Hartley Magazine

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Gardeners ‘can aid butterfly populations’

There are many things that appeal to people about getting to work outdoors and improving their green spaces.

Green-fingered enthusiasts use their garden for a wide range of purposes – from growing fruit and veg to creating a beautiful array of flowers, to simply creating an area to impress the neighbors and entertain guests in.

However, they are also very well placed to give something back to nature and nurture the local wildlife. Butterflies are just one creature that would undoubtedly benefit from this kind of generosity.

Speaking to British newspaper the Daily Telegraph, renowned television presenter Sir David Attenborough urged gardeners to do their bit for butterflies by optimising a habit especially for the creatures.

Knapweed and cowslips are among the plants that can provide them with good feed – and nettles are also a great source of sustenance for some species. However, this needs to be in a large patch that has a good degree of exposure to sunlight if the butterflies are to really feel the benefits.

Wild flower meadows are also more beneficial than "regimental rows of geraniums and delphiniums", according to Sir David.

"I much prefer wild species to cultivars and it encourages wildlife. Not only insects but birds and mammals," he continued, adding: "You can play a vital role in the battle to secure their future."

The Butterfly Website underlines the fact that this is becoming a very popular pastime in the garden. Indeed – the sight of butterflies fluttering around the garden is one of the more joyful benefits of the pastime.

It was specified that butterflies need at least five to six hours of sunlight a day in order to warm themselves. They require shelter and protection from the winds, as they do not want to stay in an area where they are fighting the elements just to stay sat still on a plant.

Flat stones are also a big hit with the creatures, as they enjoy taking a break from feeding and warming up. Water is also an essential inclusion in any butterfly-friendly garden, as they need ample quantities of this, just as almost any other species does.

Author of The Family Butterfly Book Rick Mikula recently told the Associated Press that forward planning is one of the key factors to take into consideration. He claimed that simply planting a few butterfly-friendly blooms is sufficient – even if this is just a scattering of pots and containers outside a greenhouse.

This is a very simple task and there is no reason that it should break the bank, as daisies, asters and violets can all offer butterflies a small snack.

More specific advice on good choice of fauna is provided by the North American Butterfly Association. Many garden plants in shops are labelled "butterfly friendly" – and there is good cause for this.

It is most likely that these are nectar plants that are marketed for their bright colours – although these may not provide for the creatures when they are in the caterpillar stage.

Mr Mikula emphasised that it is important to give something back to the natural world, as habitat destruction is one of the biggest issues that the world's wildlife population faces at the present time.

Sir David agreed, stating that dwindling numbers of butterflies is particularly noteworthy across the pond in the UK.

"In my youth I remember 50 red admirals and tortoiseshells on a butterfly bush now I am lucky if I see one," he commented, adding that unusual climate activity is not helping.

"The wet weather this spring and early summer is already has made life really hard for our butterflies and things could get worse unless conditions improve," Sir David explained.