The chill of winter is gone from the mornings. As soon as I step outdoors, the sun beats down on me. The most visible sight of the warming weather is the increased number of butterflies. As it gets warmer, these cold-blooded insects will either emerge from a chrysalis that has been dormant all of winter, or perhaps, some adult butterflies, that have spent the winter in a dormant state, will now start flying.
At this point in time, the most common butterflies are either white or yellow. These butterflies belong to group of butterflies that are called, well, Whites and Yellows! Also called pierids, these butterflies are seen flitting about the flowers in our garden. Amongst the pierids, the most common butterfly is one called the common emigrant (Catopsilia pomona).
The common emigrant can be yellow to greenish-white. Some of the butterflies have a purplish patch in the center of their wings. Emigrants have a pointed triangular forewing. They have a powerful bounding flight, hence these butterflies have a schoolboy name — the Yellow Bounder!
Over the next month or so, the butterfly activity will increase even further. The pre-monsoon season witnesses a flurry of mating activity amongst many creatures, and butterflies are no exception. All these creatures hope to give birth to their young ones at a time when food availability is at the highest; typically in the monsoon season. Pre-monsoon breeding activity ensures that the emergence of their young coincides with high food availability.
You might see butterflies mating in your garden. After mating, the female butterfly will seek out a suitable plant to lay her eggs. Did you know that butterflies can’t just lay their eggs anywhere, but have only some specific plants on which their caterpillars can feed on? The common emigrant will seek out plants or trees like the Indian Laburnum or the Flame of the Forest. The caterpillars can feed on the leaves of these plants and a few others. These plants are called the larval food plants of the common emigrant.
The butterfly lifecycle from egg to caterpillar (or larva) to chrysalis (or pupa) will take approximately four to five weeks, after which the adult butterfly will emerge, and be ready to start its breeding cycle once again. If you step out in your garden, or keep yours eyes peeled on the way to your school bus, you might just see the Yellow Bounder ‘bound’ by.