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Monsoon Trails 2007

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A short document on the findings from monsoon trails, created in 2007.

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Monsoon Trails 2007

  1. 1. 1 Monsoon Trails A Report, 2007 - By Aniruddha H. D.
  2. 2. 2 Monsoon or the Rainy Season begins with a clamor of clouds and bolts of lightning. In the month of June, the winds arrive to the peninsular India from the Indian Ocean and along with them; they bring tones of rain to bathe the land. The Monsoon lasts until September, and bids farewell to India in much clamor and lightning. In this season of new life, I explored as much as I could, in and around Mumbai, and here I take a slight effort to mark the end of the trail, summing up all that I could capture through lens in this vast world of Entomology (with less than a percent record of Arachnids). When one hears the word Arthropoda, it reminds one of an ancient lineage of life on Earth. And indeed it is. With over a million modern species known to man (and still counting), Arthropoda is one of the vast phylums in Animalia. And this place, like a million other, is just a record of one such subphylum of Arthropoda, the Hexapoda (exclusively Insecta) and Chelicerata (exclusively Arachnida). By saying a ‘record’ I do not mean any kind of a research what-so-ever, as this is only an attempt, as said before, in summing up of the “sightings” of the various creatures. To cover all (the seen) Arthropods in one report, I have decided to follow the laws of classification of Animalia, thus maintaining a general sequence of differentiation. As one goes up the track of evolution, the existence of early arthropods is seen in the water. As evolution proceeded, they came upon land, and became one of the most diverse phyla of the Kingdom, reigning upon land, underground, underwater, and in the air. Phylum Arthropoda contains five subphyla, of which I am covering only two – Hexapoda and Chelicerata, and that too, only a fraction of these. Hexapoda is further classified into different classes, of which I have recorded the Insecta (only a fraction of a fraction of it) and Chelicerata is also classified into different classes, of which I have recorded a fraction of a fraction (quiet literally) of Arachnida. To start with the ‘real’ thing, I would first conclude that all the information I gathered is courtesy of the internet and the books. I would like to thank Shantanu Patke, my friend who is also a fellow enthusiast and a good photographer, for providing pictures I couldn’t possibly capture.
  3. 3. 3 The trails in and around Mumbai were peculiar in their own ways. On some, I sighted exclusively only Lepidopterans, on some only Hymenopterans or Spiders, and on some I had a glimpse at all of them including the Coleopterans and Odonatas. These were the Orders I searched for exclusively. To start, finally, I would like to begin with the Lepidopterans that have been of utmost interest to me. What is so attractive about these scaly winged fliers? The answer is quiet obvious and known to the entire world – their magnificent coloration. Although I did not see much of what to expect from the monsoons, but most of these I recorded are exclusively seen in this season. Lepidoptera can further simply be classified into Moths and Butterflies. I choose to start with the Moths, and so because Butterflies are thought to be evolved from the Moths. In a lifetime, or two, a Moth ‘evolves’ dramatically into an adult. The main stages in its lifecycle are the Eggs – Larvae or Caterpillar – Pupa – and ultimately an Adult. The dramatic changes are seen in all these instances, for instance a caterpillar that feeds voraciously on a certain host plant, or the Pupa where the caterpillar undergoes drastic internal and structural changes to metamorphose into an adult Moth. In the monsoons, the lush greenery is always associated with a boon in the moth diversity; of course, because of the availability of food and on the other hand, because of the migratory instincts of some. Although there are myriads of caterpillars, below is a picture of the Geometrid Caterpillar or Looper caterpillar. These are amazingly flexible and not only camouflage well in the surrounding but also mimic perfectly, blending into the environment neatly. The Adjoining picture is of a Looper Caterpillar; at a quick glance, it appears to be a fallen stick on the leaf, but on a closer look, the deceiving looks give away and the picture becomes clear. A Looper caterpillar rests in a stick-like color (camouflage) and a fallen stick-like pose (mimic) for protection. A Caterpillar, after its 4 or 6 instar life, transforms into a Pupa or a Cocoon.
  4. 4. 4 Below you see a Moth Pupa Most of the moth caterpillars feed on plants and come down onto earth to mold into a pupa. A pupa is naked, covered only by a thin layer of tissue. The caterpillar inside undergoes structural and internal changes that transforms it into an entirely different organism. In the adjoining picture, you can see abdominal segments formed already, and spiracles – that appear like depressions in the abdomen. This pupa is most probably that of a certain Owl Moth. Below you see a Moth Cocoon Most of the moths also form a cocoon. It is in fact a pupa in its own, but the peculiarity of a cocoon is that it has silken threads spun around its naked pupa. As you can see, the silken cocoon dries and becomes a hard round structure. The silk is spun by the caterpillar for its protection. A fully developed moth breaks the protective cocoon and comes out. This cocoon is most probably that of a Tusser Silk Moth. “In the life cycle of an insect the pupal stage follows the larval stage and precedes adulthood (imago). It is during the time of pupation that the adult structures of the insect are formed whilst the larval structures are broken down. Pupae are inactive and usually sessile (not able to move about). They have a hard protective coating and often use camouflage to evade potential predators.”
  5. 5. 5 From the pupa or cocoon arises an adult moth. There are around more than hundred species of moths in Mumbai. Some of which are not so common, whereas some act as pests, and some are purely beautiful. Below I have recorded a very few of these on the Monsoon Trails. Handmaiden Moth It is a moth that mimics Wasps. It is a day flying species, commonly seen on the outskirts of Mumbai. It is seen throughout the year. This photo was taken at Karjat, and also sighted at Karnala. Scythrididae A Microlepidoptera. It is a gaudy little moth that goes almost always unnoticed. The peculiar characteristic of this is the posture it rests in. The raised structures that you see are in fact the legs. A probable species seen exclusively in Monsoon. This photo was taken at Karjat.
  6. 6. 6 Scopula species A Geometridae. There are many similar species of Scopula, which makes the differenciation of species quiet difficult. This photo was taken at Karnala during monsoons. Ischija inferna A Leaf mimicking moth which when rests upon a leaf litter, camouflages really well, although the electric blue marking on the under-wing makes it easy to spot. This photo was taken at Karnala during monsoons.
  7. 7. 7 Just after the monsoons, many moths wander into the open in search of a mate, and not many succeed to complete the task, and a few of such unfortunate mates wander into our homes peculiarly at twilight – as they get attracted by an artificial source of light. This phenomenon is observed at its peak just at the end of the monsoons. Below is a record of such moths that made their journey into my house. Thyas coronata It is a Noctuid moth, identified by twin dark marks on the upper wings; and brightly colored hind-wings. Noctuids especially wander out at night; hence such moths belong to the superfamily Noctuidae. Thyas coronata belongs to the sub-family Catocalinae. Grammodes geometrica It is another Noctuid belonging to the sub- family Catocalinae. There is no Common Name for this one. The typical feature of this moth is the triangular pattern with lateral bands. It is typically seen during Monsoons.
  8. 8. 8 Mocis undata Yet another Noctuid belonging to Catocalinae. It is one of the Fruit Piercing Moths (FPM) – moths with ‘armored’ proboscis with which it penetrates the fruit to feed on the juice. Increase in the host plants (especially in monsoons) bring about an increase in such moth populations. Some of the FPMs, in their large numbers – feeding on an economic fruit, may act as pests. Otheris homaena Another Noctuid belonging to Catocalinae. Its upper-wings are lustrous, and under proper light conditions, it shows a greenish tinge. The hind-wings are brightly colored. When resting in a closed wing position, it camouflages well in a natural background.
  9. 9. 9 Chrysodeixis acuta A Noctuid. The caterpillar is a Looper worm – that feeds on a variety of crops. Increase in population may give this moth a status of ‘pest’. Beet Webworm Moth A Typical character of this moth is the white- band pattern on its wings. It is a small moth measuring about 19mm across. Common in the post- monsoon season. Its caterpillar feeds on Beetroot, Cockscomb and Amaranthus species. The name ‘Webworm’ is so because the caterpillar spins a web in which it lives. May act as a pest.
  10. 10. 10 Palpita vitrealis This species (or a relating) feeds on Jasmine, therefore also called as a Jasmine Moth. Identified by its translucent lustrous wings, and a golden, orange or brown leading edge. It belongs to Spilomelinae – a subfamily. Typical character of Spilomelinae is the ‘snout-like’ face. It is most probably a migrating species. A Leaf-roller moth Another moth belonging to Spilomelinae. There is a boon in their population during post-monsoon. The name ‘Leaf Roller’ comes as the caterpillar ‘rolls’ the edge of the leaf around itself for protection. It is most probably a Sesame Leaf- roller. These were the only ones I could capture through lens in this vast space full of tiny moths
  11. 11. 11 Butterflies are one of the most beautiful and delicate insects in the whole world. In India, the tiniest Blue and Asia’s largest Birdwing exist in a same habitat. Although my record does not hold a long list, but I have managed to record as many as I could. A Butterfly develops just as a Moth does. And there is fairly a little difference – that is the pupa of butterflies is not covered in a cocoon. It is more specifically called a Chrysalis – derived from Latin word Chrysallis “metallic gold coloration” found in most of the butterfly pupae. Although I could not capture a chrysalis, or a ‘known’ caterpillar, below are the pictures and names of the butterflies on the Monsoon Trails I photographed. Papilionidae or the Swallowtail Butterflies Butterflies of this Family sport small ‘tail-like’ extensions on their hind-wings. They are popularly known as Swallowtails. This family includes one of the largest and the most attractive and the most endangered species of butterflies. This is the smallest butterfly family in the world with about merely 700 species with a worldwide distribution. Members of this family have similar body forms; their legs are long and slender. The list of Swallowtails I saw is quiet satisfactory but I failed to capture them all on lens. Given below are the ones I could capture on the Monsoon Trails, from the pre- monsoons to the post-monsoons. 1. Spot Swordtail (mating) Graphium (pathysa) nomius 2. Common Jay (mud puddling) Graphium doson 3. Tailed Jay Graphium agamemnon 4. Common Rose Atrophaneura (Pachliopta) aristolochiae 5. Lime Butterfly Papilio demoleus 6. Common Mormon (Female, Romulus) Papilio polytes
  12. 12. 12 7. Common Mime – dissimilis form Nymphalidae or Brush-footed Butterflies Butterflies of this family are popularly known as ‘Brush-footed butterflies’. The forelegs of these butterflies have diverse structures and maybe reduced and functionless as walking legs in either the males or females, or both. They are sometimes covered with long, dense scales, forming brush like stubs, hence the family name. These butterflies are very diverse in their body form and habits, that generalizations are difficult at the family level. Below are the pictures of the Brush-footed butterflies which I photographed in the Monsoon Trails. 8. Baronet Euthalia nais 9. Chocolate Pansy Precis iphata
  13. 13. 13 10. Common Bushbrown – wet season Mycalesis perseus 11. Common Indian Crow Euploea core 12. Common Leopard Phalanta phalantha 13. Great Eggfly Female Hypolimnas bolina 14. Great Eggfly Male Hypolimnas bolina 15. Common Palmfly Elymnias hypermnestra Linnaeus
  14. 14. 14 16. Plain Tiger Danaus chrysippus 17. Tawny Coster Acraea terpsicore 18. Evening Brown – Dry season form Melanitis leda Linnaeus 19. Common Castor Ariadne merione 20. Striped Tiger. Danaus genutia 21. Blue Tiger Tirumala limniace
  15. 15. 15 Pieridae or Whites and Yellows These butterflies have a predominance of white and yellow, hence they are called “Whites and Yellows”. This family is among the smaller families of butterflies. The males usually have distinct secondary sexual characters, such as hair pencils and brands on the wings. They are found in all types of habitats. They show distinct seasonal forms which vary in coloration and markings. These butterflies are common, but not as abundant as in dry seasons. Below are the only two I could photograph. 22. Common Emigrant Catopsilia pomona 23. Common Jezebel Delias eucharis Lycanidae or Blues This family is the world’s largest family of butterflies along with Nymphalidae. Blues are small butterflies. They are usually shades of blue or purple on the upperside, brown or white on the underside. The sexes are often different in appearance. The males are metallic blue, the females are paler blue. Most blues have evoked two important mechanisms to protect themselves. The first is the presence of tails on the hind wings of adult butterflies; the second is the association of caterpillars with ants for protection. Although seen commonly in the months of monsoon, the sightings I had are pretty unfortunate, however I managed to click a very few of these magnificent butterflies. P. T. O.
  16. 16. 16 24. Blue Oakleaf Kallima horsfieldi 25. Plains cupid Edales pandava 26. Toothed Sunbeam Curetis dentate 27. Plum Judy Abisara echerius 28. Dark Cerulean Jamides bochus
  17. 17. 17 Hesperiidae or Skippers Skippers are ‘believed’ to be a step between ‘true’ butterflies and moths. They are small and very active. The wings are triangular and long. The body is covered in dense long scales. Skippers are seen fairly common throughout monsoon. These butterflies fly low on the ground, but their flight is fast; and are amazingly camouflaged in the foliage. I managed to photograph only three Skippers, during monsoon. 29. Golden Angle Caprona ransonnetti 30. Rice Swift Borbo cinnara 31. Grass Demon Udaspes folus That’s about the Lepidopterans I could photograph on the Monsoon Trails.
  18. 18. 18 About an average number of other insects (Grasshoppers, Odonatas and other Bugs) I captured alongside the Lepidoptera. We will see first the Grasshoppers. Orthoptera Grasshoppers belong to the Order Orthoptera. They have antennae that are almost always shorter than the body (sometimes filamentous), and short ovipositors. Those species that make easily heard noises usually do so by rubbing the hind femurs against the forewings or abdomen, or by snapping the wings in flight. Grasshoppers are one brilliantly adapted species that are rapid in their movements, are amazingly camouflaged, and usually solitary. They are voracious feeders and hence act as pest in the agricultural fields. Below are some pictures of different Grasshoppers, names of which I am not sure of. A Katydid
  19. 19. 19 Odonata In monsoon, the Odonata population increases and one sees very diverse forms of these from the attractive and astonishing fliers – Dragonflies to the beautiful and delicate Damselflies. These insects characteristically have large rounded heads covered mostly by well- developed, faceted eyes, legs that facilitate catching prey (other insects) in flight, two pairs of long, transparent wings that move independently, and elongated abdomens. In most families there is a structure on the leading edge near the tip of the wing called the pterostigma, which actually is a thickened, blood–filled and often colorful area called a cell. Cell in this case means a closed area of an insect wing bounded by veins. The functions of the pterostigma are not fully known, but it most probably has an aerodynamic effect and also a visual function. Although generally fairly similar, dragonflies differ from damselflies in several, easily recognizable traits. Dragonflies are strong fliers with fairly robust bodies and at rest hold their wings either out to the side or out and downward. Damselflies tend to be less robust, even rather weak appearing in flight, and when at rest most species hold their wings folded back over the abdomen. Odonates are aquatic or semi-aquatic as juveniles. Thus, adults are most often seen near bodies of water and are frequently described as aquatic insects. However, many species range far from water, seeking open fields and hilltops where they prey on smaller insects, catching these in flight. Diplacodes trivialis Golden Dartlet Ischnura aurora
  20. 20. 20 Other Insects were seen in much less density compared to the ones discussed above. These are the Coleoptera, Hemiptera, and Hymenoptera. Coleoptera I could capture only two Coleopterans, which are discussed below. The Order Coleoptera means ‘sheathed wings’. Beetles can be found in almost all habitats, but are not known to occur in the sea or in the Polar Regions. They interact with their ecosystems in several ways. They often feed on plants and fungi, break down animal and plant debris, and eat other invertebrates. Some species are prey of various animals including birds and mammals. Epicuata erythrocephala – belongs to family Meloidae – commonly known as Oil or Blister beetles. Adults are destructive pests of a wide variety of ornamental flowers and agricultural crops including Tomato, Potato and Pulses, etc. Dung Beetle - Many dung beetles, known as rollers (as seen in the picture), are noted for rolling dung into spherical balls, which are used as a food source or brooding chambers. Dung beetles play a remarkable role in agriculture. By burying and consuming dung, they improve nutrient cycling and soil structure.
  21. 21. 21 Hemiptera The Hemipterans that were seen were abundant, and common in all the monsoon trails. The defining feature of hemipterans is their possession of mouthparts where the mandibles and maxillae have evolved into a proboscis, sheathed within a modified labium to form a "beak" or "rostrum" which is capable of piercing tissues (usually plant tissues) and sucking out the liquids — typically sap. The name "Hemiptera" is from the Greek hemi ("half") and pteron ("wing"), referring to the forewings of many hemipterans which are hardened near the base, but membranous at the ends. These wings are termed hemelytra (singular: hemelytron), by analogy with the completely hardened elytra of beetles. They may be held "roof-wise" over the body, or held flat on the back, with the ends overlapping. The hind-wings are entirely membranous and are usually shorter than the forewings. Below are the photographs and information on the ones I captured. Many of the Juvenile or Nymph bugs were seen in the peak season of monsoon. And in the late or post- monsoon, many of the adults, along with few nymphs were seen. This specific nymph is that of a Stink Bug, better known as Shield Bug. Stick Insects are commonly seen throughout monsoon, but are also fairly common in other seasons. Indian stick insects are all female and reproduce by parthenogenesis and seem content living on their own. Occasionally part-male part- female individuals are reared in captivity, but never true males. The stick insects molt and may eat the shed skin. By the sixth molt the stick insect will lay eggs. P. T. O.
  22. 22. 22 Leafhopper is a common name applied to any species from the family Cicadellidae. Leafhoppers are also known as hoppers. It is the second largest family in the Hemiptera. Leafhoppers have piercing sucking mouthparts; they feed on plant sap and can transmit plant-infecting viruses and bacteria. Leafhoppers mainly consume vegetation but have been known to indulge in small insects such as Aphids. Hymenoptera There was a boon in the Hymenopteran lifecycle coinciding with the blooming flowers. Out of the many seen, most were unknown to me. The ones I managed to capture are displayed below. Females typically have a special ovipositor for inserting eggs into hosts or otherwise inaccessible places. The ovipositor is often modified into a stinger. The young develop through complete metamorphosis — that is, they have a worm-like larval stage and an inactive pupal stage before they mature. A Bee A Wasp A Sawfly Those were the only Insects I could record on the Monsoon Trail. Of course, I might have missed many of the commonest species, and I hope to record them in the next season!
  23. 23. 23 Arachnida A boon in the insects brings about a boon for their predators also. And one of the prime predators to keep a check on insect population is the Arachnids. It is commonly understood that arachnids have four pair of legs, and that arachnids may be easily distinguished from insects by this fact (insects have six legs or three pair). Interestingly, arachnids have a total of 6 pair of appendages--two pair of which has become adapted for feeding, defense, and sensory perception. The first pair of appendages, the chelicerae, serves in feeding and defense. The next pair of appendages, the pedipalps has been adapted for feeding, locomotion, and/or reproductive functions. I saw many Arachnids, and managed to photograph a few also, but most of these are found throughout the year. Below are the Arachnids differentiated according to the taxa. Amblypygi Amblypygids are also known as tailless whip scorpions or cave spiders. Some species are subterranean; many are nocturnal. During the day, they may hide under logs, bark, stones, or leaves. They prefer a humid environment. Their bodies are broad and highly flattened and the first pair of legs is modified to act as sensory organs. Amblypygids often move about sideways on their six walking legs, with one "whip" pointed in the direction of travel while the other probes on either side of them. Opiliones Opiliones or "harvestmen" are arachnids known for their exceptionally long walking legs, compared to their body size. The difference between harvestmen and spiders is that in harvestmen the two main body sections (the abdomen and cephalothorax) are nearly joined, so that they appear to be one oval structure. They have a pair of scent glands that secrete a peculiar smelling fluid when disturbed.
  24. 24. 24 Araneae Spiders are predatory invertebrate animals that have two body segments, eight legs, no chewing mouth parts and no wings. They are classified in the order Araneae. All spiders produce silk, a thin, strong protein strand extruded by the spider from spinnerets most commonly found on the end of the abdomen. Many species use it to trap insects in webs, although there are also many species that hunt freely. Silk can be used to aid in climbing, form smooth walls for burrows, and build egg sacs, wrap prey, and temporarily hold sperm, among other applications. The spiders that were photographed are differentiated on the basis of their families. There are in all eleven spider families, of which I managed to photograph only three. P. T. O.
  25. 25. 25 Araenidae Argiope species These are better known as Orb- web spiders. After having trapped an insect in their web, many members of this family proceed to wrap their prey in a white shroud of silk to be eaten later. Orb-weaver spider Often recognized for building beautiful, large, round webs, on which they rest, waiting for prey. They only live for one season and die off as Winter approaches. Lycosidae Better known as Wolf Spiders, these are free-ranging spiders which hunt on the ground or close to the ground. Females carry the egg sac with them until the spiderlings hatch. Upon hatching the, spiderlings live on the mother's back for a few weeks until they are large enough to hunt on their own (See picture below). They do not use webs to capture prey. Pholcidae The spider quickly envelops its prey with silk and then inflicts the fatal bite. The prey may be eaten immediately or stored for later. When removed from their webs, pholcids are rather clumsy, and walk with an unsteady, bobbing action. Araenidae Commonly called Short Horned Orb Spider. These spiders weave orb- webs to trap their prey, usually flying insects. Wolf Spider carrying spiderlings on its abdomen.
  26. 26. 26 That’s about the little sightings I had on the Monsoon trails. These Monsoon trails were solely around Mumbai, the places I visited are given below: 1. Tungareshwar - Tungareshwar is at an altitude of about 2177 feet, one of the highest mountain plateaus in Vasai. It is thickly wooded and offers many opportunities to trekkers, mountaineers and nature lovers. The best time to visit Tungareshwar is during the rains or the winter season. By Road: Mumbai-Vasai35 km By Rail: Vasai (W.R.), Mumbai By Air: Mumbai. 2. Karjat: It has an average elevation of 194 meters (636 feet). It lies on the banks of the River Ulhas. It is a beautiful place for Butterflies and Amphibians. The best time to visit Karjat is during rains. By Road: Junction of Old Pune-Mumbai highway & Karjat State Highway near Khopoli, Mumbai-Pune Express highway. By Rail: Karjat (C. R.), Mumbai By Air: Mumbai. 3. Karnala: Karnala Bird Sanctuary is situated on Mumbai-Pune Highway to Goa, it is 60 k.m. away from Mumbai. A place ideal for birders and butterfly hunters, best visited in Post-monsoon and Pre-monsoon. By Road: Mumbai-Pune Highway By Rail: Panvel (Harbor line, C. R.), Navi Mumbai. By Air: Mumbai. P. T. O.
  27. 27. 27 4. Matheran: At an elevation of around 800m (2,625 ft) above sea level Matheran is a hill station located about 100 km from Mumbai. Matheran literally means jungle on top. All vehicles (Except emergency vehicles) are banned here. An amazing place for birds and other creatures. Best time to visit is during winter, post- monsoon and pre-monsoon. By Road: Old Mumbai-Pune Highway, 10 minutes drive from Panvel. By Rail: Panvel (Harbor line, C. R.), Navi Mumbai By Air: Mumbai. 5. Sanjay Gandhi National Park: The Borivali National Park or Sanjay Gandhi National Park is a rare National Park that lies within city limits. The park lies on the northern fringes of suburban Mumbai. It is a place easily accessible for nature enthusiasts in Mumbai. Ideal for all kinds of creatures. By Road: The Park is well connected by road network with other parts of Mumbai and other major cities and towns of Maharashtra. By Rail: Borivali (W. R.), Mumbai By Air: Mumbai Reference: 1. Butterflies of Peninsular India by Krushnamegh Kunte. 2. Wikipedia – en.wikipedia.org 3. Chin’s Nature Corner – http://www.geocities.com/RainForest/vines/8983/index.html , http://members.fortunecity.com/chinfahshin/spiders.html 4. Noctuids with Lots of Pictures – http://www.gardensafari.net/english/owlets.htm 5. Spiderzrule – http://www.spiderzrule.com/spiderphotos053.htm 6. Moths of India – http://www.flickr.com/groups/mothsofindia/ 7. Noctuids – http://www.thaibugs.com/mothowls.htm 8. Moth Photographers Group – http://mothphotographersgroup.msstate.edu/Files/Live/Living23.1F.shtml 9. JPMoth – http://www.jpmoth.org/~dmoth/0609Tsushima/TsushimaList.htm 10. Owl Moths – http://www.geocities.com/brisbane_noct/CATOCALINAE.htm

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