Butterflies of Vidarbha region, Maharashtra State, central India
Ashish D. Tiple
Department of Zoology, Entomology Division, RTM Nagpur University Campus, Nagpur, Maharashtra, India
Forest Entomology Division, Tropical Forest Research Institute, Jabalpur, Madhya Pradesh 482021, India
The Indian sub-region hosts about 1,504 species of butterflies (Gaonkar 1996; Smetacek 1992; Kunte 2009; Roy et al. 2010) of which peninsular India hosts 351, and the Western Ghats 334. In central India, the butterfly diversity reported by D’Abreau (1931) totalled 177 species occurring in the erstwhile Central Provinces (now Madhya Pradesh, Chattisgarh & Vidarbha).
Vidarbha is the eastern region of Maharashtra State covering Nagpur division and Amravati division. It occupies 31.6% of the total area of Maharashtra. It borders the state of Madhya Pradesh to the north, Chhattisgarh to the east, the Telangana region of Andhra Pradesh to the south and Marathwada and Khandesh regions of Maharashtra to the west. No published checklist of butterfly species of Vidarbha region is known, hence, the present work was initiated.
Habitats: Vidarbha lies on the northern part of the Deccan Plateau. Unlike the Western Ghats, there are no major hilly areas. The Satpura range lies to the north of Vidarbha in Madhya Pradesh. The Melghat area of Amravati District is the southern offshoot of the Satpura range. Wainganga is the largest of all the Vidarbha rivers. Other major rivers that drain the Vidarbha region are the Wardha and Kanhan rivers which are all tributaries of the Godavari River. To the north, five small rivers, namely Khandu, Khapra, Sipna, Gadga and Dolar along with Purna, are the tributaries of the Tapti River.
From the administrative point of view, Vidarbha comprises 11 districts namely, Amravati, Akola, Bhandara, Buldhana, Chandrapur, Gadchiroli, Gondia, Nagpur, Wardha, Washim and Yavatmal.
Forest type: The forests are well distributed over all the agro-climatic zones. The forest types found in the area are classified as sub-tropical hill forests, tropical moist deciduous forests, tropical dry deciduous forests and lush green deciduous forests (Champion & Seth 1968), which are home to a variety of flora and fauna. All Maharashtra’s tiger reserves are located in Vidarbha. They are Melghat Tiger Reserve in Amravati District, Tadoba Andhari Tiger Reserve in Chandrapur District and Pench Tiger Reserve in Nagpur District.
Climatic conditions: Vidarbha has three main seasons: the wet Monsoon and post-Monsoon season from June to October, the cool dry winter from October to March and the hot dry season from April till the onset of rains. The temperature of Vidarbha ranges from a minimum of 12-250C to a maximum of 30-48°C with relative humidity varying from 10-15% to 60-95%. Annual precipitation is 1700mm 90% of the precipitation falls in four months, i.e. from June to September (Tiple 2009).
History of butterfly surveys in Central India: In central India, the butterfly diversity was reported earlier by Forsayeth (1884), Swinhoe (1886), Betham (1890, 1891), and Witt (1909). Subsequent works include several species from Madhya Pradesh and Chhattisgarh (Evans 1932; Talbot 1939, 1947; Wynter-Blyth 1957). D’Abreau (1931) documented a total of 177 species occurring in the erstwhile central provinces including Pachmari, Pench and Seoni, Nimar, Hoshangabad, Jabalpur, Burahanpur, Raipur, Bastar, Chanda and Nagpur districts (now Madhya Pradesh and Vidarbha). In addition to this, D’Abreau (1931) provided a special list of 92 butterfly species from Nagpur city. In the recent past, several workers have studied butterflies from urban, rural and protected areas of Vidarbha.
Pandharipande (1990) in his preliminary studies listed only 61 butterfly species in Nagpur City, representing eight families. A total of 48 species of butterflies were recorded belonging to 35 genera from Lonar Crater Lake, Buldhana District (Palot & Soniya 2003); 45 butterflies and 54 moths were reported from Pench Tiger Reserve (Maharashtra) by Singh (2004); 65 species belonging to 52 genera representing seven families from Pench Tiger Reserve, Maharashtra (Sharma & Radhakrishnan 2004); 45 species belonging to 36 genera representing eight families from Melghat Tiger Reserve (Sharma & Radhakrishnan 2005); 43 species of butterflies of 29 genera from the Tiger Reserve in Tadoba National Park, Maharashtra (Rai et al. 2006); 68 species of butterflies of 50 genera were recorded from Tadoba Andhari Tiger Reserve (Sharma & Radhakrishnan 2006); 53 species belonging to 36 genera representing seven families from Lonar Wildlife Sanctuary, Buldhana District (Sharma 2008); 53 species of butterflies were recorded from Pohara Malkhed Reserve Forest, Amravati District by Kasambe & Wadatkar (2004); 52 species of butterflies belonging to five families (22 species to Nymphalidae, 12 to Lycaenidae, 10 to Pieridae, 5 to Papilionidae and 3 species to Hesperiidae) were reported from Amravati University Campus, Maharashtra (Tiple et al. 2006, 2007); 51 butterfly species were recorded belonging to seven families from Melghat Tiger Reserve, Maharashtra (Chandrakar et al. 2007); 101 species of butterflies of eight families and 19 subfamilies were recorded (22 species of Nymphalidae, 6 of Danaidae, 10 of Satyridae, 23 of Lycaenidae, 1 of Riodinidae, 16 of Pieridae, 9 of Papilionidae, and 14 species of Hesperiidae) from Melghat Tiger Reserve (Wadatkar & Kasambe 2009); 103 species of butterflies belonging to eight families and 19 subfamilies were recorded from Melghat Tiger Reserve (Wadatkar 2008); and 98 species of butterflies belonging to Papilionidae (06 species), Pieridae (14 species), Nymphalidae (39 species), Lycaenidae (24 species) and Hesperiidae (15 species) in reserve forest area, Seminary Hill, Nagpur city (Tiple & Khurad 2009b).
Recently, Tiple & Khurad (2009a) reported 145 species of butterflies recorded at eight study sites, of which 62 species were new records for Nagpur City. The highest number of butterflies recorded belonged to the family Nymphalidae (51 species) with 17 new records, followed by Lycaenidae (46 species) with 29 new records, Hesperiidae (22 species) with 14 new records, Pieridae (17 species) with four new records and Papilionidae (9 species).
The compilation of all these studies in Vidarbha region and stray records resulted in the enumeration of 167 species of butterflies belonging to 90 genera representing five families and is given in Table 1. The highest number of butterflies recorded belonged to the Nymphalidae (50 species), followed by Lycaenidae (47 species), Hesperiidae (34 species), Pieridae (23species) and Papilionidae (13 species). All scientific names follow reports by Varshney (1983); Kunte (2000) and common English names are after Wynter-Blyth (1957). Continuous exploration in Vidarbha region could add many more new records for the region.
Among the 167 butterflies recorded from Vidarbha region, 14 species come under the protected category of the Indian Wildlife (Protection) Act, 1972. Among them Pachliopta hector and Hypolimnas misippus come under Schedule I of the Act. The species recorded which come under Schedule II are Hypolimnas misippus, Eurema andersonii, Appias albina, Tanaecia lepidea, Spindasis elima, Melanitis zitenius, Euchrysops cnejus, Ionolyce helicon and Lampides boeticus. The species recorded which come under Schedule IV are Appias libythea, Tarucus ananda, Baoris farri, Euploea core (Kunte 2000; Gupta & Mondal 2005).
Interestingly, some butterflies (Graphium antiphates, Papilio crino, Ypthima avanta, Everes argiades and Hasora chabrona) which were recorded earlier by D’Abreau (1931) from Vidarbha (Nagpur city) were not seen in recent years. The probable causes of this could be the loss of habitats by ever expanding urbanization along with the broader climatic changes (Tiple et al. 2007). During the last decade, the city has expanded twice in its circumference causing loss of natural habitats of butterflies. Urban development is expected to have a deleterious impact on butterfly populations, if only because the construction of buildings and concrete replaces or reduces the area of natural and semi-natural habitats. The quality of residual habitats may also be adversely affected by various forms of pollutants (Dennis & Williams 1986; Tiple & Khurad 2009b).
Some authors have reported rather unusual records for the region. These reports were checked and found to be based on sightings and field identifications. Since it appeared that these reports could possibly be based on misidentified butterflies, it was thought better to include these species in a separate table (Table 2) pending confirmation of their presence in the study area. Table 2 therefore contains unsubstantiated new records for the region which have been reported in the literature.
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