Kerala is a haven for butterflies. There are about 332 species of butterflies in Kerala. Of them, 37 species are endemic to Western Ghats. The butterflies seen in Kerala vary greatly in colour, habits and size. The largest butterfly of India, the Southern Birdwing has a wingspan of up to 190 mm, while the smallest butterfly of India, the Grass Jewel has a wing span of 15mm. Both of these species occur in Kerala.
The butterflies seen in Kerala are classified in five families such as Papilionidae (Swallow tails), Pieridae (White and yellows), Nymphalidae (Brush footed mutterflies), Lycaenidae (Blues) and Hesperiidae (Skippers).
Endemic butterflies to Western Ghats
The 35 butterflies that one can see only in Western Ghats are Southern Birdwing, Malabar Rose, Malabar banded swallowtail, Malabar Raven, Malabar banded peacock, Nilgiri Clouded Yellow, Clouded Yellow, Lesser Albatross, Travancore Evening Brown, Small long brand bush brown, Pale brand bush brown, Red eye bush brown, Red disc bush brown, Lepcha bush brown, Tamil catseye, Nilgiri Four ring, Palani four ring, Blue oak leaf, Nilgiri tiger, Malabar tree nymph, tarucus Indica, White disc hedge blue, arhopla alea, abnormal silverline, Shiva sunbeam, spotted small flat, pigmy scrub hopper, bipolar ace, madras ace, sitala ace, unbranded ace, Evershed’s ace, coord forest hopper, vindhyan bob, golden tree flitter, Tamil Darlet and kanara swift.
Malabar tree Nymph (Slowest butterfly)
Malabar tree nymph locally known as vanadevatha (forest nymph) is endemic to Western Ghats and is endangered. The satin like partially transparent back veins and black spots are very attractive. Its slow and sluggish fight- somewhat a slow motion movement- in the evergreen patches is worth watching.
Malabar banded peacock
Malabar banded peacock is one of the beautiful butterflies seen in Kerala. They are jet black and tailed, heavily dusted on the wings and body with a dazzling greenish blue band and glistening blue colour on their wings.
Endemic and endangered butterfly to Western Ghats, Southern birdwing is the largest of Indian butterflies. The upper side of its forewings is deep black and the colour of hind wings is golden yellow with black borders. The females are less shiney compared to males. They also have triangular black spots on the yellow coloured part of the hind wings. This golden yellow colour on its hind wing glitters in the sunlight. They slowly and sluggishly hover over the flowers for nectar.>/p>
The smallest of Indian butterflies, Grass jewel is common throughout the country and may be seen fluttering among low growing plants. The upper side and under side of this tiny butterfly is brown. Underside is spotted with light brown.