The Parish Magazine June 2023

Serving the communities of Charvil, Sonning, and Sonning Eye since 1869

Serving the communities of Charvil, Sonning, and Sonning Eye since 1869


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feature — 2<br />

Where have all the butterflies gone?<br />

<strong>The</strong> <strong>Parish</strong> <strong>Magazine</strong> - <strong>June</strong> <strong>2023</strong> 21<br />

3 <strong>June</strong> Butterfly Education<br />

and Awareness Day <strong>2023</strong><br />

Peacock Rudmer Zwerver, dreamstime.com Swallowtail Noah-Boyer, unsplash.com<br />

I have been interested in butterflies<br />

since my father gave me a small<br />

patch of ground at the bottom of our<br />

garden about 70 years ago, writes<br />

Bob Peters.<br />

I could grow anything I liked, so<br />

the first thing was to plant some<br />

runners from a strawberry patch in<br />

the family vegetable garden. We lived<br />

near Tiptree in Essex where there<br />

were acres and acres of strawberries.<br />

It was while tending my tiny<br />

strawberry patch that I became<br />

interested in the visiting butterflies<br />

that would always seem to be there.<br />

Also, I can't remember where they<br />

came from, but in a cupboard we<br />

had a collection of dead butterflies<br />

and moths. <strong>The</strong>y were displayed in<br />

several boxes with glass fronts. Each<br />

specimen had been carefully pinned<br />

and labelled with their Latin names<br />

which I spent hours unsuccessfully<br />

trying to decipher.<br />


My favourite butterfly was a<br />

splendid Swallowtail and I always<br />

hoped that one day I would see one<br />

flying in my garden — there was a<br />

remote chance because at that time<br />

migrant Swallowtails were said to<br />

frequent East Anglia and my garden<br />

was only about 100 miles further<br />

south. Today, native UK populations<br />

are rare but stable and restricted<br />

to the Norfolk Broads where milk<br />

parsley thrives.<br />

I never saw one flying wild until I<br />

travelled to the Mediterranean in my<br />

adult life.<br />

I'm by no means an expert on<br />

butterflies, I simply enjoy seeing<br />

them when spending time in the<br />

garden — and I am no expert in<br />

gardening either, my approach has<br />

always been 'trial and error', as it has<br />

always been with everything in life!<br />

A bout of Covid a couple of years<br />

ago left me without the energy to<br />

do much gardening until recently<br />

— this lack of energy may have also<br />

been age related!<br />

However, this year I have been<br />

able to get out in the garden a little<br />

more and apart from the abundances<br />

of thistles, nettles and a variety of<br />

weeds, normality is slowly returning.<br />

Orange Tip<br />

Helen Davies, dreamstime.com<br />

<strong>The</strong> most striking thing that<br />

I have noticed is the lack of the<br />

butterflies that I usually like to stop<br />

and watch. As I write this it is still<br />

early in the season, but by now there<br />

should a good number flying around.<br />

I have spotted one lonely<br />

Brimstone, which is always the first<br />

to be seen every year, one Orange<br />

Tip, and one splendid Peacock.<br />

Where I wonder, have all the<br />

butterflies gone?<br />

<strong>The</strong> best source of information<br />

I have found is the latest 28 page<br />

report published by the UK charity,<br />

Butterfly Conservation, it is called<br />

<strong>The</strong> State of UK's Butterflies 2022.<br />

<strong>The</strong> previous report was 7 years ago.<br />

Brimstone<br />

Leif Algotsson, dreamstime.com<br />

<strong>The</strong> latest one summarises the key<br />

findings as being a massive 80%<br />

decline. <strong>The</strong> key finding is: In the UK,<br />

long-term trends show that 80% of<br />

butterfly species have decreased in<br />

abundance or distribution, or both<br />

since the 1970s. <strong>The</strong> report can be<br />

downloaded free at: https://butterflyconservation.org/state-of-uk-butterflies-2022<br />


This month, 3 <strong>June</strong> has been<br />

declared a Butterfly Education<br />

and Awareness Day <strong>2023</strong> or BEAD<br />

for short. It is an annual event<br />

organised by the Association for<br />

Butterflies (AFB) to raise awareness<br />

about the importance of butterfly<br />

conservation.<br />

BEAD is designed to help educate<br />

us, the public, about the importance<br />

of butterflies in the pollination<br />

process and why it's important<br />

to create and protect butterfly<br />

habitats. This event is also a great<br />

opportunity to teach children about<br />

metamorphosis.<br />

<strong>The</strong>re are over 200,000 species of<br />

butterflies in the world and scientists<br />

tell us that they are a vital part of<br />

the environment. <strong>The</strong>y are essential<br />

as pollinators for many crops,<br />

flowers and plants and they provide<br />

a good indication of the health of<br />

the world's ecosystem and climate<br />

change.<br />

Scientific studies of butterflies<br />

different life cycles will, it is<br />

believed, lead to important medical<br />

developments in the future. And, of<br />

course, they are fascinating insects<br />

to sit and watch when you need a<br />

break from digging the garden!

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