Butterflies in your (South Canterbury) Garden
Compared with tropical regions like New Guinea (about 1000 species), Tanzania (over 1400) and Peru (perhaps 4000), the UK has a very small number of resident butterflies – less than 70 species. However, documented for over 400 years, our few butterflies have nontheless been a source of inspiration for artists, naturalists and scientists, worldwide.
In 1968, with growing concern about increasing rarity and even extinction, the UK-based charity Butterfly Conservation was founded. Sir David Attenborough is the current President. Since 2010 BC has organised one of the world’s largest butterfly surveys – the Big Butterfly Count. Steve Wheatley, BC’s Conservation Manager for SE England, says "do please get involved in the Big Butterfly Count [www.bigbutterflycount.org] (17 July to 9 Aug) and encourage others to get involved. This year more than ever we need everyone to spend 15 minutes recording the butterflies they see."
But which species can we expect in our gardens, and how to tell them apart? Kent has over 40 resident species – but you can only expect to see less than half of these in a South Canterbury garden. By my count there are 14 species you have a good chance of seeing over the course of a year – including the Brimstone, Holly Blue and Gatekeeper, and another 6 are possible. A few extremely rare migrants could turn up almost anywhere – such as the Monarch (from America, perhaps), or the Camberwell Beauty (from Scandinavia).
Some of our most common species are difficult to separate when flying – such as the Small White (their larvae will eat your cabbages!) and the Green-veined White (very rarely if ever on your cabbages). To help with all 20 that are likely, and a few of the rare migrants, I have created a simple guide along the lines of 'white butterflies', 'small blue butterflies', 'browns' etc. This is attached to the digital version of this Newsletter – or it can be downloaded from the OHSCA website. If you can make digital images and want your identifications checked, please send your pictures to email@example.com.
- Dick Vane-Wright