The butterfly population in the UK has declined by more than 3/4 in the last 40 years, that’s quite shocking don’t you think?
I must admit that I don’t know much about these beautiful little creatures, most of what I do know comes from that iconic childrens’ book ‘The Very Hungry Caterpillar’, from egg to chrysalis to butterfly does seem like a magical transformation.
Prettiness is not their only claim to fame:
- Like all creatures, they play an important part in the food chain for birds and bats. Apparently blue tits eat about 50 billion moth caterpillars each year. [I think that’s the whole population of blue tits and not just one very greedy fellow] In turn blue tits eat a lot of little garden pests, so I’d like to encourage plenty of them into our garden.
- Because butterflies are so fragile they’re a good indicator of how well everything else is doing, if butterflies are doing well near you than it’s likely that other wildlife is too.
So why are the declining on such a vast scale?
You probably guessed, fewer habitats, places for them to live and breed and climate change, which has meant colder, wetter summers.
The really good thing is that if you have a garden, no matter how small, then you can make a habitat for them, growing nectar-rich plants like buddlia, thyme or lavender.
- Have plants that flower in the butterfly season from March to November, autumn plants matter a lot because butterflies build up reserves for the winter.
- Leave a patch of grass un-mown and it’ll turn into a mini-meadow, leave a patch of nettles for peacock, small tortoiseshell and red admiral butterflies to lay their eggs on.
- Encourage your school and local council to grow the right plants for butterflies and/or leave an area un-mown.
Up until 7th August you can take part in The Big Butterfly Count, it only takes 15 minutes, and it gives the people that matter an idea of the butterfly population and what species need protecting.
Without stinging nettles, peacock, small tortoiseshell and red admiral butterflies would have nowhere to lay their eggs, so find a space for nettles somewhere.
In other news, we’re off to Cornwall for a long weekend at the Port Eliot Festival, among all the delights there will be beautiful plants in the walled garden, supplied by Ben of Higgledy Garden, so there will definately be news of that next week.
All of the above are loved by butterflies, you can see a list by The Royal Horticultural Society here of more plants that are good for butterflies.
Find out more about The Big Butterfly Count here
all photos: Jill Anderson