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Counting ants and butterflies

Sharath S. Srivatsa



RIOT OF COLOURS: Some of the colourful butterflies identified at Bandipur National Park during a survey on insects by Green Club.

MYSORE: The first survey conducted on insects in Bandipur National Park, near here, has identified a wide range of ants, beetles and butterflies, which is expected to promote studies on insects in the area. The survey has revealed the presence of 27 species of ants and 41 species of dung beetles and 85 species of butterflies.

Among the insects in Bandipur, seven species of ants and seven species of dung beetles are yet to be identified. Nine species of rare dung beetles represented by single specimen in the collection of the survey have been identified in the national park.

This survey conducted for one year and across four seasons was taken up by the Mysore-based Green Club, a trust dedicated to nature studies. Being the first of its kind on insects, the survey will become a base study for research, which can be taken up in 866 sq. km. of national park.

The club has submitted a checklist of ants, beetles and butterflies to the Forest Department.

Sapthagirish of Green Club told The Hindu that the club has taken up research on insects because many are not interested in their studies although it occupied an important place in the eco-system. He said the studies will help in preservation and research on insects that can be taken up by institutions.

Insects are frowned upon for being pests and disease vectors. Insects occupy an important place in the eco-system by providing protein rich food and medicine. The much-needed eco-system services in the form of pollination, biological control, nutrient recycling and soil aeration are rendered by insects.

It has been estimated that the eco-system services rendered by insects will be worth $ 1 trillion a year, he said.

Over 100 volunteers, who camped in 20 spots in Bandipur forests over a period of four seasons, Green Club is able to generate the data, using various collection and preservation techniques such as Light trap, Pheromone trap, Food Lure trap, Pit fall trap, Berlese funnel, Malaise trap and so on.

The University of Illinois, the Forest Department, and Dr. Priyadarsanan Dharma Rajan, a Fellow Scientist at the Centre for Insect Taxonomy and Conservation of Ashoka Trust for Research in Ecology and Environment (ATREE), assisted the Green Club in the research.

Buoyed by the success of initial studies, the club has embarked upon taking up higher research on leaf beetles, dung beetles, butterflies and ants.

Bhadri Prasad, Project Coordinator, said the club is planning to undertake research on these insects up to the DNA level. Higher research in the area, according to Mr. Prasad, will enable scientists to understand insects better.

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