Many years ago when I was a resident of Pune, our family undertook wonderful weekend visits to the forests of the Western Ghats in and around Pune. Locations like Bhimashankar, Tamhini, Lonavala, Khandala and many other beautiful places within a few hours of Pune kept our enthusiasm for nature alive and kicking!
In the late 1990s, when I had started watching and identifying butterflies, on one such trip near Pune I saw a lovely blue butterfly flit by. The butterfly had a weak flight but its colours were amazing. The insect flew by me and I scurried after it. The insect kept flying on and on and my scurrying soon turned to running. I was keen that I should not miss photographing the pretty insect. After a chase of a few hundred metres that left me huffing and puffing, I saw it finally settle down on a tree trunk. However, seeing the beautiful insect was worth the run. It was a really pretty deep ocean blue with dark purple markings. The top of its body was blue with darker stripes, while the underside was lemon yellow.
Despite being out of breath, I managed to take a few decent photographs before the insect flew away again. In those days we did not have digital cameras so I used slide film. On my return to Pune I could not wait to develop the film. Amongst many wonderful sightings, I had the pretty blue butterfly to identify. We projected the slide onto our wall and looked at the butterfly again. The photograph had turned out just fine. Leafing through a guidebook that I had, I could not identify the butterfly. In those days the Internet did not exist and I was left to ponder over the identity of the butterfly.
A few years ago, I started to scan my photographic slides and digitise them. And one of the slides I digitised was the same pretty “butterfly”. By now, I am older and wiser. (It did help that I had Internet access, too!). However, one look at the butterfly, and I realised that I had photographed a day-flying moth, and had mistaken it for a butterfly! I identified it as the Blue Day-Flying Tiger Moth (Dysphania palmyra). The mystery of the unidentified butterfly was finally solved!
Many people believe that moths only fly at night. However, there are many moths that actually fly during the day. Many do so, because they mimic brightly coloured butterflies that are distasteful to predators. Mimicking these butterflies increases the chances of survival for the moths. Isn’t that interesting?
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