Friday, January 27, 2017

Moths of India reaches 600 species

The Moths of India website has reached 600 species, an amazing achievement in just over 15 months since we went live. Some interesting moths posted in the last few months are...

The Zygaenid moth Psaphis euschemoides, which is an amazing mimic of another day flying Geometrid moth, the False Tiger MothDysphania militaris Or is it the other way around?

The incredibly beautiful Zygaenid moth Campylotes-desgodinsi 2/Campylotes-desgodinsi

The Sea Buckthorn Hawkmoth Hyles hippophaes, previously known from India only by a single specimen collected by Avinov in 1912. 

Orthobrachia hirowatarii, a species described in 2016 from China and Thailand, reported in India for the first time at

The other highlight is that the number of contributors has increased to 40.

Keep “mothing" and contributing!

The Moths of India team

It’s a bug’s life


Author and science education consultant Geetha Iyer weaves tales of insects in her book The Weavers - The Curious World of Insects

When Geetha Iyer looks out into her expansive garden in her home in Suchindram, near Kanyakumari, or any garden or patch anywhere, for that matter, it’s not only the trees, flowers, birds, bees and butterflies that she sees but also wasps, moths, crickets, spiders and hundreds of other insects that live hidden in plain sight. It’s only a matter of opening your eyes and you can see the sheer diversity in the insect world, feels Geetha, author of the book The Weavers - The Curious World of Insects, published by Harper Collins.

The Weavers   | Photo Credit: Special Arrangement

Geetha, a biology teacher and former head of Sahyadri school, Pune, now a freelance science education and environment consultant and macro photographer, was in the city to open up the world of insects to children at an interactive session at Children’s Library. “The moment most people hear the word insect, immediately their minds skip to cockroaches, flies and mosquitoes and other pests and to disease and to issues of hygiene and sanitation. They forget that there are myriads of other insects out there, many of which have fantastic stories to tell and valuable applications that can benefit humankind,” she says, her enthusiasm for bugs, infectious.

Long horned beetle   | Photo Credit: Geetha Iyer

“I started taking an interest in insects while I was running a nature culb at Apeejay School in Noida. In those days Noida was just green open spaces populated with all manner of flora and fauna, where you could cross the bund and see birds on the Yamuna. It really caught on while I was teaching at Rishi Valley School, which is set in a sprawling 400-acre green campus in the interiors of Andra Pradesh,” she reminisces.

Moths are as colourful as butterflies   | Photo Credit: Geetha Iyer

Her first book was Satpada, Our World Of Insects, a ready-reckoner on insects for students and amateur naturalists, which she co-wrote with former colleague at Rishi Valley, Rebecca Thomas. In The Weavers, the world of insects that weave silk, forms the central thread. In it Geetha explores their lives, their management practices, their mating rituals and so on, peppered with ‘oddities and eccentricities.’

Weaver ant queens with eggs   | Photo Credit: Geetha Iyer

“Contrary to popular perception, silk worms are not the only ones that weave silk. Dance flies of the family Empididae court their mates by presenting them with silk-wrapped prey. Caddisflies weave protective cases in a variety of beautiful shapes. These cases are semi-permeable membranes. Insects have been spinning silk for millions of years, even if it has been only 5,000 years since humans discovered it. Why can’t we see it all as clothing material and harness their secrets of survival, especially as we are living in a world that’s facing cataclysmic environmental changes? Unfortunately, not much of research is being done on this area,” says the author.
However, Geetha’s primary area of interest, is in the field of science education. “My aim is to change the way biology is taught in the curriculum. For decades now, the curriculum has not changed. From class five to class 12, the same things are taught again and again - flower structure, breeding systems... Biology is essentially about life being sacred and we need to teach children to respect life in all its diversity. If they are taught to understand what life is all about then, perhaps, people would think twice about supporting animal cruelty sports,” says Geetha. Apart from helping schools audit their science programmes, Geetha runs the website to as a free resource for students and science teachers.
“Science can be fun; all it need is a bit of effort on the part of students and teachers. There is much to be taught and learnt from the originality, ingenuity and creativity of animals and insects,” she says.
Did you know?
The Caddisfly is an aquatic insect. These flies thrive only on clean water and are indicators of pollution.
Northern Praying Mantis is a Chinese martial art form, inspired by the aggressiveness of the praying mantis.
The jewel wasp injects mind-altering venom on cockroaches, which makes the latter behave like a dog on a leash. They then take them to their nests and lay eggs on them. The eggs develop on the cockroaches.
The Ming emperors in China used to hold cricket fights. Their prized champion insects were housed in gilded cages.

Wednesday, January 4, 2017

Butterfly spotted after 58 years - Sighted in Arunachal Pradesh

A Howarth's Hairstreak. Picture credit: Rachit Singh
Guwahati, Jan. 1: His love for the butterfly world helped young Rachit Singh to sight Howarth's Hairstreak, a butterfly species, after 58 years at Tenga valley in Arunachal Pradesh.

Howarth's Hairstreak ( Chrysozephyrus disparatus interpositus Howarth) was rediscovered 58 years after it was first spotted in Sikkim in 1956. The sighting has been reported in the latest issue of Journal of Threatened Taxa and is authored by naturalists Sanjay Sondhi and Rachit Singh.

This record also extends the known range of this species eastward by 350km from Sikkim to western Arunachal Pradesh.

"My journey with butterflies and insects began in 2012, at Eaglenest wildlife sanctuary. I attended a camp conducted by Sondhi when I was studying in class IX. Tenga valley is an amazing place to study the microfauna and other forms of wildlife as it is right in the foothills of Eaglenest," Singh said.

"After the camp, I used to go for field trips to study the biodiversity of the area. On one of those days, I found this butterfly and was told by other experts that it should be reported. Hence, I started working on it with Sondhi," Singh told The Telegraph.

Singh was then a student of Army Public School at Tenga when he spotted the butterfly on May 21, 2014. He is now pursuing BSc (first year) in biotechnology, chemistry and zoology from Christ University, Bangalore.

The butterfly was seen three times around a particular area along the forest streams in May 2014. The first sighting was on May 21, 2014 at 10am; the second sighting was on the next day.

"The butterfly prefers shaded areas and takes small, swift flights staying 2-3 metres above the ground. While perched on leaves, it moves the hind wing to create an illusion of moving antennae using the tail, he said.

Tenga valley is part of Tenga reserve forest at the northern edge of the Eaglenest wildlife sanctuary and Sessa orchid wildlife sanctuary in western Arunachal Pradesh.

The specific locality where the species was sighted is Tseringpam village in Tenga valley at 1,626 metres and covered with thick green sub-tropical forest.

The area is rich with variety of seasonal shrubs alongside the stream that flows through the valley, with a gradual fall in altitude.

The wet patches along the forest form good mud-puddling grounds. The area is free of human disturbances and agriculture.

Surveys in western Arunachal Pradesh landscape have resulted in the addition of several butterfly species that are new to India, including Gonepteryx amintha tibetana, Bhutanitis ludlowi and several butterfly rediscoveries and range extensions, including Calinaga aborica.

Original News on The Telegraph