04 June 2015

Butterflies 20.10.1981

Butterflies and moths belong to the order Lepidoptera (derived from the Greek words Lepis meaning wing) under the class of the animal kingdom. The first vague traces of these insects occur in the Cretaceous period (about 135 million years ago), and they appeared as a well developed order in the Tertiary era (about 65 million years ago). The Lepidoptera comprise about 220 thousand species of which nearly 45 thousand are butterflies. There is no region on earth that can offer a richer variety of butterflies than the tropics. The tropical forests, profusely adorned with elegant grasses, varieties of beatiful flowers amidst the verdant foliage are the haven of some of the most resplendent and exquisitely fascinating butterflies. Few others insects can boast of wings as large or as beautiful as those of some of the butterflies.

It is unfortunate, however, that many species of butterflies are in danger of extinction due to the ruthless devastation of their habitat by man. It is with sense in mind that stamps on four of the several species of butterflies endemic to the Indian Subcontinent feature in this series of stamps :-1)Stichophthalma camadeva, 2) Cethosia biblis, 3) Cyrestis achates, and 4) Teinopalpus imperialis.

The first Day Cover depicts Papillio buddha, or the Malabar Banded Peacock, a member of the Swallowtail group.Unlike the closely related Indian species Papilio Blumei, ranked among the most delightful butterflies of the world, the Buddha butterfly renounced showmanship and is much admired by butterfly-lovers. It flies quickly and high, and can be seen through out the year, except in June and July, in the hill regions of southern India. The green caterpillars feed on Xanthoxylum Rhetsa.
(35P) Stichophthalma camadeva : This lovely large butterfly, sometimes referred to as the ‘Northern Jungle Queen’, measures 90 square centimeters in good specimens. It frequents the forested hilly regions of Sikkim from May to September. Being powerful, Camadeva holds its own against small predators. The markings and colours on its wings are predominantly shades of brown on the upperside and yellow on the under. Though normally conspicuous, they provide camouflage near the ground and among the dense vegetation where it flies.
(50P) Cethosia biblis : This glorious butterfly is popularly known as the Red Lace Wing because of the intricate patterns on its wings. It is found in Andaman and Nicobar Islands, Assam, Sikkim and the adjoining regions, at elevations up to 2100 meters. From March to December, and abundantly during the wet weather, it is seen on flowers within forests and along their borders at river edges. An inedible species, it has a fearless demeanour and indulges in the luxury of slow flight, during which it flashes its underside warning colours of red and orange at any predator.
Re1.00) Cyrestis achates : There are a well known number of the map butterflies, so named because the wing-markings simulate the lines of latitude and longitude of a world map. It settles on the underside of leaves with wings spread like a grounded aeroplane, a habit common in a moth but unusual in a butterfly. It lays eggs on the underside of banyan and related species of Ficus, on which the larvae feed in large groups. This species is common in Karnataka and the adjoining regions.
(Rs2.00) Teinopalpus imperialis : Popular as Kaiser-e-Hind, this butterfly is a renowned member of the Swallowtail group so called because the protuberances on the hindwings remind us of the forked tail of a swallow. A swift flier, the double-brooded Kaiser-e-Hind can be seen from April to May again from August to September in Sikkim, Assam and the adjoining areas at altitudes of 1,980 to 3,050 metres. It prefers open mountains surrounded by thick forests, and often keeps to tree-tops, through on a fine sunny day it may come down in the early and mid-morning. The females, with a wing-span of 11-12 cms., are slightly larger than the males and have three wing-tails instead of one.

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