February 2018 Meeting of the Ashdon Gardening Club
Ian Bedford talked about Butterfly Gardening
Dr Ian Bedford, Head of the Entomology Facility at John Innes, Norwich, provided us with a very enjoyable , interesting and informative talk about butterflies and associated bugs.
He ran through the life cycle of the butterfly and explained the main differences between butterflies and moths and how to tell them apart, except for a few anomalies. He then told us about certain species and how remarkable some of them are.
Ian informed us that butterflies are important both for the environment and for enriching the lives of people. For this they need healthy habitats, sunlight and warmth during the right seasons, shelter from storms, safe overwintering sites and caterpillar food plants. Their natural enemies are predators such as spiders, parasites, fungus and bacteria, viruses and bad weather. Unnatural enemies are habitat loss such as the removal of hedgerows, and climate change. Pesticides, particularly neonicotinoids which are essential for high yields, are a major problem, especially in East Anglia. Their presence can last a long time and may contaminate wild flowers and may even be present in some of the plants we purchase from nurseries and garden centres. Rivers too can be polluted and this applies to the Wensum and Waveney. We should therefore try not to use pesticides in gardens and use organic slug pellets.
Nectar providing Spring plants include crocuses, sea thrift, bugle, hawthorn, prunus and cherry. Summer plants are candytuft, sedum, lavender, aster and of course buddleia. Perennial sunflowers and wallflowers are also recommended. Catmint, lantana and verbena bonariensis are good for Autumn. Putting out ripe fruit also helps. Plants that help growing caterpillars are fescue grasses, cocks foot, nasturtiums and stinging nettles but the latter need a good sized patch to be useful.
Although there has been a large decrease in most butterfly numbers over the past 40 years some of the more common ones have increased during the same period.