There is a Tiger in our backyards, yes that’s right, and not only in our backyards but chances are that you would have encountered one as you walked down the road preoccupied with the business at hand. But there is no need to panic as I am only referring to The Striped Tiger Butterfly, Danaus genutia.
I have often come across them at the Indian Christian Cemetery on Hosur Road while waiting for my daughter to finish school and have even seen them from my balcony at home. I live on the ground floor of an apartment block in Richards Town and there is a lot of greenery around my house, they in particular frequent one lantana bush. They however are not as common as the other species of butterflies.
The Striped Tiger is however the most easily recognisable of all butterflies even to the layman. They are the same as the famous Monarch Butterfly of the Americas. The Monarch is famous for its southward migration and northward return in summer from Canada to Mexico which spans the life of three to four generations of the butterfly.
The Striped Tiger belongs to the Danainae subfamily of the Nymphalidae family. Members of the Nymphalidae are known as the “Brush- footed butterflies” The fore legs are sometimes covered with long dense scales, forming brush like stubs and hence the name.
These brightly coloured butterflies are protected by the unpleasant, toxic body fluids obtained from their larval food plants. The Striped Tiger is tough to kill and often fake death to confuse predators. They have an unpleasant smell and taste and as a result are quickly released by any predator that catches them. When this happens they make a quick recovery and fly away. They are often mimicked by a variety of non – poisonous butterflies for the very same reason.
The Striped Tiger is common in scrub jungles, fallow lands around human habitation as well as dry and moist deciduous forests. It, however, prefers areas with moderate to high rainfall. It is most active during the pre monsoon to post monsoon period. Though a strong flier, it does not fly very fast nor does it fly very high. The availability of food plants dictates their movements and they are common visitors to urban gardens. Among their preferred food plants are Lantana, Cosmos and Zinnia which are all found in urban gardens. ⊕