WHERE BUTTERFLIES ABOUND – BEDFORD
BEDFORD IN THE EASTERN CAPE IS HOME TO SOME OF THE COUNTRY’S OLDEST ROSES, AS WELL AS THE LARGEST PRIVATE BUTTERFLY COLLECTION IN SOUTH AFRICA.
BUTTERFLIES & PEACOCKS
“There’s no garden here,” laughs Anne Pringle. “The peacocks dig it all up!”That much is true of Huntly Glen, found 40 km along a country road from Bedford, right in the middle of the Eastern Cape. This ranch and self-catering farmhouse in 1820 Settlers country does, however, have cows, angora goats, 40 peacocks, 16,000 butterflies and plenty of open space.
“I’ve been collecting butterflies for 60 years, as far back as I can remember,” jokes her 63-year-old husband, Ernest Pringle, who owns the largest collection of South African butterfly species in the country – and, most likely, in the world. He is also a voluntary curator of the Lepidoptera Exhibit at the Albany Museum in Grahamstown. “The Rhodes Department of Entomology keep me as a pet,” he laughs. “I use their equipment and they keep me close if they need any help. It’s a symbiotic relationship.”
You can see close to 800 local butterfly species – he’s only missing 12 – at his private exhibit during the four-day Bedford Garden Festival (20th to 23rd October). Ernest will delve into the world of these winged wonders with talks about everything from their parasitic association with ants to their defence mechanisms, and how Charles Darwin and Alfred Russel Wallace discovered mimicry through butterflies. He’ll even tell you how he rediscovered the Brenton Blue butterfly on the western Knysna Head after it had seemingly disappeared for decades. All donations go to the conservation of this rare and critically endangered species.
He says we can help butterflies by clearing our gardens of alien species, growing plants and flowers indigenous to our geographical regions, and putting up bird baths. “Most butterflies do not feed during the adult stage.They mostly drink water as well as nectar from the flowers, which is a high energy source,” he says.