The Study of Butterflies – by Peter Smetacek

It is uncommon, even now,  to find online well-written general articles on nature in India, especially about a particular group of organisms. The usual fare from the subcontinent consists of blog posts and a few instructive emails, with the bulk of nature websites providing nothing or next to nothing for the normal reader. It was a pleasant surprise for me to discover recently a series of articles on butterflies, written by one of India’s leading aurelians, to use an old-fashioned world for someone who loves Lepidoptera, i.e. butterflies and moths, Peter Smetacek. Peter lives in Bhimtal, has loved and studied butterflies and moths all his life and is also a taxonomist. He has a small venture for nature trails.


Peter Smetacek identifying insects. (Image credit:Rufford Small Grants. Used under "fair use".)

I could write more extolling Peter and his virtues to you but prefer to let his writing speak for itself. They were written for the open access journal on science education, “Resonance” of the Indian Academy of Sciences.

Each is a short, lucidly written essay, easily understood by any reader and which explores a different facet of the magical world of butterflies. They are :

Smetacek (2000) The naming of butterflies.

Smetacek (2000) Flight, fuels & senses.

Smetacek (2001) Intraspecific variation.

Smetacek (2002) Congregations, Courtship and Migration.

Smetacek (2002) Defences & defensive behaviour.

A teaser from one of these articles…

One tale attributed to ‘Hindu mythology’ tells how Brahma, watching caterpillars gorge themselves, turn into pupae and finally emerge as butterflies in his vegetable garden was filled with great coalm. Thereafter he was sure of reaching his own perfection in the final incarnation. However, no one seems to know where and when this tale originated.

The naming of butterflies

“Resonance” may be open access but downloading the pdfs is problematic especially in the case of the first article where only the first page can be downloaded, and url twiddling in the browser is required to access the other pages. To make things easy for the readers of this blog, I have placed the pdfs in my allotted storage with links for downloading these. Enjoy!

DISCLAIMER: I know Peter Smetacek from the Indian butterfly community, have visited him once in Bhimtal and also corresponded by email. These articles are being publicised by me solely at my initiative based on the merit of the nature writing.  I have not asked Peter for his assent nor been approached by him in this regard.

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5 Comments on “The Study of Butterflies – by Peter Smetacek”

  1. […] few days ago, I had recommended the butterfly articles of Peter Smetacek of Bhimtal. Now I have something different – […]

  2. Ramjee Nagarajan Says:

    I loved the entire collection of your postings here…

  3. Alok Kumar Says:

    Hi Sir,
    Myself Alok Kumar. I m a student of Saraswati vihar, Nainital. U were our English Speaking Sir.
    I was looking for u for many yrs. If u r available here pls send me ur contact no. I m working with some nutrition and wellness expertise.
    I need ur help and blessings in order to suceed in my job.
    Yours student,
    Alok Kumar

  4. rahul choudhary Says:

    i cant believe this i am getting to know about peter sir after a long a time he used to teach me English in my junior years and was my favourate teacher

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