When I go for my walk – nowadays it is slightly later than my earlier routine, a more respectable 7 a.m. rather than the ungodly hour of 5-30 a.m. – I meet two Leptosia ninas aka Psyche butterflies. These kind of butterflies rarely fly at a height greater than a foot from the ground, preferring to stay low over the grass (or rather in this case the cemented and moss covered part of the pathway I walk upon), and bob up and down in an erratic manner. On some days though they defy the descriptions about them and instead of dancing around at feet level fly straight for my face forcing me do an an ad hoc, and adroit, dance step to avoid collision.
Meeting them every morning set me thinking. How come these Psyches are the only ones – and here I refer only to the denizens of the butterfly world and not the many insects and birds – I meet on my walks? Where are all the other winged beauties of the butterfly kingdom? I have been led to believe by those who are proficient in these matters that butterflies prefer early mornings to flit and flutter. In fact when I had seen a Blue Mormon and thinking that it had flown to my neighbor’s garden (It had backtracked to my own back garden, the wily thing! But that’s a different story) and asked her permission to go after it, she had looked at me askance. Butterflies, at this hour of the day? It was close to 11 a.m. at the time. She casually dismissed my claims of having seen and followed a Blue Mormon (A Blue Mormon for chrissakes, stop talking and move aside woman! I wanted to say) to her home with her next statement: Butterflies are found in the earlier part of the day when the sun is not yet too hot.
I don’t buy it and I have my reasons.
Except for the tiny Psyches, and some kinds of grass butterflies, I have found the early part of the day devoid of butterflies of any kind. True, an odd Chocolate Pansy or two can sometimes be found sunning wings on the lantana early in the day. But the rest of the gang including the Narrow-banded Bluebottles, Common Jays, Common Mormons, the pretty Jezebels, the Lime butterflies, Sahyadri Rustics, the snooty Blue Mormons, the famous Southern Birdwings et al, and of course the rest of the gang of the late-rising Chocolate Pansies, all arrive much later in the day. What’s more, they are around flitting and fluttering away to glory, not to mention sipping, when the hot tropical sun is right overhead, beating down mercilessly on us at midday. They are still there when I take Luci out for her post lunch walk at 2 p.m. and I also see them at 3 p.m. on some days when I wake up earlier than usual from my siesta.
So, what magic is this?
Why do these butterflies of mine not adhere to the rules, rules apparently laid out for them by people in the know for their own benefit? Do not venture out when the sun is too high or thou shalt be burnt to a crisp. Or some such. Are they merely exceptions to the rule, butterflies who genuinely prefer getting themselves toasted like humans who like to get themselves cooked good and proper in saunas? Or are they perchance the butterfly equivalent of rebels who refuse to play by the stuffy rules of butterfly society because they like to ….umm rebel? Food for thought, I say. In any case, from now on if anyone tells me butterflies can be found only during the cooler parts of the day when the sun is not too hot (Most butterfly parks close at 10 a.m!), I will have to shake my head firmly disagree in no uncertain terms: Not all butterflies, my friend. Not all butterflies.
© Shail Mohan 2021