If a butterfly flaps its wings...


Where have they all gone? Our butterfly population was very sparse this year. If you did the Big Butterfly count, then you will know that the numbers are at an all-time low since the project began thirteen years ago. You would think that with this hot summer we would have had lots of butterflies but no, there were very few in our garden this time. We have grown flowers especially for them, but they did not come very often. What was wrong?

The only explanation must be that there is not the correct habitat for them. The caterpillars need the right leaves to eat and the chrysalises need special places to hibernate. I was surprised to see that the gatekeeper butterfly came in as the most common, but it is not one that most of us know. It is a little brown shy creature with ‘eyes’ on each wing. I found ours in Oak Meadow in amongst the wild grasses and on the bramble flowers at our gate. They are often at gateway scrub land and that is where they get their name.

You might think that we have all got a lot more to worry about than the loss of butterflies. The world situation does not seem so good and there are any number of crises to think about and the butterfly predicament is not one of them. But I am not so sure. Have you heard the saying beginning, ‘If a butterfly flaps its wings somewhere in Africa…’? The thought is that we can trace most things that happen back to a chain of events which shape our future. One small thing leads to another bigger thing.

Hoping to have more luck with the birds than the butterflies, we have put our bird table out. I know a lot of people feed the birds all year, but I think that we have enough wildlife here for the birds to find food naturally in the summer. They do a good job because our apples are free of codling moth caterpillars which rely on fruit and there are no ‘maggots’ on our raspberries. Are the birds eating the butterfly larvae too? Well, no they can’t be the culprits because even the large white butterfly numbers are down and their yellow and black caterpillars are horrors and are poisonous to birds.

I do not know about you but these days I always seem to be going for a jab or waiting for one. Mr T and I have allocated special tee shirts for these occasions. They are short sleeved tops for easy access. I am thinking of buying some more, then I will always be prepared.

(Taken from my column in the Shropshire Star)

Speckled wood butterflies were occasionally seen this autumn and summer


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