A Report, 2007
- By Aniruddha H. D.
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
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
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.
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
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.”
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.
It is a moth that mimics Wasps. It is a day flying
species, commonly seen on the outskirts of
It is seen throughout the year. This photo was taken
at Karjat, and also sighted at Karnala.
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.
A Geometridae. There
are many similar
species of Scopula,
which makes the
species quiet difficult.
This photo was taken at
A Leaf mimicking
moth which when rests
upon a leaf litter,
well, although the
electric blue marking
on the under-wing
makes it easy to spot.
This photo was taken at
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.
It is a Noctuid moth,
identified by twin dark
marks on the upper
wings; and brightly
wander out at night;
hence such moths
belong to the
Thyas coronata belongs
to the sub-family
It is another Noctuid
belonging to the sub-
There is no Common
Name for this one.
The typical feature of
this moth is the
triangular pattern with
It is typically seen
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
Another Noctuid belonging
Its upper-wings are lustrous,
and under proper light
conditions, it shows a
The hind-wings are brightly
When resting in a closed
wing position, it camouflages
well in a natural background.
The caterpillar is a
Looper worm – that
feeds on a variety of
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
Common in the post-
monsoon season. Its
caterpillar feeds on
The name ‘Webworm’
is so because the
caterpillar spins a web
in which it lives.
May act as a pest.
This species (or a relating)
feeds on Jasmine, therefore
also called as a Jasmine
Identified by its translucent
lustrous wings, and a
golden, orange or brown
It belongs to Spilomelinae
– a subfamily. Typical
character of Spilomelinae is
the ‘snout-like’ face.
It is most probably a
A Leaf-roller moth
Another moth belonging to
There is a boon in their population
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-
These were the only ones I could capture through lens in this vast space full of tiny moths
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
3. Tailed Jay
4. Common Rose
Atrophaneura (Pachliopta) aristolochiae
5. Lime Butterfly
6. Common Mormon
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
Euthalia nais 9. Chocolate Pansy
10. Common Bushbrown – wet
11. Common Indian Crow
12. Common Leopard
13. Great Eggfly Female
14. Great Eggfly Male
15. Common Palmfly
16. Plain Tiger
17. Tawny Coster
18. Evening Brown – Dry
Melanitis leda Linnaeus
19. Common Castor
20. Striped Tiger.
21. Blue Tiger
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
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.
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
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
30. Rice Swift
31. Grass Demon
That’s about the Lepidopterans I could photograph on the Monsoon Trails.
About an average number of other insects (Grasshoppers, Odonatas and other Bugs) I
captured alongside the Lepidoptera. We will see first the Grasshoppers.
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.
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
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.
Other Insects were seen in much less density compared to the ones discussed above.
These are the Coleoptera, Hemiptera, and Hymenoptera.
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
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.
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
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.
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
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
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
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.
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!
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.
Amblypygids are also known as
tailless whip scorpions or cave
Some species are subterranean; many
are nocturnal. During the day, they
may hide under logs, bark, stones, or
leaves. They prefer a humid
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 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.
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.
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.
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
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
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
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.
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
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.
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
1. Butterflies of Peninsular India by Krushnamegh Kunte.
2. Wikipedia – en.wikipedia.org
3. Chin’s Nature Corner –
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 –
9. JPMoth – http://www.jpmoth.org/~dmoth/0609Tsushima/TsushimaList.htm
10. Owl Moths – http://www.geocities.com/brisbane_noct/CATOCALINAE.htm