Nature Feature, July ’19: A doomed romance

This is butterfly season; you must have noticed these beautiful creatures fluttering past you, in the gardens and even on the roads, everywhere in the city. If you observe them carefully, you will find many moments of drama and tension!

One lesser-known fact about butterflies is that they hatch out of the pupa (it’s called eclosing) as fully mature adults; something I had to think about and accept, being only used to a progression of living beings from infanthood onwards to adulthood.

Because of this fact, sometimes, male butterflies try to mate with a female as soon as she’s emerged from her cocoon; but if the emergence is not complete, or faulty, the romance is doomed. I saw one instance of this at Hoskote Lake, recently.

Three-spot Grass Yellow : Feeding . . .

The butterfly I am featuring here is the Three-spot Grass Yellow, a very common butterfly in our gardens and fields. You can see a perfect speciman in the image above, nectaring on a common wildflower called the Devil’s Coach Whip (Stachytarpeta species)

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You can see the mating of the large butterfly with a much smaller one here. All butterflies need a period of rest after eclosing, to allow them to dry out their wings carefully, and then fly off to lead their lives.

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The female, to begin with, was rather small. The male did not, I think, allow her time to let her dry her wings; so they fluttered around, in obvious discomfort, for a bit. Then they separated, and the female, unable to fly with the wings that dried crookedly, fell to the ground.

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I carefully lifted her on to a leaf; I could not do any more, but had to leave her to her fate. I think her life in the wild would be very short without the ability to fly. This is the ruthless law of the survival of the fittest; if the butterfly is not healthy, it cannot survive and thus produce less than healthy offspring.

It reminded me, sadly, of the many young girls in our cruel world, who are attacked and abused; their wings, too, are broken, and they bear the scars of such incidents forever. Nature is not always kind or beautiful; it takes some effort to accept how relentless life, and death, can be.

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