23 May 2012

A Pokemon in the Garden

My son would have loved a Pokémon like this.

This week is Save Our Butterflies week as championed by Butterfly Conservation.

This magical creature visited Garden 65 on the 3rd of May. Everything about him is so beautiful he could have been designed: the amazing blue of his wings, the white furry body, striped antennae, and those big eyes. He is like a little gift from The Great Clockmaker.

Butterflies tend to be visible in this garden later in the year when they are attracted to the Buddleia, so this butterfly was a surprise, but that is only because I don’t know anything about butterflies ... he turns out to be a Holly Blue who emerges in early spring before many other butterflies. It is gratifying in terms of nature working like clockwork that there is indeed a huge holly tree in my next door neighbour’s garden. On the other hand he is the only one I have seen so far.

Currently bee conservation is drawing a lot of media attention, and hysteria from the eco-people. My Twitter timeline is full of people warning of the apocalyptic consequences of bee population collapse, and urging me to sign petitions. The advantage bees have is that, apart from looking like flying teddy bears, they are vitally important to our own survival in that we need pollinated plants to eat. Consequently the scientific and political realms are spending money and effort in exploring the issue of bees both wild and domestic.

Butterflies, however, seem to receive less attention, comparatively speaking at least. Their presence in the landscape is an important indicator of the health of the environment. They are like the canaries in the mine. We may not directly be reliant on them, but if they cannot flourish around us then our world must be in decline in some way. But, although I see people growing butterfly friendly plants, butterflies appear less in the national media. I wonder if it is because their beauty lends them an aura of femininity, which encourages uneasiness in reporters and campaigners. Of course much vital work is being done by Butterfly Conservation, UK Butterflies, and the like. I am not criticising these groups. The point I am trying to make is does an animal or even a whole landscape need to have a masculine character to receive attention and funding? For example, compare the visibility of The Woodland Trust to that of The Grassland Trust who champions more fragile environments. Are people more likely to worry about a grass or an oak?