You give me butterflies

Both Mr P and I have a firm policy of encouraging all wildlife to linger in our garden for as long as the fancy takes them, but I have to reveal that as far as that goes in theory, some types of wildlife are more equal than others. I, for example, am not particularly keen to throw open the gates to welcome local foxes in. Not that I have anything against foxes per se but foxes and hens are not very compatible and I would miss the eggs. Mr P, on the other hand, loves his frogs, fish and newts and works tirelessly to maintain the wildlife pond for their comfort so he is not overly delighted when the mallards arrive each spring to set up home. For a few weeks each spring, he is seen to be mounting an early morning duck patrol around the ‘estate’ but to be fair, even he has mellowed this year when ten little ducklings arrived.

Of course, there is one type of creature that always has the red carpet rolled out for it here – and that’s any member of the butterfly or moth family. When I first met Mr P his lifelong obsession with butterflies was well established but since moving here it has been a pleasure to plan a garden with butterflies and moths in mind and then watch them appear. Almost one of the first things that we planted was a little grove of buckthorns and now we have a thriving brimstone colony. All are welcome, nothing is turned away. Even when I was caught surreptitiously trying to remove some ragwort from the meadow, I was reminded that it is the larval food plant of the cinnabar moth which simply can’t manage without it!

Over the years I have come to share Mr P’s delight at the first orange tip of spring and the arrival in midsummer of the hawk moths. It seems that not everyone agrees and when I recently posted a picture of a poplar hawk moth on instagram with an endearing message, some reacted with horror and disgust that I could find this amazing creature beautiful. But they are. They have the most amazing structural form and a big furry body – what’s not to like? Through the summer months Mr P likes to run a moth trap at night, just to see what’s around. It’s a shared pleasure to examine the amazing variety of moths to be found on one night, in one country garden. For anybody who thinks moths are mostly brown then this would be an eye opener as there is every colour under the sun. One morning a couple of years ago we found what amounted to a well attended party of elephant hawk moths and they couldn’t be persuaded to leave! 

These days (post lockdown) Mr P arrives back from work demanding to know how many I have seen of each species so that he can record this count with Butterfly Conservation. Sadly for him, whilst I have been writing this blog, little has been seen from my almost windowless, North facing office. Nonetheless, it is part of our shared enjoyment in the garden and I am delighted to say that after all these years he still gives me butterflies!

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