecosystem.
“Long-term monitoring of populations can reveal trends that reflect natural population cycles, and effects of urbanization and climate change on biodiversity,” says Dr Kunte. “Bengaluru is leading this citizen-science initiative with the BBC that conducts bi-weekly butterfly counts around town. People can start counting butterflies in their area and can also contribute their observations to the Butterflies of India website (http://www.ifoundbutterflies.org).”