India Interior

A colourful home for butterflies in Faridabad

Usha Rai | Updated on March 22, 2019 Published on March 22, 2019

Butterfly lady: Prachi Singh

Prachi Singh’s heart takes flight with every butterfly that soars

Prachi Singh is a chartered accountant working with Ernst and Young but she is better known for her butterfly nurturing and the eight species that get special attention in her home garden in Faridabad.

Caring for caterpillars and gushing over every butterfly that takes wing, over the last 15 years Prachi has raised and released 550 butterflies. In fact, the numbers she nurtures are even more because only 80 per cent of the pupa take wing as exotic butterflies.

A lepidopterist (person who studies and collects butterflies and moths) at heart, she recently completed a Bombay Natural History Society (BNHS) online certificate course in butterfly studies with an A grade. Last year, she led the first butterfly census in the Faridabad region conducted by the Conservation Education Centre of BNHS. Fifteen people participated and found 10 species of butterflies in Faridabad. In the national capital region census of butterflies, conducted over 51 locations, BNHS found 69 species in 2017 and 75 in 2018.

In the NCR, the Asola sanctuary has the maximum number of butterfly species — 40 to 45. To encourage people to love and preserve butterflies, nature walks and other events are held at Asola and children are helped to identify different species and host plants for their breeding.

They thrive in hot and humid weather and September is the best month for sighting.

 

Prachi tries to inspire young people to study and help in the propagation of butterflies for a more beautiful and environment friendly world. She talks to school and college students about these colourful winged creatures that have a short life span of a week, to a year, and need to socialise and reproduce for the propagation of their species.

She says “the world only sees them for their beauty. It took me 15 years of commitment and nurturing of 550 butterflies to understand and highlight their vital role in maintaining our ecosystem”. The eight species of butterflies that she has seen grow through their various stages are, Castor Butterfly, Common Jay, Common Mormon, Danaid, Emigrant, Lime, Plain Tiger and Red Pierrot. These are the species you can see in her garden.

Turning point

As a young girl, Prachi was fascinated by these winged creatures. Dusky-skinned, she was often teased about her complexion and this undermined her confidence. In the sixth standard, she was taught about butterflies and was curious to see their transformation on her own.

So she raised a caterpillar in her garden and watched its growth every day. On the 45th day, when it turned into a butterfly, she was ecstatic. She rushed to her neighbour with the good news and he said it was “black and beautiful.”

His description altered her outlook on life and she decided to make nurturing of butterflies her hobby. What started as an experiment is now her lifelong passion. She has photographed all eight species at various stages of their growth and uses these photographs when she talks to school students.

In her home garden are host trees like Lemon, Milkweed and Ashoka on which butterflies lay their eggs. Every weekend she spends a lot of time in her garden collecting eggs and caterpillars. To save the eggs and caterpillars from predators, she places them in special wooden boxes and moves them inside her home. Every day she spends half an hour cleaning the boxes and providing fresh leaves for them to feed on.

Voracious appetite

At the caterpillar stage they are voracious eaters. Each species is placed in a different box because they feed on different leaves.

The Common Mormon and the Lime species feed on lemon tree leaves, karripatta or curry leaves and bael (Aegle marmelos) leaves.

Despite her busy work schedule she watches over them like a mother and in 40 and 45 days when they transform to butterflies, her heart takes flight with the winged creatures.

When addressing schools, she emphasises butterflies’ role in pollination and the food chain and the importance of their survival in a world turning into concrete jungles.

 

She talks of the threats of global warming and extensive use of pesticides to humans and butterflies.

Seeing their numbers declining day by day, she took charge and decided to create awareness through FM Radio 104’s project, Green Hearts programmes for schools.

Accompanying her on her awareness campaigns are all stages of butterflies. Hopefully some of her passion will rub off on youngsters and inspire them to set up butterfly gardens and save them from extinction.

Even while on official trips to different cities she looks for new species of butterflies that she can bring home to her garden for special attention and caring.

Peter Smetacek, who runs the Butterfly Research Centre in Bhimtal, Uttarakhand, has estimated that there are 1,318 species of butterflies in India in his book, Butterflies on the Roof of the World, says Prachi.

The North-East and the Western Ghats are rich in butterflies. In the Western Ghats, Sammilan Shetty Park in Mangalore is a butterfly haven.

More butterfly parks would be one way of enhancing their propagation and survival!

The writer is a senior

Delhi-based journalist

Published on March 22, 2019
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