/Anatomy of an Observation: Butterfly Watching

Anatomy of an Observation: Butterfly Watching

As the name suggests, butterfly watching is simply observing the appearance and behavior of butterflies, which may sometimes involve catching them, studying them, and releasing them back to nature. Although lesser known than birdwatching and wildlife observation, butterfly watching has a dedicated group of enthusiasts around the world with clubs and festivals dedicated to the activity and there are many of those who trot the globe to watch and observe butterflies.

All of the 20,000 (approx.) species of butterflies found in the world fall under the order Lepidoptera along with moths and skippers with whom they share many characteristics. Butterflies are known for their vibrant and colorful exterior although plenty of butterflies sport neutral earthy tones. One such butterfly Dreamy Duskywing (Erynnis icelus) is covered in dirt brown color commonly associated with moths. An adult butterfly can have a lifespan from one week to about a year and their life cycle comprises of four stages: eggs, larva (Caterpillar), Pupa (Chrysalis) and adult (Butterfly)—with the complete metamorphosis taking anywhere from a month to about a year depending on the type of butterfly.

Nepal is a great destination for butterfly watchers with 651 species of butterflies found here, which is about 3.72 percent of the total species of butterflies found in the world. Around 20 of these species are endangered. Because of the variation in both geography and climate with altitude and located where Palearctic and oriental eco-zones meet, both Palearctic species like Parnassius acdestis, common red apollo (Parnassius epaphus), Synchloe sherpae etc. and oriental species like Kaiser-i-Hind (Teinopalpus imperialis), common brimstone (Gonepteryx rhamni), great orange tip (Hebomoia glaucippe), the great eggfly (Hypolimnas bolina), red helen (Papilio helenus), Paris peacock (Papilio paris) etc. are found here.

Hypolimnas bolina
Papilio paris







Nonetheless, 90 percent of the species found here are Oriental species found in the temperate and tropical region as compared to 10 percent of Palearctic species found only in the upper Himalayan region above 3000 meters.

Godavari of Lalitpur is home to one of the rarest species of butterflies in the world, Diagora nicevillei and in the area around Pulchoki alone, some 300 species of butterflies are found. Chandragiri, Swyambhu, Chobar, Shivapuri, Sundarijal, Budhanilkantha, and Nagarkot are some destinations in and around the valley where butterflies are found in abundance, especially during late March to June and in August/September. Outside the valley, Pokhara, Langtang National Park, Chitwan National Park, Annapurna Conservation Area are some well-known destinations for butterfly watching.


Papilio helenus
Parnassius apollo







Watching butterflies can be a delight regardless of age. Like birdwatching, watching butterflies is one of the relaxing and inexpensive hobbies with few to none equipment required and resources aplenty.  All you need is a pair of low power binoculars, a place with flowers (preferably), maybe a handy field guide, and you are ready to put your keen observation skills to use. So, why not get started, eh?

-Subarna Adhikari