Butterflies by planting a Buddleia Bush or by letting the nettles grow? Government encourages gardeners and farmers to conserve butterfly habitats.
Is Britain entering a post-butterfly era? This fear has been expressed by Sir David Attenborough, much respected naturalist and TV broadcaster who for 50 years has been bringing the natural world into UK living rooms.
Survival Zones will be Grant Aided
He has thrown his weight behind a campaign to rescue native butterfly species from extinction. During an interview on BBC TV he announced 20 “Survival Zones” where farmers and growers will be eligible to apply for grant aid in order to create conservation areas by restoring habitat that has been destroyed for agriculture.
Butterflies under threat include the high brown fritillary and marsh fritillary that are found on Dartmoor, the Adonis Blue that is found on the Downs of southern England and the Swallow Tail that lives in the shrinking fenlands of the Norfolk Broads area.
Butterflies Are a Rarity in British Countryside
Sir David commented “Much of Britain’s countryside is a no-go area for many favourite butterflies. Habitat has been ploughed up or become overgrown. Anybody who’s been for a country walk recently will tell you that butterflies are a rarity.
The importance of butterflies is that they tell us if the land is healthy or not. If there is an absence of butterflies it means the land is endangered or sick.”
Restoring the Balance in Favour of Butterflies
The government has agreed to finance this initiative through grants to farmers, enabling them to restore land to provide the correct habitat for endangered species. Hopefully this will reverse the trend towards extinction.
How Can Individuals Help to Conserve Butterflies?
Individuals can do a lot to help save the butterfly. One simple initiative is to provide food and host plants for the butterfly population. A food plant provides nectar for the adult butterfly and so blossoms are important.
The butterfly then needs to lay its eggs on the leaves of a host plant such as the humble nettle (Urtica). After hatching the caterpillars will feed on the leaves of the host plant which also provides shelter for the chrysalis stage.
Some Butterfly Friendly Plants Include:
- The Buddleia Bush
- Honeysuckle – a fragrant climber that can be trained up a post or drainpipe
- Hebe (common name Veronica)
- Echinacea purpurea – common name Purple Coneflower
- Herbs such as Sage and Marjoram
- Monarda (common name Bee Balm)
or if you don’t have the time or energy for horticulture why not just allow a clump of nettles to grow in a corner of the garden.
A few more Do’s and Don’ts
- Do find out about your local species, what plants they feed and lay eggs on
- Do provide moist mud for the butterflies to drink from
- Do leave some leaf litter around and plant shrubs where butterflies can hibernate
Do clump several plants together for visibility
- Don’t use pesticides
- Don’t use pesticides