Williamson's Weekly Nature Notes June 24 2009

BEAUTIFUL buddleia is here again, bringing the butterflies back.

"Well yeass" as Jeremy Paxman would say: "But it's not exactly like that, is it? Buddleia only feeds the adults. It can't feed or nurse the caterpillars. That's the difficult bit." And I am sure Paxman knows, being the keen flyfisherman that he is.

But how many times have I heard people proclaim that to bring the butterflies back all you have to do is plant buddleia? Sure the adults find it a treat.

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It can even be essential giving as it does a sugar boost to tired travellers. A sort of petrol station to the weary motorcar.

Buddleia seems to give supercharged energy to the butterflies in my garden and it is a treat for us too at teatime just to sit and watch them at this lovely pink filling station getting more and more hyped on the high octane.

Nothing like the numbers we had back in the 1970s. A single bush in those palmy old days would sport 60 insects. Today: 20.

Even farther back in time to 1964, a large buddleia bush growing on a building site in Chichester's St John's Road just off Eastgate yielded about 250 small tortoiseshells in one summer week. Our eyes popped out of our heads at the sight.

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You won't get that again but at least your garden can still show you some of the works in these impoverished times. I have photographed here a brimstone butterfly and a silver-washed fritillary in my garden. The brimstone needs buck-thorn bushes for her youngsters. This is a wild shrub found in corners of old downland and hedgerows.

If you are a farmer please protect these unusual shrubs on your land. Their insignificant little green flowers give off one of the most beautiful perfumes I have ever smelt.

Turn over one of the leaves in late spring and you will often see the little white eggs laid there by the brimstone. Those will hatch and feed and become a new generation in the autumn.

They will hibernate and appear next March/April. The orange insect shown will lay her eggs on violet leaves, especially those in shade growing around the base of old beech trees.

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Two or three shall I expect to see this week in my garden but 20 or 30 once upon a time at the garden filling station. This year painted ladies will be getting a refill.

Also holly blues, meadow browns, hedge browns, and even the magnificent purple emperor may drop in for a drop of the hard stuff on her way back to the willow tree nursery.