Create Your Own Little Butterfly Garden
By Ama H.Vanniarachchy
Butterflies are among one of nature’s most beautiful creations. Known as the supermodels of the animal world, these vibrant delicate creatures are a visual delight. They are delicate, colourful and most importantly, the ecosystem will collapse if they disappear from the face of the earth.
While appreciating their beauty, it is also important to realise the significant role they play in the environment. This is because, we tend to realise the importance of wildlife conservation only when a species is officially considered threatened, vulnerable or on the verge of extinction. Before that, we hardly acknowledged their existence and importance.
This may be one reason that has caused so much chaos in the ecosystem as we have manipulated it by prioritising our own needs; causing many species to face the threat of extinction and issues such as global warming.
Unfortunately, we fail to realise that we are posing threats to our very own existence by destroying our homes. Today, we talk a lot about wildlife conservation as the imbalance of nature has hit us hard. While major conservation work is being handled by professionals, activists and policymakers, there are many things that we can do on a daily basis, without leaving our homes.
And this little work that we can do contributes greatly towards maintaining the balance of nature. What we can do is to create a little green patch in our own spaces, allowing wildlife to breed and live in it, especially focusing on butterflies. Those who live in Colombo and the suburbs might wonder how realistic this is. It is not necessary to have a large garden space to do so.
Urban gardening is all about creating a little green world, with plenty of wildlife residing in it. This ecosystem of your own is the perfect place where you can get close to nature and actively participate in wildlife conservation. In this little garden of yours encourage butterflies to breed and reside. Why we emphasise the importance of butterflies is that they play a vital role in the environment.
Why are butterflies important?
According to environmentalists, animals such as butterflies, who are known as pollinators play a very important role in the environment. It is said that nearly 75 per cent of the food crops in the world depend on these pollinators (pollinators are butterflies, moths, bees, ants, bats, beetles, flies and birds).
If pollinators go extinct or their population shrinks, the earth’s terrestrial ecosystems would not survive. Butterflies are also great pest controllers. Also, areas that are rich with butterflies are known to be areas rich with many other invertebrates.
Hence scientists believe that their struggle to survive is an indicator of forthcoming environmental issues and could be also taken as a serious warning about future environmental issues. Stephen Dickie at Butterfly Conservation says that “Birds plan their whole breeding season around when caterpillars will be most abundant. If the butterfly and caterpillar numbers are depleted then there’s not going to be a lot of food for developing chicks.” This could be the major reason for scientists to fear that if the butterflies disappear, it could cause the collapse of the ecosystems that we necessitate.
Butterflies are also important elements in the food chain. So if they are missing in an ecosystem, that means, animals that eat them also go missing in the particular ecosystem. Thus, to have a balanced, rich ecosystem, butterflies are important. These beautiful and important creatures have been widely studied by environmental scientists as model organisms to study the impact of habitat loss, fragmentation and climate changes.
Why create a butterfly garden?
However, many human activities today have created threats to the existence of these fragile beauties. Deforestation, urbanisation, air pollution and imbalance in the food chain are to name a few human activities that are causing a threat to them. Apart from all these, these creatures have a right to live. So, as destroyers of their habitats, it is our duty and responsibility to do something to ensure that they are safe.
Also, watching them is a great stress reliever. Once you plant your butterfly garden and you see butterflies come and breed in it –that is a wonderful feeling. It is a feeling of happiness as you contribute to protecting nature. Watching these flying flowers in your garden while enjoying a cup of tea, on a sunny morning, will be a great way to relax.
How to attract butterflies?
To attract butterflies, you need to have two types of plants. Flowering plants (nectar plants) provide food for butterflies and you also need to have plants that supply shelter to them (host plants). For this, you need to identify butterfly-friendly plants (flowers with nectar) and plants that shelter caterpillars. You also need to provide shelter areas for butterflies and a water source. Make sure you don’t use pesticides as they are harmful to butterflies and other wildlife in the garden. It is not sufficient to provide plants only.
You need to provide them with shelters and a water source. A shelter means a place where they can find shelter from rain and also a place or two where they can enjoy the sun. A fence post or a large rock will do this. They need shelter in your garden to spend the night and to feel safe when it is windy. Leafy shrubs are good for this. Also, there are butterfly houses that you can purchase from gardening shops.
The water source shouldn’t be deep. A shallow container with soil and sand, filled with water will be perfect. Butterflies love to rest on wet soil to absorb minerals and moisture. Make sure your chosen butterfly garden is sunny enough as these cold-blooded creatures enjoy the sun. A little hard work is required, but in the end, it is bliss that you will encounter.