Butterfly spotting in the tranquility of the forests in eastern Himalayas can make for the perfect stress-busting vacation right now. Searching for something as small as a butterfly brings one alive to every possibility in the landscape.
One of the many reasons why you should travel to the Himalayan state of Sikkim is its rich butterfly biodiversity. From the iconic Kaiser-i-Hind to the recently discovered small woodbrown butterfly, the North-Eastern state is home to 50 percent of butterflies recorded in the Indian subcontinent. The best season to spot butterflies begins from April and lasts till September.
With as many as 700 species of butterfly fluttering around its stunning mountain landscapes, the state is a paradise for nature lovers and botany buffs.The varying altitudes of the Himalayan state create a huge biodiversity that's a perfect setting for tropical as well as for the high-altitude cold desert species of butterflies.
The Tholung Valley makes for a perfect case in point. Within 30km of this majestic valley, the altitude rises from 600m to 5,500m.
Being covered with snow for about 4 to 8 months, 40 % of Sikkim’s total area is almost inhabitable for any living species. Fortunately, 30 percent of the total area is occupied by altitude zoned which range from about 200m to 1,800m. It is here that more than 75 percent of the state’s butterflies are found.
The areas beyond 3,000m are home to fewer species like apollos and yellow swallowtail, which have adapted to harsh climatic conditions and have affinity to the Palaearctic fauna. A few Polyphagus species can also be found at regions beyond 4,500m. These include the large cabbage whites, tortoiseshells, Indian red admiral, painted lady, dark clouded yellow among others.
While the natural forests of Sikkim are where butterflies congregate, you can easily spot them almost anywhere in the state - the cardamom plantations of North Sikkim, for instance.
Other areas of Sikkim which are blessed with butterflies in abundance include the Rangit Valley, Legship, Tashiding, Singtam, Mangan, Rangpo, Teesta Valley and the picturesque Tholong valley.
Most of the butterflies in Sikkim belong to the Papilionidae, Lycaenidae, Nymphalidae, Riodinidae and Hesperiidae families of butterflies. Some of the commonly found species of butterfly include the Paris peacock, great mormon, dark cerulean, dark evening brown, niger, common blue bottle, common rose, great wind mill, yellow swallowtail, chocolate albatross, lesser gul, redspot jezebel, bright sunbeam and the common red forester. That’s quite a long list.The credit for Sikkim’s rich butterfly biodiversity also goes to its pristine environment - the state is home to several sensitive, vulnerable species which can survive only in fresh environs.
Sikkim’s lower valleys are also some of the best places to watch uncountable butterflies as the most suitable altitude to watch butterflies is from 900m to 1800m. These areas are home to most of the swallowtails and nymphalids.
BAMOS Butterflies and Moths of Sikkim
Nature Conservation Society (BAMOS-NCS) is a registered NGO which focuses on documentation of the butterflies and moths of Sikkim, their conservation, spreading awareness and engaging on dialogues about environment and biodiversity.
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From being a Facebook group started by butterfly enthusiasts in 2011, the association has come a long way. Besides documenting the rich butterfly biodiversity of Sikkim, the organisation actively engages with schools to spread awareness about nature conservation through talks and interactive sessions. The organisation also conducts interesting national-level butterfly meets in areas like Yuksom and Dzongu.