How to identify butterflies

© Peter Chadwick / WWF

Why are butterflies important?

Butterflies are bio indicators of a healthy environment and ecosystem - they are highly sensitive to changes in climate, pollution levels and harmful chemicals in the air

Butterflies are an important part of the food chain – butterflies are food for birds, bats and other insectivorous animals and parasites

Butterflies are excellent pollinators after bees, wasps and flies – without these wonderful insects, we would have a lot fewer plants!

Anatomy of a butterfly

How to identify butterflies

Flutter Facts

- The lifecycle of a butterfly can take about 3 -4 weeks to complete in tropical regions whereas their lifespan can range between 4 weeks to a year

- Butterflies protect themselves from predators using techniques such as camouflage, mimicry, disruptive coloration or transparency

- Butterflies have taste sensors on their feet which help female butterflies to identify their host plants!

- Butterfly wings are made up of two chitinous membranes which are covered with thousands of tiny scales

On the trail of butterflies

Follow these thumb rules to start observing and spotting butterflies around you:

Where to go?
Open areas that have diverse natural vegetation, especially having butterfly host plants.

When to watch?
Sunny, windless middays. The best season to watch butterflies is from July end to October end.

What to use?
Close-focusing binoculars, field guide and a camera

Butterfly behaviour


Butterflies are cold blooded which means that they cannot regulate their body temperature. As a result, in order to generate enough heat and energy, butterflies spread their wings flat, orient themselves towards sunlight to get maximum exposure on their bodies.


Mud puddling
Mud puddling is the aggregation of butterflies, especially males in puddles to sip moisture and nutrients from the soil. The nutrients consisting mainly of sodium and nitrogen; increase male fertility and enhance reproductive success.

Tips for butterfly photography

1. Be patient and approach the butterflies carefully.
2. Set up your camera to a fast shutter speed to avoid camera shakes
3. During close up photography, use a small aperture to obtain good depth of field.
4. Carry essential accessories like the macro lens (100mm or more), flash & tripod.
5. Keep shadows out of the shot to avoid very low exposure or unsightly shadow.
6. Angle your sensor plane parallel to the butterfly wings to capture the butterfly in the most beautiful angle.
7. Always try to photograph a butterfly on its larval host plant.
8. Always take ‘Open & Close Wing’ photograph of a butterfly to confirm

Butterfly Gardens

Increasing urbanization and climatic changes are threatening the population of butterflies. Use the tips give below to develop your own butterfly garden and become a butterfly conservationist.

1. Pick a sunny spot for your garden where plants receive sunlight from mid-morning to mid-afternoon.
2. Plant native plants that can provide nectar or foliage to the butterflies.
3. Grow caterpillar food plants to increase the chances of attracting unusual and uncommon butterflies.
4. Use plant insecticides.
5. Provide sunny spaces for butterflies.

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