Where Have the Butterflies gone?
Years ago, When I was young, I lived in Birmingham. I had a friend, yes, I actually had friends back then, who had a Buddleia in his garden. Commonly known as the butterfly bush. Every summer we would gather around this bush identifying all the butterflies that gathered on it. Peacock, Small tortoiseshell, Painted Lady, plus others. We noted them down, looked and at the end of summer when the bush had given its last, we mourned the loss of the spectacle.
In my current job, I travel around a lot. I see a lot of Buddleia Bushes. Are they swarming with Butterflies? The answer is no. 2 may be 3 on one bush. Certainly not the huge number in the late 60’s early 70’s.
So, I went to the Butterfly conservation website to see if my totally un scientific observation was born out. Well, yes it was but it is also an improving situation albeit very slowly.
The link above takes you to the latest report Page 6 is the one I am interested in. It shows all the species and how they declined. From my point of view, there is far too much red and nowhere near enough green. What this is not is a plea to say we must do more because, to be frank, very few people would listen and the ones that do, listen to everything. So, the question is why. I am no scientist, but habitat loss and global warming seem to be the main 2 aspects. But as my environmental scientist friends tell me constantly. It’s not that simple. However, the latter half of the report does give some hope as to what is going on to reverse the decline.
It’s easy just to pick on one general species of fauna. Let’s take Birds, 30 years ago in my garden I used to get 20 or so different birds. Sparrows, for instance, came in flocks of 30 or 40. Now I am lucky to see 6 at one time. I don’t see Linnets, Green finches, Great Tits, Coal Tits Long Tailed Tits, Gold crest, Wrens. the list goes on.
I suspect it’s the same where ever you look you can find declines in all species.
So rather than just sitting around bemoaning the loss of habitat for all these creatures I decided to do something. This is an ongoing project in my garden. This is converting it slowly to a wildlife garden.
One corner is devoted to a range of wildflowers. In the middle of this is a tree stump. Rather than remove it I have drilled loads of holes into it and left the ivy cover. This provides a refuge for grubs and insects, both in the holes and the Ivy. The area around has a selection of native wildflowers and plants designed to encourage bees into it, not forgetting the butterflies.
I have a tree which, due to constraints of height being imposed by my better half, is more of a tall bush. This should hopefully give some refuge for the birds that visit the garden. I have a log pile. I don’t need one but again should give some give refuge alongside this is a pile bark randomly placed in order to give spaces for insects etc. The grass around the log pile and down one side is left deliberately long. The fence has a cut out for Hedgehogs. These have seen HUGE declines and desperately need our help. Finally, a damp area for Toads.
The concept behind this is to provide a rich and varied number of habitats for wildlife in the garden. This has not had too much of an impact on the overall look as the main area is still kept “tidy”.
Everyone thinks that loss of habitat is beyond anything they can do and that it is best left for nature reserves to sort out. Well yes and no. As I have shown here it is perfectly possible to have a rich and varied garden the caters for both family and wildlife. Giving somewhere for insects to live means the birds have something to forage for. So, they have a refuge. British gardens are an immense swath of land. More importantly, they can provide corridors for wildlife to migrate along.
Reserves are good but if taken in isolation can prove fatal.
If you take one species native to a county and they all survive in one reserve if anything happens to the area, then the species goes into decline. BUT if they were able to move away from the problem then there is less likely hood of that decline taking place.
Wildlife gardens are an ideal way to provide these corridors. It doesn’t have to be acres of land just an area of refuge in each garden.
I have spent the greater part of my free time outdoors and have seen the changes to our countryside. Yes, I am saddened by the hedgerows going. Monocrop culture and intensive farming. But it is not the farmer’s fault. They want the land to be rich and fertile and make money. We demand cheaper food. Now we may not pay as much but the cost is far greater than money. The cost is at the diversity of species that are going into decline, and unless we do something, we will lose more than butterflies.
Butterfly Conservation can be found HERE