Finding a love for weeds in Butterfly paradise

Butterflies are known to be pretty scarce across east Anglian farmland, and this makes sense given the vast expanses of cereals that grow across most of it and the fact that 70% of butterfly species are in decline in the UK anyway. Of course, that doesn’t have to be the case, and where wild flowering plants are allowed to flourish – so will the butterflies.

At the Hope farm, 26 butterfly surveys are undertaken throughout the summer, and today was one of those fruitful days where the benefits of floristic and Pollen and Nectar margins become very obvious. Here are a few of the gems that we discovered whilst out for the afternoon…

A Brown Argus, one of many we saw during the afternoon. Before putting in floral margins, hardly any were found within the 450 acres of Hope farm’s arable land
A stunning Red Admiral warming on a Teasel
Teasels provide a fantastic resource for butterflies and other pollinators. Unfortunately they also provide a fantastic resource of prickles to scratch arms and legs too
I think you’ve gathered by now that Red Admirals like teasels…
Another Brown Argus, on a Thistle
Common Blue male, with a very similar underwing to  the Brown Argus, but with the fantastic blue on top
a Comma perched on top of a Teasel. It’s not just the Red Admirals that like these prickly b**gars
An Essex Skipper, identifiable by the dark underneath the antenna (I can’t claim to have known this before the afternoon out, so it really is true you learn something new everyday)
Beautiful Painted Lady, having flown all the way from Morocco, to have a rest on our path

After a couple of hours I wondered whether I was being more of a help or hindrance on the butterfly survey, bouncing with each step, and thrusting my camera up in front of my eyes with every butterfly that landed in my path. Nevertheless, it was a fantastic afternoon.

I also came to realise that the habitat which every butterfly had been found on was in agricultural terms a classified weed. Many farmers, members of the public, and to be honest, most of any kind of person controlling a patch of maintained outdoors, will spray most of these plants off, or cut them before they can set seed and spread further afield next year. Unfortunately I see more and more that if not replaced with another good resource, it will stop the butterflies propagating too.

Today, my love for weeds grew, as I understood even more how valuable native wild plants are for wildlife. Invertebrates and other animals have evolved over thousands of years to use weeds that would naturally become the most abundant resource in a semi-wild landscape. Maybe then, it seems reasonable for people  to accommodate more small patches of these weeds, or similar plants useful to our pollinators in outdoor spaces, to learn to enjoy them just like I have today. If we can do that then I am sure that then we will see more of these beautiful butterflies across our landscape once more.


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