Scientists at the High Altitude Regional Centre of Zoological Survey of India (ZSI) have discovered a rare species of butterfly known as Silvery Meadow Blue in Paangi Valley of Chamba district of Himachal Pradesh, 515km from Shimla.
The butterfly species, earlier reported in Pakistan and Afghanistan, has been reported for the first time in India by a scientific team led by Avtar Kaur Sidhu, head of the ZSI centre, in surveys conducted between 2007 and 2009.
The Silvery Meadow Blue was among 36 species of butterflies the scientists observed during the survey of the valley. “The Silvery Meadow Blue has been reported for the very first time in India,” said Sidhu. “We found 36 species of butterflies in Pangi out of which three to four species are rare and have been listed under the Wildlife Protection Act,” said Sidhu, who had spotted the Silvery Meadow Blue in July 2008 and July 2009.
The Silvery Meadow Blue (Polyommatus florience) butterflies are found in areas 3,000 metres above sea level. It likes meadows and areas outside forests and can be found during the month of July when the high altitude areas experience a late-flowering season.
A leading entomologist who specialises in butterflies said the Silvery Meadow Blue appears to belong to a family of temperate-zone butterflies found in low temperature regions such as central Asia.
The discovery of this rare butterfly in Himachal Pradesh also suggests that a host plant specific to this species is also found here, said Krishnappa Chandrashekara, a senior entomologist at the University of Agricultural Sciences, Bangalore. “All butterflies are very specific about the plants that their larvae feed on. The host plant for this species is likely to be growing across this high altitude region.”
Chandrashekara said it is possible that the rare butterfly always existed in India’s northernmost regions, and hadn’t been observed earlier. But if it is a new arrival, he said, it would be scientifically interesting.
“In a warming climate, we would expect temperate zone butterflies to move from lower latitudes to higher latitudes, instead we would be seeing this species moving slightly southward,” he said.
The Pangi valley of Himachal Pradesh is home to 36 species of butterflies out of which about half are oriental and half are Palearctic fauna.
“Besides the Silvery Meadow Blue, we have also reported Walnut Blue (which destroys walnut leaves), Black Vein Fritillary, Chequered Blue, Whiteline Hair Streak, Violet Meadow Blue, Common Meadow Blue, Large Green Underwing, Dusky Green Under Wing and Tawny Meadow Brown butterfly species from the valley,” Sidhu said.
Silvery Meadow Blue is incidental polynator.