IAS Gyan

Daily News Analysis

Rare butterflies spotted across India

5th November, 2020 Ecology

Context: Recently, the Branded Royal, rarely seen in India, made news when it fluttered through the Nilgiris after a gap of over 130 years. It was last recorded in 1888 by British entomologist GF Hampson.

  • This year, especially, many rare species have been sighted across the country.
  • The Blue Mormon, a black-coloured velvet-winged butterfly, a species endemic to the Western Ghats, showed up in Patna.
  • Another rare species, the Spotted Angle butterfly, has been sighted in the reserve forests of Chhattisgarh.
  • The Liliac Silverline, a protected species whose only known breeding population is in Bengaluru, was sighted for the first time in the Aravalli range of Rajasthan.
  • Common Onyx showed up in the Western Ghats. It hides itself under canopies of mango trees, its host plant, and is rarely seen on the ground.
  • All these sightings point towards a range extension of the habitat, or may be more people are observing unexplored habitats, home gardens and backyards especially during the COVID-19 lockdown.

Rarer than Halley’s Comet

  • The Striated Five-ring was sighted at Neyyar, Kerala in 2015-16 after 100 years.
  • The Nilgiri Plain Ace was rediscovered by butterfly enthusiasts after 130 years.
  • The Marbled Map butterfly recorded for the first time in Visakhapatnam is protected under Schedule II of the Wildlife Protection Act. This ‘rare’ species is confined to the hilly forests of Sikkim, Arunachal Pradesh, Jharkhand, Bhutan and Myanmar.
  • Malabar Banded Peacock is endemic to South India. So is Tree nymph, a large white butterfly with black spots resembling white paper wafting through the air.
  • Common Birdwing, Common Jester, Painted Jezebel and Vagrant have made an appearance at Telangana in the Eastern Ghats.
  • Of the 1,339 species of butterflies in India, over 900 are seen in Arunachal Pradesh. They are trickling down and this is indicative of climate change.


  • Butterflies are sensitive to weather and habitat. When the habitat is polluted, they abandon it. Once the habitat shrinks, the populations come out.
  • Butterflies are habitat specific and rarely wander off.
  • Habitats restrict butterflies. That is why they are called bio-indicators.”