Plants butterflies

  • Before they become colourful nectar-feeding butterflies, caterpillars are voracious leaf-eaters. Scientists have compiled a list of 834 such plants that most butterfly caterpillars of the Western Ghats feed on, hoping this will aid ecological studies and butterfly conservation.

Important Findings:

  • Their list reveals that the larval host plants of 16 butterflies are still unknown (including those of the Nilgiri tit and the Kodagu brush flitter which are found only in specific localities in the Ghats).
  • The team’s compilations also show that 81 butterfly species depend on plants belonging to the pea or legume family (Fabaceae). Another 71 of these winged insects such as the aces, scrub hoppers, demons and bobs lay their eggs on grasses and bamboos (belonging to the plant family Poaceae). On the other hand, some plants are used by just a single butterfly species. Only the larvae of the moth-like Indian dusky partwing, for instance, live on wild arrowroot leaves (Marantaceae).
  • Endemic butterflies like the Malabar banded peacock, Kodagu forest hopper and Shiva sunbeam which feed only on a single plant species would be more at risk.


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