Stinging plant brings back butterflies
Brush against them and you will get a painful sting, but the butterfly lady says these are a delicious treat for one of our native butterflies.
Usually people want stinging nettle kept out of their gardens, but Warkworth’s butterfly lady, Isabel Harris encourages people to grow it, and is giving some away.
Harris has been growing stinging nettle for more than 11 years after noticing a native admiral butterfly looking for the plant in her garden.
‘‘I hadn’t seen an admiral for years until one flew into my garden, I knew they like stinging nettle and used it as a source of food, so I went out and bought some.
‘‘I have been growing it ever since and have noticed a lot more around.’’
Harris grows multiple plants which help admirals and monarch butterflies reproduce and live.
‘‘I highly recommend people grow a patch of it in their garden to help these butterflies,’’ Harris said.
All they need is damp nitrogen soil and some shade to grow easily.
‘‘People who are growing the plant for butterflies need to be aware that they need nectar rich plants also.
‘‘Once you have caterpillars on the stinging nettle you need to keep them safe from wasps, birds, assassin bugs and praying mantises.’’
These predators eat the caterpillars, and the wasps lay eggs in the caterpillars and their chrysalis which, once they hatch, eat the caterpillars, she said.
‘‘People also need to watch out for cleopus weevil beetles which eat the leaves and buddleia.’’
Harris usually collects the caterpillars off the plants and puts them on stinging nettle that is protected by a mosquito net.
Caterpillars are not the only things Harris looks after in her backyard.
Harris looks after a wood pigeon which she rescued after it injured its wing.
‘‘The pigeon has visited us most mornings and nights for the past 20 years, although sometimes she disappears for months.
‘‘She will come inside and fly onto our arms for food and will occasionally steal grapes off our kitchen bench if we are not around.’’
Phone Harris on 0272811505 if you would like some stinging nettle for your garden.
Isabel Harris takes the Rodney Times through her butterfly garden.