A flutter here, a peek-a-boo there and a bright flash of colours elsewhere — welcome to Central Delhi’s only open butterfly conservatory which boasts 24 varieties of the species.

Spread over 3.5 acres of green insecticide/pesticide free zone, the butterfly park — out of bounds for the general public — has a viewing gallery and an array of host plants brought in especially to encourage butterflies to stay and breed.

From grass jewel (the smallest butterfly in the world) to common crow, common castor, Indian cabbage white, lemon pansy, plain tiger and peacock pansy, the conservatory has butterflies drawing their names from all sorts of flowers, birds and even animals.

Inaugurated in 2009, the conservatory is now in full bloom with a healthy population and variety of butterflies. Suhas Borker, founder-member of Green Circle of Delhi, who has been working with the New Delhi Municipal Council on the project, said: “Butterflies are most sensitive to changes in habitat and climate, and are indicators of the health of any ecosystem. Besides being good pollinators, they are eaten by birds, frogs, etc. So if the butterfly population were to be wiped out, it would affect the entire food web. Butterflies are called umbrella species, which means protecting the butterfly’s habitat helps conserve other species too.”

Stating that the best time to view butterflies during summer is in the morning, Mr. Borker added: “This concept of a butterfly conservatory has a natural and open habitat without any dome structure or net enclosure to contain butterflies.”

Speaking about the creation and maintenance of this unique park, NDMC Horticulture Department Assistant Director Jitender Kaushik said: “There are six important criteria to start a butterfly park. These include sunny area, shady area, damp area, air currents, comparative isolation and a raised pathway as viewing gallery. The butterfly park is part of the sprawling Lodhi Garden.”

“We have to plant and grow 50 host plants for the caterpillars and about the same number nectar plants for the butterflies. We have to have flowering plants here round-the-year so that butterflies have a continuous supply of food. There also have be two insectaries with host plants where the metamorphosis [caterpillar to pupa to butterfly] can take place in a safe and protected environment,” Mr. Kaushik added.

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