The butterfly is a pollinating insect of the Lepidoptera order. It feeds on flower nectar and visits numerous plants. In its flight, it is sensitive to the layout of the landscape and to the presence of biological corridors in order to move from one habitat to another and find its fellow creatures.
There are 160,000 species of butterflies in the world, including 10,200 in Europe and over 5,000 in France. Most butterflies are nocturnal species that can also pollinate at night. Some migrate while others hibernate and adapt slowly to their environment because they require warmth. Their body temperature matches that of the air
The oldest fossil ever discovered is 200 million years old, dating back to the Jurassic period and the dinosaurs. Now imagine a butterfly landing on the long neck of a diplodocus as you look at a specimen in your garden.
It is a fully metamorphosing insect, born as an egg that becomes a caterpillar. The caterpillar then sheds its skin several times before becoming a chrysalis. The chrysalis can remain closed for several months before emerging as an adult butterfly. Depending on the species, one to four generations are born per year.
BUTTERFLIES AND PLANTS
After mating, the female butterfly goes in search of the plant that will host and feed its young, the host plant. When it finds this plant, it lays its eggs on it. Each butterfly species favours a specific host plant.
Coevolution between plants and animals is particularly remarkable in butterflies in many terrestrial ecosystems. The chosen plants have evolved over time to protect themselves from predators and the butterflies have also evolved to continue feeding on them. The plants and the butterflies have thus fine-tuned their survival strategies together.
There is a close link between butterfly species and plant species. The nettle is a good example, as it feeds various lepidopterans: the “peacock”, the “small tortoiseshell”, the “painted lady”, the “brush-footed butterfly” or the “comma”.
In gardens, the plants that welcome them are dill, sorrel and fennel. In trees and shrubs, hazel, birch, broom, willow and blackthorn are excellent hosts. In fields, alfalfa, clover, bramble, wild carrot and primrose are favoured by many species. For flowers, you can plant valerian, hollyhock, wallflower or woodland stonecrop.
INVITING BUTTERFLIES INTO ONE’S HOME
The butterfly is a biological indicator that is regularly monitored as it is sensitive to pesticides, monoculture or the disappearance of plant species.
For example, the Domaine des Etangs, with the support of the Didier and Martine Primat Foundation, is involved with the French Agricultural Observatory of Biodiversity in the tally of butterfly species on its estate to ensure their health.
The presence of butterflies is a sign of botanical diversity and a pillar of animal biodiversity
There are techniques for welcoming them back into your garden and natural spaces, as they are a great help in the cultivation of plants. For this, you can:
– Grow legumes in your vegetable garden
– Ban synthetic fertilisers and replace them with organic manure.
– Create nectar-filled flower borders.
– Preserve uncut grasslands for the reproduction of host plants.
– Vary plant species according to the permaculture principle
– Create protected biological corridors
There is a need to preserve garden and field plants in order to protect pollinators. A symbol of rebirth and transformation, butterflies invite us to understand the beauty and balance of nature. Through the delicacy of their flight and their colours, their presence fills us with wonder. Let us offer them the nectar they need so that they may in turn offer us the fruit of the flowers they visit.
How will you invite butterflies into your garden?