MANGALURU: Everyone loves watching colourful butterflies flitting from one flower to another. But imagine spending six to seven hours a day watching and creating an inventory of insects, not all beautiful like the butterflies. But Kiran Vati K, zoology lecturer at St Aloysius College, did just that during the lockdown. He found it as one of the most memorable phases of his life as it helped him realise how rich the backyard of his house was with these tiny beings.
Kiran says that one of the best ways to learn about nature or learn about insects is to visit one’s own backyard. You can find them on plants, in soil, under the stone and many more such places. The backyard is like one’s own private laboratory where the science comes to you.
During the initial days of the lockdown, Kiran was walking in his small garden when he happened to see some colourful insects which made him curious to observe them. In the last two months, he found 33 species of insects like wasps, flies, hoverflies, ladybugs, lacewings, praying mantis, stink bugs and weevils and captured them in his still camera.
Over the past few weeks, he has watched insects flying around the flowers, ants capturing prey, honey bees collecting pollen and nectar, wasps capturing and paralyzing prey, butterfly mating, caterpillars feeding on leaves, lady beetles eating aphids etc. Watching visually appealing birds or butterflies is common but observing the tiny insects and also photographing them is neglected and also not an easy job, says Kiran adding that it requires a lot of patience and create a sort of rapport with them to ensure that you are harmless.
“Insects can be disturbed even by the sound of camera clicks, its flash or with the presence of human beings. As you go close to them, they fly away,” he says. Not just daytime, but he was also busy during night as some small creatures are active then, making them an ideal pursuit for wildlife watchers. He says, “Urbanisation creates two extremes in insects. The insect species on one extreme have no tolerance for urbanisation and disappear almost completely from the urban areas as these would be sensitive to temperature, pollution, they need large green areas to nest, breed and have specific diet requirements. While on the other extreme many insect species thrive well in urban environments.
They construct nests of mud or plant fibres, tolerate variation in temperature and have a wide range of diets, also consuming those food products used by humans.” Kiran says. According to Kiran, gardens maintained at home which are usually devoid of chemicals make an ideal spot for a variety of insects to temporarily visit or make it a home. “In our small backyard, we have tried to maintain a few varieties of flowering plants and some have grown on their own which do not have any economic value.
On the road side of the house there are small but attractive flowering plants and creepers which attract different bee species.” He says in a healthy garden all insects and plants are interconnected like the feeding relationships in a habitat which is a complex web than a simple chain. All the plants and insects found in the garden play an overlapping but important role to form the garden’s web of life. And the insects play different roles as both predators and prey. They are classified as beneficial and pests. But at any point of time there will be insects in anyone’s garden.
Playing both roles efficiently
Kiran says in a healthy garden all insects and plants are interconnected like the feeding relationships in a habitat which is a complex web than a simple chain. All the plants and insects found in the garden play an overlapping but important role to form the garden’s web of life. And the insects play different roles as both predators and prey