Saturday, 28 August 2010

Butterflies + Nettles + Sunshine = More Butterflies

I was absent-mindedly scratching my leg earlier, wondering why it itched and remembered that it was a nettle sting.  Blasted things, as if the immediate burning and stinging wasn’t bad enough, I seem to prickle, tingle and itch for a fortnight or more afterwards.  And this is just from the relatively mild Urtica species found in the UK.  I could cheerfully uproot them all, were it not for the insects they support, not to mention their use as food, tea, medicine, dye, plant food and fibre for clothing.

So I leave the nettles to grow, especially clumps in sunshine, as these attract butterflies such as like the Small Tortoiseshell Aglais urticae.

A couple of months ago, I saw a pair on a clump next to the compost heap and a little while later, the nettles were being stripped by caterpillars.  Now the nettles are looking the worse for wear and we are surrounded by Small Tortoiseshell butterflies. 

A quick count outside just now revealed 16, on Buddleia, sunning themselves on leaves or walls or just generally hanging around.  There are so many around, you don’t even have to look for them, and I love it.  It makes me feel as though I’ve got something right.

Earlier today, I was following a female Common Blue Polyommatus icarus around our pond, but couldn’t get a photo.  It’s a new species for the farm, as in previous years we have only had Holly Blues Celastrina Argiolus around occasionally in the hedgerows (with the Holly!).  Unfortunately, I have not seen any Painted Lady Vanessa cardui at all this year, which is a shame because we have lots of thistles for them.

And the lack of honey bees for the second year running is freaking me out.

I was idly casting about for information on nettles and came up with this link, which told me that there was also a national ‘be kind to nettles’ week back in May.  I missed it, but perhaps covering my plants, path and walls with butterflies is the nettles’ way of being kind to me.

1 comment:

helen said...

Hellooo Meeeelllll :~)))

I'm one who loves nettles. I found by accident that their sting helps control my hayfever in the summer. It took a bit of clenching of teeth when I first started deliberately stinging my hands or arms, but now I hardly notice and don't wear gloves any time I'm handling them. Also use them in a daily tea I blend, and like you, love leaving them for the butterflies to lay their eggs on. That is a really impressive mass of caterpillars you have there and isn't it lovely to have all the butterflies enjoying the Buddleia....though we don't have as many as you! Yay to you for getting it right :~)Thanks for the interesting great that we have a 'be a kind to nettles week'...I'm all for that.