Pune’s little known Butterfly Garden and why you should visit at least once

We’ve all probably spent a sizable part of our childhoods chasing butterflies (well if you haven’t, you’ve missed something fun) but how many of us have really held on to that? Did you know there are about 1800 different species of these beautiful, fragile insects in our country that attract scores of botanists from the world over? Time you took notice too?

Pune recently (in 2011) got its first ever and only Butterfly Garden but sad as it sounds, too few people know about it and even fewer have visited it. It is a butterfly haven housing some of the most interesting and rare varieties of butterflies. I strongly recommend an early morning trip to this surprisingly well maintained butterfly garden located in the heart of all the bustle.

Relevant Trivia – There are about 24000 species of butterflies worldwide and about 140000 species of moths.

Located about 1.5 Km south of Swargate Chowk, the place is easily to miss if you aren’t looking for it, but can be accurately located on Google Maps (just search for “butterfly garden, aranyeshwar marg”) so reaching here when you plan for it is not a major issue. The park operates between 10 AM and 6 PM which is not surprising, because butterflies are cold blooded creatures. Unable to produce enough heat from their own metabolism, they rely on sunlight for the heat they need to ‘do their thing’ and get more and more active (till a point, of course) as the morning progresses.

Relevant Trivia – Butterflies cannot fly if their body temperature is less than 30 degrees Celcius

So, aside from the little bits of information I was armed with from my previous butterfly trails to Sanjay Gandhi National Park, I got some more useful bits of butterfly-wisdom from the park’s manager (a hard working, humble govt. employee who refused to be named/featured). Apparaently, the yellow variety of the zero-maintenance ‘ghaaneri’ wildflower attracts butterflies best and can be found on the Solapur highway for as less as Rs. 10 per sapling so those of you living near some sort of vegetation and interested in butterflies can plant a few in your balcony (subject to you not staying on the top floor, of course) and hope you get some in your garden, too !

Random Trivia – despite how fragile these insects are, some are known to be able to carry 50 times their body weight; the equivalent of an adult human lifting two hatchbacks full of people !

Just for expectation management, the park isn’t much of a park; but more of a highly vegetated mini-garden so you may not want to go there in large groups because –

1) as mentioned, the place is small
2) the more the people, the more alert and agile the butterflies will be, ergo no photographs (They’re unbelievably nimble).

Also, whether there’s an entry fee for this place is a grey area; the manager/caretaker was overjoyed with the fact that I shared his love and enthusiasm for butterflies (I was getting him to vet a lot of my photos and chatted with him a LOT) so he told me there’s no charge or anything but some websites/portals mention a Rs.5/- charge on weekends. Either way, the charge is negligible and shouldn’t really matter to those even remotely keen on spending some time here.

In fact, he had let us in a full hour before the official opening hours because we asked politely (I’m not encouraging you to do so because either way you won’t get good photos or enough till there’s enough sunlight/10 AM so please mind their schedule !)

Random Trivia – Butterflies taste with their feet, which is why you see them ‘fiddling’ with the flowers so much with their tiny little legs !

What really impressed me was the fact that he actually refused to accept any money but instead told me that if I really wanted to contribute, that I help him procure some saplings of the ‘ghaaneri’ wildflower that I mentioned earlier, which he said he’d plant himself which would in turn attract even more butterflies to his garden. *sniff* Right in the feels, he got me. Me and my wife are definitely going back with a bunch of saplings soon 🙂

Random trivia – Lifecycle of a butterfly (more on that via pictures too !)
eggs -> larva/caterpillar -> chrysalis/pupa -> adult/butterfly -> repeat

Anyway, so enough of the smalltalk, then? On to the photos !

Caterpillars - not sure which is which so anyone out there is free to identify these for me ! Thanks !
Caterpillars – not sure which is which so anyone out there is free to identify these for me ! Thanks !
An adult moth coming out of its cocoon
An adult moth coming out of its cocoon

moth

The tiny Red Pierrot (Talicada nyseus)
The tiny Red Pierrot (Talicada nyseus)
Long-legged fly (Dolichopodidae)
Long-legged fly (Dolichopodidae)
The Humble Honeybee (Apis cerana indica)
The Humble Honeybee (Apis cerana indica)
Eastern Carpenter Bee (Xylocopa virginica)
Eastern Carpenter Bee (Xylocopa virginica)
Dark Blue Tiger (Tirumala septentrionis)
Dark Blue Tiger (Tirumala septentrionis)
Blue Tiger (Tirumala limniace)
Blue Tiger (Tirumala limniace)
Dark Blue Tiger (Tirumala septentrionis)
Dark Blue Tiger (Tirumala septentrionis)
Blue Tiger (Tirumala limniace)
Blue Tiger (Tirumala limniace)
Dark Blue Tiger (Tirumala septentrionis)
Dark Blue Tiger (Tirumala septentrionis)
Blue Tiger (Tirumala limniace)
Blue Tiger (Tirumala limniace)
Dark Blue Tiger (Tirumala septentrionis)
Dark Blue Tiger (Tirumala septentrionis)
Striped tiger (Danaus genutia)
Striped tiger (Danaus genutia)
Striped tiger (Danaus genutia)
Striped tiger (Danaus genutia)
Striped tiger (Danaus genutia)
Striped tiger (Danaus genutia)
Striped tiger (Danaus genutia)
Striped tiger (Danaus genutia)
Striped tiger (Danaus genutia)
Striped tiger (Danaus genutia)
That is how close we could get to them !
That is how close we could get to them !
Common Crow (Euploea core)
Common Crow
(Euploea core)
Common crow (Euploea core)
Common crow (Euploea core)
Dark Blue Tiger (Tirumala septentrionis)
Dark Blue Tiger (Tirumala septentrionis)
Violet Carpenter (Xylocopa violacea) or
Violet Carpenter (Xylocopa violacea) or “Bhanvra”

Even if you’re not into butterflies, I think the sheer experience of being surrounded by these pretty little creatures is worth the drive down to the old part o’ town. You’ll be surprised how relaxing (and rewarding too, if you have a camera) a trip this can be !

Tips –
>>Point and shoot/ budding DSLR owners – you could put your camera in the ‘sports’ mode or its equivalent and click away. Oh, and try using the flash, too !
>>DSLR – If you are more comfortable with the manual mode, try increasing your shutter speed to, say 1/125 or faster depending on whether the butterfly is still or in motion, go down a few f-stops (generally, kit lenses and basic tele-photos are marginally sharper around f7-f11) and set the ISO to auto. And do try using the flash, too ! I tweak some more settings but this much and the rest of it (including ISO) are fairly dependable in the ‘auto’ or default modes, so happy clicking !!  🙂

ref: http://www.ifoundbutterflies.org/
ref: http://www.thebutterflysite.com/facts.shtml
ref: Wikipedia 🙂

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