We all love seeing butterflies sipping nectar from a meadow in full bloom, but how many of us know how important native grasses are?
As we see fields around us cut earlier and earlier, let's remember that many meadow butterflies lay their eggs on grasses. Take the meadow brown (pictured below). After hatching, the female only survives 5 - 12 days laying her eggs on grasses. After the eggs hatch in 2 - 3 weeks, the caterpillars feed on grasses and then create a chrysalis suspended from a grass blade for 3 - 4 weeks before hatching into a butterfly.
As The Big Butterfly Count started on 15th July, it's worth looking in advance for fields with ringlets, speckled wood and marbled white butterflies flying over them. Their caterpillars, like the meadow brown, also love native grasses. The field in Long Ashton with the allotments and the footpath running through it is a great spot. The footpath running over the closed Yanley landfill site is another grand spot. In its first year, Lark Meadow already has a fine covering of crested dog's tail, common bent, sweet vernal grass, red fescue and yellow oat grass. Now coming into full flower, watch out as the wind blows, for the rolling wave of gold flowers rippling over the green. Truth be told, not many butterflies have discovered this new habitat yet, but the season isn't over. We've already spotted quite a few ladybirds hunkered down among the stems and next year, as the meadow settles a little more, we're sure the butterflies will find us. The increasingly common fields of perennial and Italian rye grass sadly offer no food for caterpillars so, to compensate, you can always leave some native grasses uncut in your garden to help more caterpillars through to adulthood. More information can be found here.