A trip to Wisley’s butterfly house each year is a special treat – stand in the warmth and humid greenhouses and watch the butterflies waft past you (whilst waiting for the camera lenses to demist!). They float, flap and dip up and down across from plant to plant, chasing each other and then resting while we all watch them and try to capture their beauty with our cameras.
The variety of species from Malay lacewing, giant owl and king swallowtail are just some of the exotic butterflies here and they are absolutely beautiful. We’re aware of our declining butterfly population and are beginning to plant more butterfly friendly plants and flowers, but we have a way to go yet. The deterioration of their habitats due to changing woodland management and agricultural intensification have been identified as the main causes of their decline; but pesticides and climate change will also play a harmful role.
More than three quarters of the UK’s butterflies have declined in the last 40 years which has led to a real push to save the threatened species. Through a concerted effort to plant more wild flowers and leave grasses unmown, some types of butterflies are now enjoying an increase in numbers. Many butterflies are now visiting the UK from abroad – and since the 1970s, the common migrant species are Clouded Yellow, Red Admiral and Painted Lady – and they have all increased dramatically in numbers.
If you have space to let wild flowers and grasses grow freely then you’ll be helping to provide habitat for all kinds of insects. Whilst courtyard gardens and paving increase in popularity, the insects and bugs will struggle to find homes. Any additional planting will be beneficial to the butterflies and insects – I’ve planned my corner!
Until they arrive in the spring and summer, I’ll make the most of the Wisley exotic butterflies and enjoy the challenge of photographing a flying butterfly!