Sting­ing plant brings back but­ter­flies

Rodney Times - - YOUR PAPER, YOUR PLACE - RE­NEE CLAY­TON

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.

RE­NEE CLAY­TON

Is­abel Har­ris takes the Rod­ney Times through her but­ter­fly gar­den.

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