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How I Turned My Small Balcony into a Flourishing Butterfly Garden

How to grow a garden that attracts butterflies? Mumbai-based Priyanka Singh transformed her 13th-floor apartment balcony into a sanctuary for over 5,000 butterflies of 10-15 different species. Here’s the journey that led her to this.

How I Turned My Small Balcony into a Flourishing Butterfly Garden

Who doesn’t enjoy watching colourful butterflies in flight? The winged beauties leave anyone fascinated, with children deriving so much pleasure from chasing them around.

However, the very existence of butterflies today is facing many threats — including habitat loss, climate change, and indiscriminate usage of pesticides on plants. Seen abundantly earlier, their habitat is now unfortunately confined only to a few parks and gardens.

But interestingly, in the heart of Mumbai, Priyanka Singh’s apartment has turned into a haven for many butterfly species.

Affectionately dubbed the ‘Butterfly Mom’, Priyanka has transformed her balcony into a paradise, all set up to attract these winged beauties. Picture this: lemon plants, lantana, Jamaican spike, curry leaves, meswak, ixora, patharchatta — all blooming and buzzing with life. These plants aren’t just for show – they provide the perfect spots for butterflies to lay their eggs and nectar.

 In the last 10 years, she claims to have nurtured over 5,000 butterflies.
In the last 10 years, she claims to have nurtured over 5,000 butterflies.

She believes that these tiny eggs often fall victim to destruction during routine weeding or mindless pruning. Once hatched into caterpillars, they voraciously feed on plants until they undergo metamorphosis into pupae, eventually emerging as beautiful butterflies. Before taking flight to seek out new habitats, they rest and stretch their wings, preparing for their journey ahead.

Originally from Varanasi, Priyanka never imagined working to protect biodiversity. However, when she moved to Mumbai, she was disheartened to witness garbage and waste issues with ecological degradation. Having spent her childhood enjoying the shade of trees and rich biodiversity, she wanted to raise her daughter in an environment closer to nature.

This motivated her to create an urban organic garden.

Then one day, she saw a small caterpillar eating a leaf from one of her plants. And after a few days, she saw that this caterpillar had transformed into a beautiful butterfly. After that incident, she became so fond of butterflies that she started reading about them. This newfound passion led her to create a small ecosystem within her high-rise apartment, where she rears butterflies on the 13th floor.

In the last 10 years, Priyanka claims to have nurtured over 5,000 butterflies — including tailed jay, lime swallowtail, common mormon, red pierrot, blue tiger, salmon arab, and lime blue. She adds that rare species — such as the apefly butterfly and sunbeam butterfly — visit to lay their eggs, while others like the painted lady, common grass butterfly, common emigrant, common leopard butterfly, palm bob, and blank swift frequent the space for nectaring.

Butterflies
Priyanka rears butterflies on her 13th-floor apartment balcony.

Apart from that, she has been studying and documenting butterflies in her residential area, having successfully raised over 55 species from caterpillars. Among these are the common crow, plain tiger, blue tiger, blue moon or great eggfly, danaid eggfly, common jay, palm fly, giant red eye, common awl, peacock pansy, chocolate pansy, and lemon pansy.

She also claims to have raised over 5,000 butterflies from 50-55 species and “caught sight of the Red Spot butterfly after 108 years in Uttar Pradesh”.

To learn more about the butterfly world, you can reach out to Priyanka (Green Hope) on Facebook, Instagram, or email her at [email protected].

(Edited by Pranita Bhat; All photos: Priyanka Singh)

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