Children can learn about the lifecycle of the fascinating insects at the proposed butterfly park, writes B. MADHU GOPAL

Imagine scores of brightly coloured butterflies fluttering in the zoo. The scene could lift one's sagging spirits and make one wonder about nature.This is soon going to be a reality at the sprawling Indira Zoological Park, with the authorities planning to develop a butterfly park at the zoo.Children can spend time in the lawns and learn about the life cycle of the colourful creatures. It is ironical that nature which created butterflies so beautifully has given it a short lifespan of only four or five days. Some of the species survive up to two weeks. During their short lifespan the male butterflies sometimes travel thousands of kilometres, in three to four days, to find a mate!Crow butterflies migrate in large groups from the Western Ghats to the Eastern Ghats during certain periods of the year, according to a study conducted by Sanctuary magazine.Their migrations were observed in Bangalore, Tumkur and Mysore in Karnataka, Palakkad in Kerala, Coimbatore, Udhagamandalam, Vellore and Chennai in Tamil Nadu and Tirupathi in Andhra Pradesh and in wild life sanctuaries in the region. Their migratory habits are attributed to climatic conditions, availability of food and conditions conducive to breeding.Butterflies belong to the insect order Lepidoptera, derived from the Greek word, which means `scale wing. The butterfly wing scales create wonderful colours and patterns observed in their wings. A butterfly's mouth(proboscis) has a long tube which is kept rolled up until ready for use as a straw to draw nectar from flowers. Their sizes vary from 1/8th of an inch to 12 inches for the big varieties. There are four stages in the life cycle of butterflies. They look like butterflies only in the final stage.An adult butterfly lays eggs on the leaves of plants. The egg hatches into a caterpillar and subsequently forms into a chrysalis or pupa. The chrysalis matures into a butterfly. There are about 1.60 lakh species in the world. Ants, bats and lizards are the main predators of these cold-blooded creatures.

Butterfly park

"We have about 50 species of butterflies in the open in and around the zoo. We have plans to put up enclosures and special boxes with food to attract the butterflies. An adult butterfly lays a minimum of 200 eggs. We have identified a small piece of land close to the rear gate of the zoo for the purpose," says the Zoo curator B. Vijay Kumar."The plan is to construct a water body, provide shade by growing plants and develop lawns and sit outs to attract different species of butterflies. The larvae starts feeding on the leaves of mulberry, castor, citrus, hibiscus and other nectar yielding plants. The butterflies feed on nectar of flowers. When there are no flowers, we can hang a thread dipped in honey or even place rotten fruits", he says."Initially, the plan is to start an open type park with 15 to 20 varieties without much investment. Later, it could be developed further by adding more species, erecting information boards on their lifecycle, mating habits and different stages," he says.Vijay Kumar feels that the butterfly park, planned to be set up before the start of the Karteeka masam (picnic season) would also popularise the rear entry to the zoo.

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