Pet Talk
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Pet Talk

By Maneka Gandhi

In this week’s Pet Talk, Maneka speaks about roosting  habits in pigeons and explains about butterfly activities

Why do pigeons roost on roof or in gutters?

Pigeons like comfortable sunny places that are safe from predators and the elements with plenty of food and water available. The nests are built of twigs but quickly become so covered in droppings that they look like a big pile of waste. When the babies are born, they are a dull brown and are perfectly camouflaged in the nest when they are still.  Gutters are dish-shaped and provide great nesting sites that securely hold the nests. Pigeons nest and roost on, and in, houses because it gives them a good view of nearby feeding areas or because they have gained access to the interior of the building. They usually access buildings through broken windows, missing or loose vents or  any other small gap or opening. Pigeons also like high places because they are able to keep a close watch on things and spot predators. Pigeons are social birds and each flock works as a team. Someone always has an eye out  for danger.

Where do pigeons normally live?

Pigeons live in every part of the world but the North and South Poles.  They started out as pets, but through accidental, or intentional, release have developed into perhaps the most common feral bird.  Originally they liked places with lots of grain, like farms, especially when they are near areas with good nesting sites in high and inaccessible places, like cliffs or buildings. Once known as “rock doves,” pigeons live anywhere there is adequate food and shelter and are common in most urban and suburban areas. Stadiums and fast-food restaurants, parks and bridges, airports and schools – all are common pigeon environments.

What is the lifespan of a butterfly?

An adult butterfly probably has an average life-span of approximately one month. In the wild, most butterflies’ lives are shorter than this because of predators, disease, and large objects, such as automobiles. The smallest butterflies may live only a week or so, while a few butterflies, such as Monarchs, Mourning Cloaks and Tropical Heliconians, can live up to nine months.

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How do butterflies survive the winters?

In areas where temperatures drop below freezing during part of the winter, at least one stage in a butterfly species’ life cycle must be resistant to freezing if the species is resident. Most butterflies that live in cold climates spend the winter as caterpillars, while almost as many spend the winter as pupas. A few species, mainly Tortoiseshells (Nymphalis) and Angelwings (Polygonia), spend the winter as adults, hibernating in holes in trees, in crevices in man-made structures, or in other shelters. A very few species spend the winter as eggs.

What do butterflies eat?

Most adult butterflies drink nectar from flowers through their tongues, which function much like straws. A minority of butterflies almost never visits flowers, instead gaining sustenance from tree sap, rotting animal matter, and other organic material.

Butterfly caterpillars almost all eat plant matter. Most caterpillars eat leaves, but some species eat seeds and seed pods, while others specialize on flowers. Most species will eat only a small group of related plant species — for example Pearl Crescent caterpillars will eat species of asters. Some species, such as Gray Hairstreaks, will eat a wide variety of plants, and some will eat only a single plant species.

Where do butterflies lay their eggs?

Most butterflies lay their eggs on plants that will be eaten by the caterpillar, when it hatches. Some species lay their eggs on the tops of leafs, some on the bottom, some at the leaf axils, some on flowers, and some on stalks.

Do butterflies migrate?

Yes, butterflies do migrate. The long-distance migration can be attributed to a combination of climatic factors, food availability and breeding habitat preferences.

Why do butterflies taste with their feet?

Butterflies taste with their feet as their taste sensors are located there. They can taste it by just standing on their food. They don’t have mouths that allow them to bite or chew, instead they have a long straw-like structure, called a proboscis, which they use to drink nectar and juices.

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How can you distinguish between male and female butterflies?

The colour pattern on the upper wing (dorsal) surfaces often differs in many species of butterflies. For example, in species of Blues, the male’s dorsal wing colour is often bright blue, whereas that of females has lots of brown. Another good way to tell the difference between male and female butterflies is by behaviour. Males are often perching, or patrolling, in search of females, and females spend a lot time searching for plants on which to lay their eggs. The final and definitive way is to examine the abdomen. Females tend to have rounder abdomens. Males have a slit at the tip, and females have a round hole where the eggs are laid.

Do butterfly caterpillars sting?

No butterfly or moth possess the capability to inflict a sting.

Are butterflies poisonous?

Yes, some species of  butterflies are poisonous. Most butterflies that are poisonous are orange in colour. It is a warning to other animals not to eat them. Some species that are not poisonous are also orange though, this is called batesian mimicry, and they use the warning colours to discourage predators, even though they themselves are not poisonous.

Who are earthworm enemies?

The earthworm has many enemies, including mites, ants, centipedes, earwigs, nematodes, fly larvae, termites, springtails, sowbugs, snails, slugs, millipedes, spiders, birds, rats, mice, moles, gophers, toads and snakes.

Why do cockroaches turn over when they die?

Their bulky bodies are composed of three heavy body segments which are only supported by six long, thin legs. As they die they lose muscle control, causing the leg muscles to contract. As a result, the legs are pulled beneath the body, causing them to lose their balance and topple over onto their backs. This also explains why cockroaches on the wall fall off when they get sprayed with insecticides.

July 11, 2018

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