The other day on our drive to Ponmudi (link), when we were but a short distance from our destination, a rat snake was seen crossing the road in a hurry. By the time the car had stopped and I was out with the camera, all I saw was the disappearing end of its long tail. Something else had caught my attention even as I was getting out of the car, lessened my reaction time in capturing the rat snake, on camera I mean.
I wasn’t too bothered about the lost opportunity. You see, rat snakes come and rat snakes go. We even have our own personal rat snake, nicknamed Chintoo by friends who are familiar with him (or her), due to the status updates I put up on Facebook about his/her frequent appearances.
Anyways what had caught my attention had been something I had never seen before, a small plant teeming with butterflies. Did rat snakes have any chance when compared to that? None at all. It was too awesome a sight that I went on a clicking spree. Sadly, the pictures do NOT do justice of the fabulous sight my eyes saw.
I would have loved spending more time watching this (to me) unusual sight. Questions raced through my mind. Why were the butterflies gathered together in this manner on that particular plant? Apart from the obvious answer typical of humans that they were having a butterfly convention (yeah, so lame, I know!), I couldn’t come up with anything remotely close to the actual reason. That was until I posted the picture to the Butterflies of India group on Facebook. Then, a friend posted the following:
Looks like they are Male Danaids feasting on alkaloids from the Rattlepod. (Crotalaria spp.)
Male Danaids are irresistibly attracted to these plants from which they obtain most of the chemicals required to synthesize their pheromones. The chemical that is so gleefully sought after by these butterflies has now been identified as lycopsamine. Studies elsewhere have shown that males that do not accumulate danaidone are consistently refused by the females.
There! I had the answer from a fellow butterfly enthusiast. If it hadn’t been for the internet, I would have been hard put to have my curiosity satiated so easily. And if I wondered aloud about the fact of butterflies congregating, more than twice in ‘real’ life, there would have been bored looks on faces and expressions of ‘Oh no! Don’t you have anything else to talk about?!” But I am perfectly okay with that, because that is much the same expression I sport on my face when people talk to me about what happens in the soaps they so intently watch on television. Yawn.
So in a way we are quits. 😉