Colour or black and white?

On our first morning in Naukuchiatal I saw a butterfly sunning itself on the terrace next to the lake. This was the first butterfly I’d seen since our walk in Binsar. Presumably the forest fires in the northern parts of Kumaon were not too good for butterflies. From the markings this looked like either a sailer or a sergeant. These are two species complexes, a group of very similar looking butterflies. The sailers belong to the genus Neptis, and the sergeants to genus Athyma. The white scallops at the edge of the wing (called costal markings) and the shape of the club on the antenna led me to think that it was a Neptis. There are still 50 species of Neptis, and it is not so easy to drill down to species. Eventually I decided that it was probably from quite a different genus, a Neptis mimic, the Short-banded Sailer (Phaedyma columella). I could be wrong. Butterflies are not easy to identify, especially if they come from a species complex which has many mimics.

Within seconds a very colourful analogue of this butterfly settled near me. Simple, I thought, one of the yellow sailers. But now I don’t think I was right. You can see a little tail on the hindwing. This is not a Neptis. I don’t have an ID for this, not even tentative. Sad.

Note added: Not so sad any longer, since people responded to my request for help. Peter Smetacek of the Butterfly Museum in Bhimtal supplied the ID first. This is a Symbrenthia lilaea, more colloquially called a common Jester. Thanks also to Deb of Call of the Wild for supplying the same ID independently.

By I. J. Khanewala

I travel on work. When that gets too tiring then I relax by travelling for holidays. The holidays are pretty hectic, so I need to unwind by getting back home. But that means work.

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