What is it about butterflies that so delights and intrigues us? Why is it we still notice and comment on them in our gardens? And why is it, even as an adult, this is usually followed by: ‘I wonder what kind it is?’ or ‘it’s a very colourful one!’
With this in mind, on a bright, August day, I joined a crowd of both, children and adults, at the community garden, for the Big Butterfly Count with Anthony from Butterfly Conservation. This is the 50th Anniversary of Butterfly Conservation so it seemed apt to hear more about the work it does. First off, we were given a handy chart to help with identification or there was an app for those who prefer to use technology. Then, we set out with our excellent guide to spot Large White, Small White (and a small Large White!) Green-veined White, Peacock, Small Tortoiseshell and Small Copper. Some of the butterflies were caught in a specialised net – don’t try this at home, it really is an art – and then, transferred to a glass jar for us to have a closer look. They were then safely set free to get on with their business. It was a fascinating afternoon.
As gardeners there is plenty we can do to encourage butterflies, the most obvious is by growing butterfly-friendly plants. The good news is, if you already garden for bees, the butterflies tend to like these flowers, too. It can be a bit complicated as the caterpillars need specific food but basically if you have the following in your patch then you’re standing up for butterflies! Here goes: buddleia, honeysuckle, honesty, forget-me-nots, red campion, chives, lavender, ivy, hebe, verbena and teasel…to name but a few. If you want more advice, pop down to the Tayport Community Garden for a more comprehensive guide. Or you can explore Garden’s Save Our Pollinators online trail.
The other thing I’ve done is make a couple of discreet wood piles around the garden because – and I had no idea about this until the walk – adult peacock butterflies hibernate for the winter and need dry places to hide.
It seems ironic to me that the motif of butterflies is everywhere in our lives: on notebooks, dresses, curtains, cushions, even a café name and yet, we appear to be so very thoughtless about ‘real’ butterflies. If you want to do more to help, you could get in touch with Butterfly Conservation East Scotland Branch: Glyn Edwards T: 01259 752094 E: firstname.lastname@example.org
My next challenge is moths – I can only distinguish between big moths and little moths!