Butterflies are an important part of a healthy ecosystem. Many plants rely on pollinators, such as butterflies, for reproduction. Moreover, delicate, colourful butterflies in a house or housing complex add an element of beauty to the natural surroundings. Nowadays, there are many enthusiastic and committed residents, who nurture gardens to increase the green cover and also to attract these winged creatures.
For example, Navin Augustine, a resident of Neelkanth Heights in Thane, recalls that the garden in his building, which the builder had provided, was drying. So, the residents from the society decided to come together, to develop the garden with healthy plants and bring back the butterflies.
“As we had no professional knowledge of butterflies and its natural habitat, we connected with professionals from the Urban Biodiversity Conservation Group (UBCG) to seek guidance. Although a butterfly garden is not rocket science, it needs dedication, care and love for nature. With the help of the UBCG team, we sourced butterfly-friendly plants. Once the results started showing, everyone and the children, in particular, were excited. We have spotted around 32 different species of butterflies, along with various birds. The butterflies have not only helped to create a natural food chain, also beautified the natural environment in our society,” Augustine explains.
Building beautiful gardens
“We can all grow more plants and keep our area clean. We need greenery around us for our well-being, as plants and trees absorb the toxins we produce. They are also natural sound barriers,” say Afzal and Nusrat Khatri, active environmentalists, who shifted from the US to Kandivali almost 17 years ago. “We first decided to clean up our road and nurture the building garden. The municipal corporation was helpful and our society won numerous eco awards,” says Nusrat. The couple then started helping residents in the neighbouring buildings, vis-à-vis composting pits and maintenance of their gardens, along with the involvement of college students. The couple, who are in their sixties, also created a biodiversity park in Samata Nagar police station, many green traffic chowkis (at Dahisar, Goregaon, etc.,) and gardens for corporates, housing societies and NGOs.
“The Samata Nagar police station’s backyard is now a compost-fed one and a half acre bio-diversity park that houses a variety of of trees and plants, attracting butterflies, bees and birds. One can spot birds such as woodpecker, white-breasted kingfisher and tailor birds among others, as well as 37 species of butterflies including Peacock Pansy, Common Jezebel, Blue Oak, Blue Tiger and many more,” explains Afzal.
Ways to nurture a butterfly garden
It is relatively easy to start a garden in one’s home – either on a balcony or a rooftop. “One can even set up a garden with some old buckets, mugs, suitcases, etc., if one does wish to spend much. Home owners can grow vegetables, flowers, fruits, medicinal plants and herbs, in a space like a balcony. You just need to have ample sunlight, soil, manure, seeds/sapling and water and care for the plants. Many butterfly attracting plants can be grown in containers. They vary in sizes and can be as small as six inches to two ft in height,” says Vandana Krishnamurthy, a social entrepreneur and co-founder of Urban Mali Network, Bengaluru, which has created over 10,000 sq ft of butterfly gardens in different places.
In the natural setting, butterflies flock to water sources. So, keep a shallow saucer, filled with water. To attract butterflies, include food sources in the form of host plants for caterpillars and nectar plants for butterflies.
“Host plants, such as curry leaves and lemon plant, are those that provide a home for the butterfly to lay its eggs and then, the caterpillar eats the leaves after they emerge. The whole life cycle of the butterfly is completed on the host plant. Apart from this, there are food/nectar plants, such as marigold, periwinkle, etc. The flowers produce large amounts of sugary nectar that is available for the butterflies as food,” states Krishnamurthy.
Do not use chemicals in the garden, as it deters the butterflies. “Native plants do not require any chemicals. So, it is best to use only native plants in the garden,” concludes Krishnamurthy.