By Santhosh Naik, G. and Shashank, P. R.
Throughout the natural world, few creatures captivate the human imagination quite like butterflies. With their delicate wings, vibrant colors, and intricate patterns, these insects have long symbolized beauty, transformation, and the ephemeral nature of life itself. In recognition of these remarkable insects and their role in ecosystems, many regions around the world celebrate "Big Butterfly Month," a month dedicated to appreciating, studying, and conserving these winged wonders.
Big Butterfly Month is aimed at conducting a nationwide citizen science program during which individuals, communities, and organizations come together to celebrate and raise awareness about butterflies and their importance in assessing the health of our environment. It takes place during post-monsoon month of September, when butterflies are most active and abundant. This event was launched from the national capital, New Delhi, on the 5th of September 2020 and will continue throughout the entire month of September, annually. Over 30 organizations from across the nation will participate. The aim of Big Butterfly Month is to bring the citizens of the country together under the umbrella of butterfly lovers to preserve their existing habitats and build new habitats for butterflies. In the process, diverse ecosystems may be improved as havens for our native biodiversity, which is very much needed.
Butterflies play a vital role in pollination, contributing to the reproduction of a wide range of plant species. As they visit flowers to feed on nectar, they inadvertently transfer pollen from one flower to another, facilitating the fertilization process of the plant. This process is essential for the production of fruits, seeds, and the continuation of plant life cycles. In addition, butterflies and their early stages serve as food for many living organisms, such as birds, and predatory arthropods such as spiders, mantids, etc. Beyond their ecological significance, butterflies hold cultural and artistic significance in many societies. They have been featured in myths, stories, and art for centuries, representing themes of transformation, rebirth, and the interconnectedness of all living things.
During Big Butterfly Month, various activities and events are organized to engage people of all ages in the world of butterflies. These activities include butterfly watching, butterfly identification, counting of butterflies, butterfly walkathon, educational programs (workshops, seminars, webinars etc.) planting butterfly gardens, butterfly photography and videography, butterflies’ awareness campaigns, and raising funds for butterfly conservation. Various competitions like drawing, talks, and quizzes will be organized as part of outreach to students and the public at large, running for the whole month.
A network of conservation organizations are collaborating to raise awareness about the sharp decline in butterfly populations and to foster widespread acceptance of the necessary actions to reverse this trend. In India, more than 30 organizations engaged in the field of biodiversity and its conservation have united to organize this event.
How you can participate in Big Butterfly Month?
During the Big Butterfly Month, all you need to do is simply count butterflies in your area on bright days. Your observations are valuable, and records are welcomed from various locations, ranging from parks, school grounds, and gardens to fields and forests.
Download one of the three apps: iNaturalist, ifoundbutterflies, or India Biodiversity Portal. Create an account and then simply start capturing photos and uploading them. You also have the option to use the web versions of these to upload your records.
Further, explore the YouTube channels of these well-established citizen science digital platforms. This will help you to gain a better understanding of how to upload records on each of the apps. These channels cover a range of topics, including introductions, advanced search techniques, utilities, and helpful tips and tricks to streamline your workflow. For a glimpse of these simply click on one of the links below:
Video link on How to upload on Butterflies of India
Video link on how to upload on India Biodiversity Portal
Video link on how to upload on iNaturalist
Need for recording butterflies: Despite their charm, butterflies face several challenges that threaten their populations. Habitat loss, pesticide use, climate change, and pollution all contribute to the decline of butterfly species worldwide. Big Butterfly Month serves as an opportunity to highlight these issues and promote actions that can help safeguard these delicate creatures.
Big Butterfly Month is not only a celebration of the enchanting beauty of butterflies but also a reminder of the intricate web of life that depends on their presence. By fostering awareness, educating and sensitizing people, appreciation, and conservation efforts, this dedicated month plays a crucial role in ensuring that future generations can continue to marvel at the sight of butterflies gracefully fluttering through our natural landscapes.
The organizations in India that focus on butterflies include:
1) Act for Butterflies (A4B), Tamil Nadu (https://www.aeonct.org/actforbutterflies/)
2) Bangalore Butterfly Club (BBC), Bengaluru (https://bangalorebutterflies.com/index.php/how/bbc/)
3) Biodiversity India (https://indiabiodiversity.org/)
4) Bombay Natural History Society (BNHS) – India (https://www.bnhs.org/)
5) Butterflies of India (https://www.ifoundbutterflies.org/node/14)
6) Butterfly Conservation Society, Hyderabad (https://www.facebook.com/bcshyderabad/about)
7) Devalsari Paryavaran Sangrakshan evam Takniki Vikas Samiti, Devalsari (https://www.devalsari.org/)
8) Diversity India (http://diversityindia.org/)
9) Doon Nature Walks, Titli Trust, Dehradun (http://www.titlitrust.org/Doon_Nature_Walks.html)
10) Green Plateau, West Bengal (http://www.greenplateau.org/)
11) Indian Foundation for Butterflies (IFB) (https://www.ifoundbutterflies.org/node/14)
12) National Centre for Biological Sciences (NCBS) (https://www.ncbs.res.in/)
13) Nature Club, Surat (https://www.natureclubsurat.org/)
14) Nature Conservation Foundation (NCF) (https://www.ncf-india.org/)
15) Nature Mates, West Bengal (https://naturematesindia.org/)
16) NgunuZiro, Ziro, Arunachal Pradesh (https://ngunuziro.org/)
17) Ninox - Owl about Nature (http://www.ninoxindia.com/)
18) Butterflies of North East India (https://driandsouza.in/butterflies-of-north-east-india/)
19) Pawalgarh Prakriti Prahari, Pawalgarh (https://www.pawalgarh.org/)
20) Pondicherry Nature & Wildlife Forum, Pondicherry (https://www.facebook.com/groups/PondyNatureandWildlifePhotographers/)
21) Rhopalocera and Odonata Association of Rajapalayam, Tamil Nadu (http://www.instagram.com/roarrajapalayam)
22) Sammilan Shetty’s Butterfly Conservation and Research Trust, Belvai (http://www.butterflyparkbelvai.com/)
23) Society for Education and Environmental Development (SEED), Arunachal Pradesh (https://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=100064472120871&sk=about)
24) The Butterfly Research Centre (BRC) (http://www.petersmetacek.com/)
25) The Valley Biodiversity Conservation & Livelihood Network, Nagaland (http://www.india-oecm.in/Files/Categories/Tizu_Valley.pdf)
26) VJSS, Jalgaon (http://vjss.org/)
27) Wiki loves Butterfly, (https://meta.wikimedia.org/wiki/Wiki_Loves_Butterfly)
28) WWF-India (https://www.wwfindia.org/)
Although the list may not be comprehensive, we advise anyone interested in teaming up to count butterflies in their garden to look into these organizations. Enjoy observing these wonders of nature and make your data count by engaging with any of the citizen science programmes.
Santhosh Naik G. is a Ph.D. Scholar at the Division of Entomology, ICAR- Indian Agricultural Research Institute, New Delhi
Shashank P. R., is a Senior Scientist (Entomology) at the Division of Entomology, ICAR- Indian Agricultural Research Institute, New Delhi
Disclaimer: The contents, style, language, plagiarism, references, mention of any products if any, etc., are the sole responsibility of the authors.