Beauties thanks to beastly plants
Little green shoots have bravely pushed through the earth, fighting their way between stubble which is all that is left of a once lush patch of wildflowers and nettles that were growing beside the stream until the council mowed them down. Here and there, some nettles have already opened up leaves despite the plant only being a couple of inches high. And fluttering among this sad little patch was a glorious shot of Technicolour: a Small Tortoiseshell.
No doubt it was busy searching for somewhere to lay its eggs. The Small Tortoiseshell relies solely on nettle patches as a place to mate, lay eggs, and feed its caterpillars. Without nettles, there can be no Small Tortoiseshell butterflies, it’s as simple as that.
Resting nearby, I saw a Comma butterfly resting on brambles. This is one of my favourite butterflies, with its delicately scalloped wing-edge, and it too relies heavily on nettles. If you want to know more about why nettles are such a vital plant for nature – and find tips on how they can help you as a gardener – check out Nettles: An Unlikely Hero.