This year I took part in the Big Butterfly Count
As soon as the buddleia comes out I always take some time to watch the myriad different butterflies who just love the purple spikes. There’s often a dozen peacock butterflies sunning themselves on the flowers, sipping nectar, fluttering their wings and showing off their spectacular colours.
Counting butterflies on a beautiful sunny afternoon is a tranquil, calming experience, watching them flutter from flower to flower, sometimes dancing together against the blue sky and skating clouds, seeing how many different butterflies join the feast; large and small whites love the flowers and there’s usually one or two red admirals and commas as well. This year there were also two painted lady butterflies – but no small tortoiseshells – evidently they have been attacked by a parasitic fly – one of the reasons why David Attenborough’s butterfly count is so important – we can see the effects of these invasive insects.
Butterflies love buddleia because it produces lots of nectar, its deep flowers are accessible only to insects with long tongues and its flowers are clustered together so a butterfly can collect lots of nectar from one place. Verbena and cosmos also attract butterflies – and food plants for their caterpillars include nettles and thistles. Also ragwort which is a fascinating plant to watch – dozens of different insects love the flowers and the black and yellow caterpillars of the beautiful red cinnabar moth love the leaves.
I also discovered that we have two different blue butterflies – the common blue – which likes bird’s foot trefoil – and the holly blue which (as the name suggests) feeds on holly (and ivy).
Meadow browns (left) and ringlets (right) love the marjoram in my herb garden.
Published in the August edition of the Whitchurch Gossip