Springwatch Guide to Butterflies and Moths Springwatch


Springwatch Guide to Butterflies and Moths

An in-depth view of the UK's butterflies and moths, including filming of their extraordinary life cycles and the latest science on their remarkable adaptations and lifestyles.


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Transcript


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BIRDSONG

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If you want to see some of the most celebrated creatures of summer,

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a wildflower meadow like this is the place to be.

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Here, you might find Admirals, a Duke, an Emperor,

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even perhaps a Painted Lady.

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Which sounds a bit like the cast of glamorous costume drama,

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but it's not.

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Because we're about to meet

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some of the most colourful, dazzling, exotic animals

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in the whole of the United Kingdom.

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The butterflies.

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It's easy to see why they're so captivating.

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The sheer variety of their forms and colours is mind-boggling,

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and nothing beats seeing them on the wing.

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And here is a butterfly - it's a Common Blue - just sunning herself.

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You can't call that a Common B... Oh!

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..a Common Blue.

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That's a sophisticated animal.

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This, their most lovely stage,

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is just a brief part of a fascinating life story.

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They make a miraculous transformation

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from plump, earthbound caterpillar

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into winged beauty -

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a process we're only now beginning to fully understand.

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Perhaps just in the nick of time.

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100 years ago, naturalists describe fields like this

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as being alive with literally clouds of butterflies.

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What a sight that must have been!

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But today, I am having to keep my eyes peeled to see just one or two.

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And a combination of the modern world

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and changes in the climate have hit these delicate,

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and sometimes very specialised creatures, very hard.

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Recent wet summers

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have been disastrous for our butterflies and moths.

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So, we at Springwatch think that now is the time

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to turn the spotlight on these fragile creatures.

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It's time to discover...

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Where are they? What makes them tick?

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And, perhaps, most important of all, what can we do

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to give our butterflies a much-needed boost.

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So welcome to the Springwatch Guide to Butterflies AND Moths.

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We have 59 different species of butterfly

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and well over 2,000 different species of moth.

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They all belong to the insect family Lepidoptera -

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meaning scaled wing.

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Some of the showiest have showy names to match -

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there's painted ladies,

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swallowtails,

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monarchs, and peacocks.

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These aren't just pretty faces -

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their private lives are complex and intriguing.

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Later, Chris will be probing the details of those lives

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in gorgeous ultra close-up.

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This thing is very much alive.

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Loads in there!

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Michaela will discover the sensitive side of our mysterious moths.

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A male emperor moth detected a female up to five miles away.

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And I'll be meeting some truly wonderful butterfly enthusiasts.

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It's a vicious little thug.

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And showing you how you can create a haven for butterflies

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in your very own back yard.

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Oh, what was that?

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We're surrounded by them now, aren't we?

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When you look closely, these animals can be pretty outlandish.

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Each butterfly, each moth,

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has its own sometimes remarkable tale to tell.

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So let's start... with a mystery story -

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The Tangled Tale Of The Lady Who Vanished.

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The beautiful Painted Lady.

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We think of it as a British species,

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when, in fact, each summer it arrives here from the Continent.

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But although it captivates us,

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one thing has always puzzled scientists.

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When it comes to winter, all our Painted Ladies disappear.

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Now you might think -

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where do any of our butterflies go at the end of summer?

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Well, our resident species over-winter here

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at various stages of their life cycle,

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whether it's as an egg, a chrysalis, or even as an adult.

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The Painted Lady is a migrant, flying up to the UK from the south,

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and there were no sightings of these visitors

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making the reverse trip home.

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And then the truth was discovered.

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It's a long story of a long journey.

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It starts all the way down in the searing heat of north Africa.

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So this is what's going on.

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The Painted Ladies fly across here,

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the north coast of Africa,

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and then they lay eggs.

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Those eggs hatch, move up into Spain.

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They lay eggs,

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they move up into France.

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And only then...

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into the UK, going as far north as southern Scotland.

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It's like a relay race of successive generations.

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But where does our British-born generation go to

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at the end of summer?

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Well, in 2012 supersensitive radar picked them up

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in an unexpected place.

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They ARE going back to Africa,

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but flying at a height of over 500 metres.

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High in the sky, way beyond our human eyes,

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those relatively small butterflies catch the wind

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and that whisks them along at up to 70km an hour,

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heading south, back towards Africa.

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Astonishing.

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So, for the case of the disappearing lady, the mystery's solved.

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Much of what we know about butterflies and moths

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has only been gleaned in the last few centuries,

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but they've been around for millions of years.

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Most of us are familiar with the ones we see in our parks and gardens.

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The tiny Holly Blue.

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The classic Tortoiseshell.

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And the Brimstone - the original butter-coloured fly,

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said to have given butterflies their name.

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Many are far more particular about where they live.

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Some Blues live in tiny colonies on south-facing slopes of chalky hillsides.

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The Heath Fritillary loves the woodland glade.

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And one little character - the Mountain Ringlet -

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lives mostly in grassy tussocks high in the Scottish Highlands.

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It's this specialisation

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that makes them so widely and beautifully different.

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And it's all down to the peculiarities

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of their amazing life cycle.

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Something that Chris has been having a really close look at.

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Now, the first stage is the egg.

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But there is an immediate problem when it comes to the eggs

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of the UK's butterflies and moths.

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They are extremely small - rarely more than one millimetre in diameter.

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For instance, you can just about make them out

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as these tiny spots here.

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But to truly appreciate them, we need to magnify them,

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and on that account we've got this camera set up here

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with a macro lens pointing down at the eggs on this stage

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magnifying them fantastically.

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Magnificently magnified, Chris!

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At this size, we're getting a butterfly's eye view

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of these microscopic gems.

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But which beautiful creature made these?

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These are the eggs of an Oleander Hawk-moth.

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A truly exotic species -

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a migrant which occasionally turns up in the UK.

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Its eggs are almost completely smooth,

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but many of these insect eggs are highly sculptured, ridged,

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with all sorts of processes.

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They're very, very beautiful things indeed.

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I was looking at the fruit bowl this morning,

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and I thought to myself there are clear parallels

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between some of the fruits I had there and the butterflies' eggs.

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These ones, physalis,

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show a fair comparison with highly magnified views

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of those Brimstone eggs.

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And then, this cauliflower head...

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Now, you're going to think I'm losing it here, but I'm not.

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Eggs of some of the Hairstreaks, particularly Black Hairstreaks,

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seriously do look a bit like this.

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All of those processes - ridges and dimples - are there for a reason.

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Firstly, they're about protecting the young caterpillar,

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which is developing inside that egg.

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They're also about allowing it to breathe,

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because in the top of all these eggs

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there's something called the micropyle,

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and this is a pore which allows oxygen into the egg,

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so the young animal can respire whilst it's growing.

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And all that, on eggs the size of a grain of sugar.

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But - question - why aren't they all more-or-less the same shape?

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Well, they're carefully adapted to suit exactly where they are laid.

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You see, butterflies and moths drink nectar from flowers,

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but for caterpillars, it's all about leaves.

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So it's absolutely critical mum lays her eggs on the right plant

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to provide her offspring the nourishment they need to grow.

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And she's very, very picky about where she lays them -

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checking out how young the leaves are,

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how warm the ground is,

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how tall the vegetation is.

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And there's one butterfly that does all this

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and yet decides to lay her eggs in the most unexpected place imaginable.

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Meet the 'artillery' Fritillary!

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Salisbury Plain - the largest military training area in Britain.

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It's home to 50,000 soldiers,

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hundreds of tanks,

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dozens of helicopters, and...

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the Marsh Fritillary.

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Here, this rare butterfly spends its whole life

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in a patch of ground no bigger than a couple of football pitches.

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It doesn't ask for much,

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all it needs is the soil, a very particular plant

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and one other rather unlikely ingredient...disturbance.

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Army manoeuvres keep churning up the turf,

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and where the topsoil is scraped off,

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with it go the seeds of competing plants.

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And that allows the Devil's-bit Scabious to grow.

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Under this leaf,

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are the maroon-coloured eggs of the Marsh Fritillary.

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By the time these hatch, this plant will be about three feet tall.

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And that's what makes it so attractive to this butterfly.

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Devil's-bit Scabious is the main food plant for their caterpillars,

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and because it thrives in this turbulent battle ground so will they.

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It's the best possible start

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for the next phase of this remarkable odyssey.

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Welcome...the caterpillar.

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Even before they leave the shell, the caterpillar is chewing.

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They don't hatch, so much as eat their way out.

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The egg is their first meal - vital protein -

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from here on it's vegetation all the way.

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This is the beauty of the lepidopteran life cycle -

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each stage is perfectly suited to one job, and one job only.

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So, Chris, what exactly is the caterpillar's job?

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Its job is quite simple - it's to eat as much as possible

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whilst avoiding getting eaten as much as possible.

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This is a Scarlet Tiger caterpillar,

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and it typifies these types of animal.

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And, in fact, although it looks like a long tube,

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we can break it down into its typical insect components.

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There's a head at this end here,

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complete with mandibles for munching,

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It's got a couple of eyes that we call stemmata,

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and then behind this, we've got the thorax.

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This has three structured legs, these are its proper walking legs.

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Then you've got the abdomen,

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which stretches all the way down to the back,

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and on that, four pairs of prolegs -

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these are very simple organs with little sticky suckers at the bottom.

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Perfect for grasping.

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I've got a friend here, with this little Scarlet Tiger.

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An exquisite piece of natural design.

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Caterpillars come in a bewildering variety of decorations

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and colours, smooth and round, rough and hairy.

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These spikes look fearsome and that's the point.

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Some of these hairs can snap off

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and stick into the flesh of an attacker.

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The UK's brown-tail moth does this.

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Some caterpillars can be poisonous, and can even kill humans.

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But, thankfully, our own species may look dangerous,

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but they won't do you any real harm.

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Those prickles are simply saying leave me alone to eat -

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and, boy, do they pile on the ounces!

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In just 20 days, some can increase their body weight by 10,000 times.

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Most are purely vegetarian,

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but not all.

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Now a story that seems so unlikely when you first hear about it,

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it seems almost impossible to believe.

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It is the incredible tale of The Guest In The Nest.

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Of all our British butterflies,

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the caterpillar of the Large Blue is perhaps the most conniving.

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In 1979, the Large Blue was officially declared

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extinct in Britain.

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But it's made a remarkable comeback thanks to years of tireless research

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that's uncovered the missing links in a very unusual life cycle.

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And it's all to do with an ant...

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-SHEEP BLEATS

-..and some sheep.

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The adult butterfly lays its eggs on wild thyme,

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growing amongst the short grasses of chalk hillsides.

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After it's hatched, the caterpillar crawls off to wait in the grass

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until a red meadow ant on foraging duties passes by.

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By mimicking the smell of the ant's own young,

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the caterpillar tricks it into carrying it back to the nest.

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Once inside, the caterpillar turns predator,

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devouring the ready-stocked larder of ant larvae.

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The ants keep tending the intruder, even when it turns into a chrysalis.

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When it eventually emerges, the adult will literally fly the nest.

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These ants are vital to the butterfly, but they, the ants,

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are very particular about the type of grass they need.

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Too long produces shade that cools the nest and they move out.

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And that is where the sheep come in.

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By keeping the grass short the ants are happy,

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and the Large Blue is happy, and we're happy,

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marvelling at one of our most stunning butterflies!

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Now, as they pile on those ounces,

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caterpillars need to shed their skin allowing them to expand.

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This happens about four times,

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until the last skin becomes something very special.

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It's called the pupal case -

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better known as the chrysalis.

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And it's different for butterflies and moths.

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Here's Chris to show how.

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Moths will typically spin a silk cocoon like this,

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and this acts as a protective capsule

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for the chrysalis which forms inside.

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It's waterproof and more importantly, sometimes it's predator-proof, too -

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because these things can be incredibly tough.

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But what's going on inside here?

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Well, this is a classic moth pupal case.

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In this case, Poplar Hawk-moth.

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Now, initially, it looks rather plain and cylindrical.

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But if you look in detail, you can see structure there.

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At the head-end of it there are eyes.

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You can see the proboscis below.

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Its antennae, the folded legs, and then, on its back,

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the rudiments of its wings.

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Down the side, that row of holes,

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those are the spiracles - the air-breathing tubes,

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which this animal is still using as it goes through this transformation.

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Butterfly pupae, on the other hand, are much different.

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Look at this. This is a great work of natural art.

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It's the pupal case of the Silver-washed Fritillary.

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It's one of the great miracles of nature.

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Now typically, these don't spin silk, butterfly caterpillars,

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other than the small amount that they provide,

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so that they can hang like this.

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The caterpillar has found a secret sheltered spot,

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it's attached itself with this silk.

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It then splits its skin,

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and as that final skin peels off,

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this is revealed from beneath.

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And at this stage, you might be forgiven for thinking

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that the animal was about to die.

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It becomes discoloured, moribund,

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but it's going through a very important process.

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Look at that. Amazing.

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It's flinching. Because this is very much alive.

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Very much alive.

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And what's going on inside here?

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It's one of the great miracles of nature.

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It's a process that's fascinated artists and writers

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with an eye on the philosophical.

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Themes of rebirth, reinvention,

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transient beauty...

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They're all there.

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Not to mention the fact that the whole phenomenon

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is unfathomably mysterious.

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But in the last few years,

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the secrets of life inside the chrysalis

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are slowly being revealed.

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What's going on in this tiny capsule, as I speak -

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the transformation of a caterpillar through to a butterfly

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is something that baffled scientists for hundreds -

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if not thousands - of years.

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Initially, we thought that the caterpillar completely melted.

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It turned into a cell soup inside here,

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which required complete reorganisation.

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But recently we've learned

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through scanning these pupae as they're developing

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that certain key organs are retained

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from the caterpillar all the way through to the butterfly.

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The tracheal system - the breathing tubes

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that run from these spiracles into the heart of the animal.

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So, too, the gut is shrunken and highly modified,

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so it fits into the abdomen of the adult insect.

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And it's also likely that some of the nervous tissue

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is retained intact, too - particularly the brain.

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And we know this because of a remarkable recent discovery.

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You see, scientists have trained caterpillars

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to be repulsed by certain smells and tastes,

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and what they found was after those caterpillars pupated,

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the adult insects showed the same reaction

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to those repulsive smells and tastes.

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They could remember their lives as caterpillars.

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Now that strikes me as amazing.

0:24:070:24:10

It is amazing, Chris.

0:24:140:24:17

But what comes next, is just beautiful.

0:24:170:24:20

The chrysalis becomes translucent

0:24:230:24:26

and we get a tantalising glimpse of what is about to be revealed.

0:24:260:24:30

CREAKING

0:24:380:24:42

The caterpillar was perfectly built for its needs,

0:25:030:25:07

but now a new set of tools are on board.

0:25:070:25:11

The butterfly has a more refined taste for drinking nectar.

0:25:110:25:15

A long feeding tube replaces those chewing mouthparts.

0:25:200:25:25

It can extend deep into the nectar-rich reservoirs of a flower.

0:25:250:25:30

But the crowning glory is slowly revealing itself.

0:25:300:25:34

It's a vulnerable stage,

0:25:440:25:46

as the wings slowly fill with fluid.

0:25:460:25:50

The wings of butterflies possess some of the most dazzling colours

0:26:130:26:18

found in all nature.

0:26:180:26:20

Whether they serve as enticing advertisements,

0:26:220:26:25

warning signs or camouflage,

0:26:250:26:27

these brilliant, complex wings owe their beauty to their structure.

0:26:270:26:33

They're made up of thousands of tiny, delicate scales

0:26:340:26:37

that overlap like roof tiles.

0:26:370:26:40

It's these scales that give the wings their fabulous variety

0:26:400:26:44

of colours and patterns -

0:26:440:26:47

blacks and browns are created by melanin,

0:26:470:26:49

the same chemical pigment that makes us tan in summer,

0:26:490:26:53

while the blues, greens, reds are made by refraction of light,

0:26:530:26:58

giving the wing its iridescent shimmer.

0:26:580:27:01

And now the reason behind their extraordinary transformations

0:27:060:27:10

becomes clear.

0:27:100:27:12

As caterpillars, their only mission is to gorge themselves,

0:27:120:27:16

but in this, their adult stage,

0:27:160:27:18

they literally have one thing on their mind...

0:27:180:27:21

To find a mate and lay their eggs far and wide.

0:27:240:27:28

With just a few weeks in which to do this,

0:27:280:27:31

being built for flight buys time and speed.

0:27:310:27:35

Butterfly courtship is often beautiful -

0:27:380:27:42

a delicate confection, a dance on air,

0:27:420:27:45

and the most spectacular of all of these fluttering fantasies

0:27:450:27:50

is the courtship dance of the Silver-washed Fritillary.

0:27:500:27:54

The female flies in a dead-straight line

0:28:090:28:12

along the woodland track

0:28:120:28:14

and as she passes, she releases an aphrodisiac

0:28:140:28:18

from the tip of her abdomen.

0:28:180:28:20

Captivated, the male follows closely,

0:28:230:28:26

repeatedly looping under, over her,

0:28:260:28:29

showering her with pheromones from special glands on his wings.

0:28:290:28:33

She finally leads him to a clump of leaves high up in the oak tree

0:28:420:28:46

where they mate.

0:28:460:28:48

The Silver-washed Fritillary

0:28:550:28:57

is one of many butterflies to use pheromones,

0:28:570:29:00

but scientists still don't actually understand why.

0:29:000:29:03

It's much more common amongst their nocturnal cousins.

0:29:030:29:06

Let's hear it for moths.

0:29:090:29:12

Now, just because most but not all moths lack the bright colours

0:29:120:29:16

of their cousins the butterflies,

0:29:160:29:18

they're often considered poor relations.

0:29:180:29:20

But moths are not poor relations. We are rich in moths.

0:29:200:29:25

We have over 2,000 different species.

0:29:250:29:28

But because they can't use bright colours to attract a mate,

0:29:280:29:31

they have to use something else.

0:29:310:29:34

And that is where pheromones come in.

0:29:340:29:37

JAZZ MUSIC

0:29:370:29:39

To find out how moths meet mates in the dark,

0:29:410:29:44

Michaela is out in the woods with Dr Zoe Randall,

0:29:440:29:48

who's set up a moth trap.

0:29:480:29:49

-That's nice.

-Let's hope we've got the moths. Oh, great! Look!

0:29:490:29:54

-There's quite a lot just on the sheet. And loads in there!

-Yep.

0:29:540:29:57

Look, there's one here! Oh, that's a beautiful one. Look at that!

0:29:570:30:01

That's a Peach Blossom.

0:30:010:30:03

That's a gorgeous colour, isn't it, that little pink bit there.

0:30:030:30:06

Yeah, absolutely beautiful little moth.

0:30:060:30:08

Oh, and look at this one who looks like he's wearing Biggles flying glasses.

0:30:080:30:13

-He's fantastic!

-And he's called a Spectacle.

0:30:130:30:16

-That's an easy one to remember.

-Easy-peasy.

0:30:160:30:18

Look, there's an Ermine. In fact there's two.

0:30:180:30:21

-I just love how hairy their head looks.

-Yeah.

0:30:210:30:25

And they get their names from when people used to wear ermines round the top of their coats.

0:30:250:30:30

Well, you can see why they get that name.

0:30:300:30:32

-Look at this.

-Oh, yeah.

0:30:320:30:34

This one's a Pale Tussock and they have fantastic feathery antennae.

0:30:340:30:38

Now, the antennae are really interesting, aren't they, Zoe?

0:30:380:30:41

Cos that's what they use to smell.

0:30:410:30:44

And they have an incredible sense of smell, don't they?

0:30:440:30:47

That's right. The antennae are really feathered,

0:30:470:30:51

that increases the surface area to make them more sensitive

0:30:510:30:54

to moisture, humidity and female pheromones.

0:30:540:30:59

So how does the female pheromone thing work? Talk me through that.

0:30:590:31:04

Well, it's called "calling."

0:31:040:31:06

The female moth will release her pheromones in a plume, a bit like smoke from a fire.

0:31:060:31:12

Just like a perfume that then the male detects on his feathery antennae and finds her?

0:31:120:31:18

Yeah, that's right.

0:31:180:31:20

It has been shown that a male Emperor Moth detected a female up to five miles away.

0:31:200:31:26

Absolutely fascinating.

0:31:260:31:28

It's like a nice bit of nail art, that one at the moment!

0:31:310:31:35

-Shall we see what else there is?

-Yeah.

0:31:350:31:37

When it comes to running a light trap it does seem to be mainly males.

0:31:370:31:41

And you'll get between 200-300 different moth species

0:31:410:31:46

in an average back garden.

0:31:460:31:49

They're absolutely stunning.

0:31:490:31:50

It's always a joy to do a moth trap,

0:31:500:31:53

because you realise just how beautiful they are.

0:31:530:31:58

MUSIC: "Isn't She Lovely" by Stevie Wonder

0:31:580:32:00

Much of what we know today about butterflies and moths is due to the Victorians.

0:32:100:32:16

Back then there was an insatiable desire to find out more about the natural world

0:32:160:32:21

and collecting specimens became a major hobby.

0:32:210:32:25

The place to go for kit was Watkins & Doncaster,

0:32:270:32:30

suppliers of entomological equipment since 1874.

0:32:300:32:35

Amy Wells is the third generation in her family to run the business.

0:32:350:32:41

I have spent much of my life

0:32:410:32:43

buying exciting things from your company ever since I was about six.

0:32:430:32:48

That's fantastic to know.

0:32:480:32:50

-But where was it? What did it look like?

-I've got some old photos.

0:32:500:32:53

Oh, that's great, isn't it! You can practically hear the traffic behind.

0:32:530:32:57

Yes. It was based up in the Strand.

0:32:570:32:59

You would have gone in through a little door and up some windy stairs

0:32:590:33:02

and it was on about three or four floors.

0:33:020:33:04

And what else have we got here? What's happening here?

0:33:040:33:07

-This is my grandfather.

-Look at that hair!

-It was like an Aladdin's cave.

0:33:070:33:12

It must've been. I can imagine as a schoolkid,

0:33:120:33:14

-me or Chris Packham we'd be just...

-SHE LAUGHS

0:33:140:33:17

Oh, look, here we are! This probably is Chris Packham.

0:33:170:33:20

SHE LAUGHS

0:33:200:33:22

So back then, what sort of things were you selling?

0:33:220:33:26

Well, we've got some old equipment to show you. This is an old net.

0:33:260:33:29

-You can see it was made of bamboo originally.

-Oh, I see!

0:33:290:33:33

Now it would be aluminium or something. And what else have you got there? Bits and bobs here.

0:33:330:33:38

-Some look a bit frightening.

-SHE LAUGHS

0:33:380:33:40

Yes, the collector would go out with his satchel filled with jars like this.

0:33:400:33:44

-A killing jar.

-Yes.

0:33:440:33:47

Filled with cotton wool or plaster of Paris with a nasty chemical

0:33:470:33:50

such as cyanide in the bottom to kill the insect.

0:33:500:33:52

-They used cyanide to kill them?

-Yes.

-So that's a killing jar.

0:33:520:33:55

-It's a killing jar.

-Then what happens?

0:33:550:33:57

He would have come home, popped them into a relaxing tin.

0:33:570:34:00

Cos it's dead by then, is it?

0:34:000:34:02

-It is dead, but they go a bit stiff when they're dead.

-Right.

0:34:020:34:05

So you have to flatten them out?

0:34:050:34:08

OK, so they were relaxed, what happens after that?

0:34:080:34:11

Oh, here it is.

0:34:110:34:12

This is a setting board and they would be pinned onto that

0:34:120:34:16

and then the wings would be manipulated to where he wanted them.

0:34:160:34:20

-And then finally, I guess, they go into something like this?

-Yes.

0:34:200:34:23

And after that, once they're dry,

0:34:230:34:26

they would go into a drawer or a case for the wall to display.

0:34:260:34:29

Gosh! I mean, it's beautiful, but it's also a bit worrying,

0:34:290:34:33

because these are all the same, aren't they?

0:34:330:34:35

I mean, why collect so many of the same species?

0:34:350:34:39

Victorians wanted hordes of all the same.

0:34:390:34:42

You would have a cabinet of drawers and you would have one drawer

0:34:420:34:46

with rows upon rows of exactly the same butterfly.

0:34:460:34:49

-How bizarre! Shall we have a look at the next one down?

-Hmm.

0:34:490:34:52

-This one's got some moths in it.

-Oh, some moths. Some Tigers. Look!

0:34:520:34:56

-And they're all the same again!

-Yeah.

-It is a bit...weird to us.

0:34:560:35:02

I mean, and this level of collection, I mean,

0:35:020:35:04

-a whole trainloads of people used to go into the New Forest, didn't they?

-That's right.

0:35:040:35:08

I mean, did that have a perceptible effect on the numbers

0:35:080:35:12

of butterflies back then?

0:35:120:35:14

Well, back then, the habitat was so different from what it is today.

0:35:140:35:17

It didn't actually have an impact on the population of the species.

0:35:170:35:21

All these people going out, just imagine.

0:35:210:35:23

-But then, times have changed.

-Yes, thankfully, we've moved on.

0:35:230:35:27

Cos now, Watkins and Doncaster, as a company,

0:35:270:35:30

have got quite heavily involved in conservation now.

0:35:300:35:32

We were one of the founding institutions to start Butterfly Conservation.

0:35:320:35:38

-The one Butterfly Conservation that we have now?

-Yes, that's right.

0:35:380:35:41

So you're helping to try and conserve dwindling populations of butterflies and moths.

0:35:410:35:45

Yeah, and know what we've got and where.

0:35:450:35:47

Thankfully, nowadays, we don't collect, pin and stick.

0:35:500:35:55

The modern way is to capture them with a camera.

0:35:550:35:58

Today's equivalent of the Victorian enthusiast is Matthew Oates,

0:36:010:36:06

the National Trust butterfly expert,

0:36:060:36:08

and he's brought me to this Cotswold coomb

0:36:080:36:11

in search of one of our smallest and rarest butterflies.

0:36:110:36:14

We come here to see a butterfly

0:36:160:36:18

referred to as His Grace The Duke Of Burgundy.

0:36:180:36:22

-It's a very elegant name.

-It's a wonderful name.

0:36:220:36:24

But because they're so small,

0:36:240:36:26

I mean, they're not much bigger than a thumb nail,

0:36:260:36:28

they are really very hard to spot.

0:36:280:36:31

-So it's binoculars.

-It's binoculars

0:36:310:36:34

and scan and search.

0:36:340:36:36

It's the perfect spot.

0:36:380:36:40

It's very sheltered, it's out of the wind, most butterflies hate wind.

0:36:400:36:46

It stops them mating.

0:36:460:36:48

THEY LAUGH

0:36:480:36:49

If it's windy, you can't mate in a howling gale.

0:36:490:36:52

Of course, you can't, can you?

0:36:520:36:54

Welcome to the world of butterflying. Ooh!

0:36:540:36:57

-There's a little twig of hawthorn or something.

-Uh-huh.

0:36:580:37:04

-Is that His Grace?

-Yeah, there we go.

-Look at that!

0:37:040:37:07

I'm going to surprise you as to how small he actually is.

0:37:090:37:14

Look at that, there's His Grace!

0:37:140:37:16

-It's absolutely tiny.

-It's tiny!

0:37:160:37:18

But it's beautifully marked.

0:37:180:37:21

Adorable underside, this meditation of silver and browns.

0:37:210:37:25

Do not be fooled, it looks elegant and gentle

0:37:250:37:29

but it's a vicious little thug...

0:37:290:37:31

THEY LAUGH

0:37:310:37:32

..waiting to erupt. He will launch attacks

0:37:320:37:36

against anything invading his air space,

0:37:360:37:39

anything, any flying object - a fly, a bee, another butterfly,

0:37:390:37:43

another male Duke Of Burgundy,

0:37:430:37:45

and that's punch-up time.

0:37:450:37:46

They're not very well-behaved.

0:37:460:37:48

Oh, dear! How do they have a punch-up?

0:37:480:37:50

-Do they bang their wings together or...?

-No, they don't, actually,

0:37:500:37:52

but they do an aerial combat and they spiral up together

0:37:520:37:56

and F and B, I presume, at each other and then, they separate

0:37:560:37:59

and go back to their perching places, and it all happens again.

0:37:590:38:03

-Here he goes.

-Here he comes.

0:38:030:38:05

Like you said, the instant the sun's out, look at that!

0:38:050:38:08

What he's trying to do now is follow warmth from the sun using his wings.

0:38:080:38:13

The wings don't absorb heat themselves,

0:38:130:38:16

but they funnel the heat onto the body.

0:38:160:38:18

And he needs that cos he needs to warm up his flight muscles,

0:38:180:38:21

so he's ready like a coiled spring to...

0:38:210:38:23

To launch himself into the...into the air.

0:38:230:38:26

THEY CHUCKLE

0:38:260:38:28

So we're looking here at a really rather rare butterfly.

0:38:280:38:31

Sadly, it's now Britain's most rapidly-declining butterfly.

0:38:310:38:36

And I find that really quite horrifying.

0:38:360:38:41

Why is that? Why has it declined?

0:38:410:38:43

This really is, in many ways,

0:38:430:38:45

a very fussy butterfly.

0:38:450:38:47

Its caterpillars will only feed on the leaves of primrose or cowslip.

0:38:470:38:52

And they need plants whose roots are in the shade

0:38:520:38:56

so the leaves stay green while the caterpillars are feeding.

0:38:560:39:00

Gosh, that is sensitive.

0:39:000:39:02

So not just any old cowslip or primrose,

0:39:020:39:04

it has to be exactly the right one!

0:39:040:39:06

Yeah, this is butterflies for you all round.

0:39:060:39:08

That, sadly, is the type of story that's playing out in the lives

0:39:150:39:20

of so many butterflies and moths.

0:39:200:39:22

They're so super specialised, they live on a knife edge,

0:39:230:39:27

where the slightest change can make them disappear.

0:39:270:39:30

If the key to their success

0:39:320:39:33

is getting the right food plant for their hungry caterpillars,

0:39:330:39:37

then, should that plant vanish,

0:39:370:39:39

the butterfly will very quickly follow.

0:39:390:39:41

And a great variety of plants have been disappearing

0:39:440:39:48

from our countryside.

0:39:480:39:49

Over the past few decades,

0:39:530:39:55

three quarters of our butterflies have declined

0:39:550:39:57

and two thirds of our larger moths.

0:39:570:40:00

A massive loss.

0:40:000:40:02

The sad fact is butterflies and moths ARE dying out.

0:40:040:40:08

Even ones that used to be common several years ago.

0:40:130:40:16

There are a number of reasons why.

0:40:210:40:23

As the traditional ways of managing our woodland vanish,

0:40:230:40:26

so do the open woodland rides and glades

0:40:260:40:30

that butterflies love so much.

0:40:300:40:32

Intensive farming,

0:40:340:40:36

encouraged after the Second World War with good intentions,

0:40:360:40:39

has led to the disappearance of many wild plants

0:40:390:40:43

that butterflies and moths rely on for caterpillar food.

0:40:430:40:46

And building development means that what natural habitat does remain

0:40:480:40:52

is in isolated fragments.

0:40:520:40:54

But there's another culprit

0:40:590:41:01

and one that's far more difficult to predict.

0:41:010:41:03

The weather.

0:41:050:41:07

Relentless rain prevents newly-emerged adults

0:41:080:41:11

from drying out their wings,

0:41:110:41:13

whilst strong winds make it impossible to fly to find a mate

0:41:130:41:18

in the short time they have to do this.

0:41:180:41:21

For creatures already in decline,

0:41:220:41:24

our recent wet summers have been devastating.

0:41:240:41:27

This summer, we need to step up our efforts

0:41:300:41:33

to make the countryside more butterfly-friendly

0:41:330:41:37

and Michaela has found the perfect spot to make a start.

0:41:370:41:41

Look at this, it's absolutely beautiful!

0:41:530:41:56

Gorgeous wildflowers as far as the eye can see.

0:41:560:42:00

This is Magdalen Hill Down, in Hampshire.

0:42:030:42:06

An area of natural chalk downland that used to be farmland.

0:42:060:42:10

20 years ago, all ploughing stopped

0:42:130:42:16

and the small hillside was restored

0:42:160:42:19

by conservationists to its former glory.

0:42:190:42:21

There's an abundance of variety in this meadow -

0:42:230:42:26

there's ox-eye daisy,

0:42:260:42:28

hawkbit, sainfoin,

0:42:280:42:31

flowering marjoram, which has fantastic smell...

0:42:310:42:34

I've even spotted a few orchids.

0:42:340:42:36

And for nectar-loving insects like butterflies and moths,

0:42:360:42:40

this is an incredible natural banquet.

0:42:400:42:43

Today, wildflower meadows like this are very rare,

0:42:470:42:50

but for thousands of years,

0:42:500:42:52

they were an important part of the countryside.

0:42:520:42:55

They were managed in more traditional ways,

0:42:550:42:57

through grazing and haymaking,

0:42:570:42:59

to provide feed for farm animals over the long winter months.

0:42:590:43:03

Some in Wales were kept as a kind of hospital field

0:43:030:43:07

where sick or injured animals could feed on the rich flower pasture

0:43:070:43:11

to make a speedier recovery.

0:43:110:43:13

Sadly, a meadow like this is a rare sight these days,

0:43:150:43:19

but there are plans in place to change that.

0:43:190:43:22

Government schemes hope to encourage farmers to create meadows

0:43:240:43:28

or, at least, leave wildflower margins at the edge of their fields.

0:43:280:43:32

And there's even royal support for them.

0:43:330:43:35

To celebrate the Queen's Coronation,

0:43:350:43:38

a nationwide project called Coronation Meadows

0:43:380:43:41

aims to create a wildflower meadow in every county across the UK.

0:43:410:43:46

It's all very encouraging,

0:43:490:43:51

but our moths and butterflies need to socialise and quickly.

0:43:510:43:55

And isolated pockets of habitat like this one need to be linked up.

0:43:550:43:59

And maybe the answer lies down there.

0:43:590:44:03

Roads snake everywhere across our countryside.

0:44:060:44:09

And if we left the verges to grow wild,

0:44:100:44:12

it could give island-hopping butterflies,

0:44:120:44:15

as well as other types of wildlife,

0:44:150:44:18

the means to spread their wings.

0:44:180:44:20

We can make space for animals like moths and butterflies

0:44:210:44:24

and hopefully reverse their dramatic decline.

0:44:240:44:28

And if that means turning roads like this into butterfly superhighways,

0:44:280:44:32

well, then, I, for one, am all for it.

0:44:320:44:35

Thankfully, Michaela is not alone.

0:44:380:44:41

Even though the sheer fussiness of these creatures

0:44:410:44:43

doesn't make it easy, people are doing things to help.

0:44:430:44:47

By cropping the chalk and limestone grassland

0:44:470:44:49

in the South Downs National Park,

0:44:490:44:52

the Adonis Blue is thriving.

0:44:520:44:55

Increasingly open fenland in the Norfolk Broads is great news

0:44:570:45:00

for our magnificent Swallowtail butterfly.

0:45:000:45:04

And thanks to wardens in Blean Woods, in Kent,

0:45:070:45:10

the Heath Fritillary, once close to extinction,

0:45:100:45:13

continues to create one of our biggest butterfly spectacles.

0:45:130:45:18

And they're not the only champions of British butterflies.

0:45:180:45:23

There's a small army of amateur naturalists

0:45:230:45:27

closely following the lives of butterflies and moths

0:45:270:45:30

right across the UK.

0:45:300:45:32

And one of those has created a special place for butterflies.

0:45:320:45:37

It's kind of like he's created the whole of the United Kingdom in miniature.

0:45:370:45:42

Except when I say miniature, that's not quite right.

0:45:420:45:46

Clive Farrell is a man who likes to think big.

0:45:530:45:57

When he decided, 25 years ago,

0:45:590:46:01

to make his land a haven for butterflies,

0:46:010:46:04

he set about creating all the different habitats

0:46:040:46:07

that our native species need.

0:46:070:46:10

I've been lucky enough to indulge my butterfly fantasies

0:46:100:46:14

on a gigantic scale.

0:46:140:46:16

There's acres of meadow,

0:46:180:46:21

specially raised chalk banks,

0:46:210:46:23

shady pools, EVEN a recreation of a sandy beach.

0:46:230:46:27

Wow!

0:46:370:46:38

How many acres of butterfly heaven here?

0:46:380:46:41

Well, there's 100 acres altogether.

0:46:410:46:44

These were put up by the local Scouts with their special knots, you see.

0:46:510:46:54

-Oh, great!

-And we grow hops up them.

0:46:540:46:57

And this is the best food plant for the Comma butterfly.

0:46:570:47:00

-Commas.

-The Commas.

-Beautiful!

0:47:000:47:02

And here, Clive, you've got buddleia here,

0:47:020:47:04

it's hard to see at the moment, but it seems to go on for miles.

0:47:040:47:08

-Yes, I think it's the longest buddleia hedge in the world.

-Is it?

0:47:080:47:11

Certainly in Britain.

0:47:110:47:13

And when that's in flower,

0:47:130:47:15

it's as if a net's been stretched across the field

0:47:150:47:18

to catch every passing butterfly.

0:47:180:47:21

You think big, don't you, Clive?

0:47:210:47:22

THEY CHUCKLE

0:47:220:47:24

All the effort Clive and his team put in here is reaping rewards.

0:47:280:47:32

Out of our 59 butterfly species,

0:47:320:47:35

he's seen a whopping 39 of them,

0:47:350:47:38

all enjoying his patch.

0:47:380:47:40

Green Hairstreak! It's a Green Hairstreak! It's green!

0:47:430:47:46

Where's it gone?

0:47:460:47:48

A Green Hairstreak, incredibly rare. What does it feed on?

0:47:480:47:52

-Dyer's-greenweed.

-Dyer's-greenweed, which is all around us.

0:47:520:47:55

Another example, get the plant right and they will come.

0:47:550:47:59

-Yes.

-Never seen one.

-You've never seen one?

-Never seen one, no.

0:47:590:48:03

Oh!

0:48:030:48:04

That's a Six-spot Burnet Moth.

0:48:090:48:12

This is probably hatched out today or yesterday.

0:48:120:48:16

Can you tell how old they are by the sort of lustre of the colours?

0:48:160:48:21

You can, to some extent.

0:48:210:48:23

They get a bit battered and the scales tend to wear off in old age.

0:48:230:48:29

A bit like us, really.

0:48:290:48:30

THEY LAUGH

0:48:300:48:32

While he's got me here, Clive wants my help sowing, not seeds,

0:48:340:48:39

but caterpillars in a patch of golden stinging nettles.

0:48:390:48:43

So, Clive, how do we do this?

0:48:450:48:46

Do we try and put individual caterpillars on the nettles

0:48:460:48:49

or just lay this on?

0:48:490:48:51

No, you can put them on as a team, because when they're small,

0:48:510:48:53

they tend to feed together.

0:48:530:48:56

Look at them, they're a bit peckish.

0:48:560:48:59

Ouch!

0:48:590:49:00

HE LAUGHS

0:49:000:49:02

Ah! They may be golden nettles but they still sting!

0:49:020:49:04

THEY LAUGH

0:49:040:49:07

Look at that!

0:49:070:49:09

That one let out a little bit of silk to drop off my finger.

0:49:090:49:12

Yes, they're able to swing on their silk ropes.

0:49:120:49:15

And there you are, you see, they're hanging on on their...

0:49:150:49:18

Look at that! Like a Christmas tree!

0:49:180:49:20

They're abseiling down on their silken threads.

0:49:200:49:23

These are caterpillars of the Peacock butterfly.

0:49:230:49:27

And it's my favourite British butterfly

0:49:270:49:30

and I like the eyespots on the wings.

0:49:300:49:33

They look slightly evil, actually.

0:49:350:49:37

HE LAUGHS

0:49:370:49:38

If you were a caterpillar, you want to look a bit evil. You want to survive.

0:49:380:49:41

-Yeah, the last thing you want to look is nice and friendly.

-And edible.

0:49:410:49:45

And edible, that is the death knell.

0:49:450:49:47

This is designed to show you that all hope is not lost.

0:49:490:49:53

You can create the right habitat for them

0:49:530:49:56

and they will return under their own steam.

0:49:560:50:00

What a glorious thing.

0:50:000:50:02

I imagine you on a summer's evening with a glass of fruit juice

0:50:020:50:05

sitting down here and watching the fruit of all your labours.

0:50:050:50:08

A glass of wine, more likely.

0:50:080:50:09

How wonderful!

0:50:090:50:11

Clive's passion for butterflies has become a hobby

0:50:130:50:17

that's taken over his life.

0:50:170:50:18

And his back garden was just the start.

0:50:180:50:21

Letting his creative juices flow,

0:50:210:50:23

he started up butterfly projects around the country

0:50:230:50:27

as well as the very first butterfly house in the United States.

0:50:270:50:31

The scale of Clive's ambition is mind-boggling,

0:50:380:50:42

but not all of us have got the time or the resources

0:50:420:50:46

to do what he is doing for butterfly conservation.

0:50:460:50:51

Clive thinks big, BUT small can be beautiful,

0:50:510:50:56

as I think we're just about to find out.

0:50:560:51:02

I've come to an ordinary street in Somerset,

0:51:050:51:07

because I've heard that Colin Higgins, a keen gardener,

0:51:070:51:12

has some ingenious ideas for attracting and supporting butterflies and moths

0:51:120:51:16

in his own backyard.

0:51:160:51:19

You've got a Hawthorn hedge, a really, really valuable native plant

0:51:190:51:23

for lots and lots of different types of moths.

0:51:230:51:27

You'll get certain types of pugs, all sorts of different moths

0:51:270:51:30

and the caterpillars will also feed on the leaves.

0:51:300:51:32

We've got a butterfly, we've got a Small Tortoiseshell there

0:51:320:51:35

on the Sweet William.

0:51:350:51:37

Oh, what was that? We're surrounded by them now.

0:51:370:51:39

That was a Small Tortoiseshell as well.

0:51:390:51:42

That butterfly is very happy in that plant, there's obviously a lot of nectar in there.

0:51:420:51:46

And when you go to the garden centre, you have to be really, really careful what you buy,

0:51:460:51:49

because there's a lot of plants that look pretty

0:51:490:51:52

and on paper are good for butterflies and pollinators,

0:51:520:51:54

but they might be sterile.

0:51:540:51:56

Spend time and watch what lands on it, see if the bees land on it,

0:51:560:51:59

see if the butterflies land on it.

0:51:590:52:00

-Watch what settles and actually feeds on the plant.

-Very interesting.

0:52:000:52:03

-That Tortoiseshell's still there!

-It is still there.

0:52:030:52:06

Obviously, that's a proof of what you've just said.

0:52:060:52:08

Getting plenty to feed on, or else, it'd be gone, wouldn't it?

0:52:080:52:11

It's absolutely humming, buzzing with life.

0:52:110:52:13

Everywhere you go, you will see insects,

0:52:130:52:15

you'll see butterflies.

0:52:150:52:17

We also have quite a lot of play equipment,

0:52:170:52:20

cos I have a young daughter, and what we try to do

0:52:200:52:23

is incorporate wildlife plants into the swings.

0:52:230:52:26

You can see the clematis there.

0:52:260:52:28

So she's surrounded by butterflies and things while she's on the swing?

0:52:280:52:31

Exactly, she'll often be out here looking for such things.

0:52:310:52:33

-You've got to get the youngsters involved.

-Very important.

-Got to get the youngsters involved!

0:52:330:52:38

Ah, nettles, very important?

0:52:420:52:46

Absolutely crucial to butterflies.

0:52:460:52:49

Many of our species lay their eggs on the nettle.

0:52:490:52:52

The big problem for us is it is a stinger, it stings,

0:52:520:52:54

and with young children, it can be quite a problem.

0:52:540:52:57

We've got round this by letting them grow up the hedge

0:52:570:53:00

-through some of the other bushes.

-What a great idea!

0:53:000:53:04

You've thought this through, you have!

0:53:040:53:06

You've made a real little haven here.

0:53:080:53:11

Not an enormous garden, but if you were a passing butterfly...

0:53:110:53:14

Yes, we quite often have moths and butterflies

0:53:140:53:16

lay their eggs in the rough grass,

0:53:160:53:18

the Ringlet, the Meadow Brown, the Speckled Wood,

0:53:180:53:21

and they all lay their eggs in the rough grass.

0:53:210:53:24

-Look down here!

-We've got...

0:53:240:53:26

It's empty, unfortunately, but there's a chrysalis from a butterfly.

0:53:260:53:29

I'm thinking that maybe a Small Tortoiseshell, but I'm not positive about that.

0:53:290:53:33

How beautiful that is!

0:53:330:53:34

Now, behind every great garden is a perfect spot

0:53:390:53:43

for the overwintering butterfly.

0:53:430:53:45

Now, you see, a lot...this garden is immaculate

0:53:470:53:50

and here's your shed. I love it!

0:53:500:53:52

You don't get an immaculate garden by having a tidy shed, do you?

0:53:520:53:55

No, it's perfect, this, isn't it?

0:53:550:53:57

Cos there's places in here, any number of places that a butterfly can get in and...

0:53:570:54:00

Yeah, they get in underneath the roof

0:54:000:54:03

and we do get butterflies in there in winter time.

0:54:030:54:05

One of the key things you need to try and do

0:54:050:54:08

is keep the spider webs down,

0:54:080:54:09

cos the spiders will predate the butterflies when they're hibernating over the winter.

0:54:090:54:14

Of course, I never thought of that. In my shed, I might clean some of the webs out.

0:54:140:54:18

He's done a superb job, but in many ways,

0:54:240:54:28

Clive's garden is a fairly normal garden

0:54:280:54:31

and perhaps that's the point.

0:54:310:54:33

All our gardens have got something for butterflies.

0:54:330:54:36

It can be as simple as somewhere to perch to sun yourself,

0:54:360:54:39

it could be some rough scrub like this to hide away in,

0:54:390:54:42

very good for caterpillars,

0:54:420:54:43

or it could be a nectar-rich border like this, full of delicious food.

0:54:430:54:49

Or maybe just a garden shed to hide in and hibernate over the winter.

0:54:490:54:53

For all of us, a little effort

0:54:530:54:56

can make a huge difference to the butterflies in our garden.

0:54:560:55:00

So there we are.

0:55:070:55:09

We've learnt these tiny winged jewels

0:55:090:55:11

lead extraordinary and intriguing lives...

0:55:110:55:15

..that their requirements are so exacting, so super fussy,

0:55:170:55:22

right now, they're struggling to survive

0:55:220:55:25

in our ever-changing countryside.

0:55:250:55:28

But all is not lost.

0:55:280:55:30

We've seen what big effects small changes can have.

0:55:300:55:34

So now is the time to act.

0:55:340:55:37

This summer is the BBC's Summer Of Wildlife,

0:55:390:55:43

and we want to encourage you to get out

0:55:430:55:46

and meet our wonderful wild neighbours for yourselves.

0:55:460:55:51

Right now is the perfect time to enjoy our butterflies and moths.

0:55:510:55:55

So we've got lots of extra things for you.

0:55:550:55:58

Straight after this show,

0:56:010:56:03

press the red button or go to the Summer Of Wildlife website,

0:56:030:56:07

where Nick Baker is hosting a special live event

0:56:070:56:11

all about butterflies and moths,

0:56:110:56:13

tonight and throughout this weekend.

0:56:130:56:16

Also on the website, there's lots more about butterflies and moths -

0:56:160:56:20

identification guides, wildlife gardening tips

0:56:200:56:24

and a guide to our wonderful wildflower meadows.

0:56:240:56:28

If you want to get really close to butterflies and moths,

0:56:290:56:33

like I have, there are loads of special events going on,

0:56:330:56:36

all around the UK, being run by many different wildlife organisations.

0:56:360:56:41

These are happening THIS weekend and throughout the summer.

0:56:430:56:46

It's incredibly easy to find out what's going on near you.

0:56:470:56:51

Just go to the website,

0:56:520:56:54

find the 'Things To Do' section and put in your postcode.

0:56:540:56:57

You'll get all the details you need.

0:56:580:57:00

Finally, if you really want to make a difference

0:57:020:57:06

and do your bit to help,

0:57:060:57:07

why not join me on the Big Butterfly Count?

0:57:070:57:11

It's a huge, nationwide survey of our butterflies and moths

0:57:110:57:16

that will help scientists and conservationists

0:57:160:57:19

understand how they're faring and how we can best look after them.

0:57:190:57:23

Anyone can take part, it's really easy and quick.

0:57:230:57:26

And I can assure you the information you contribute will really count.

0:57:260:57:33

It's going on for the next month or so, so do PLEASE get involved.

0:57:330:57:39

The details and links you need

0:57:390:57:41

for all of our special butterfly and moth activities

0:57:410:57:44

are on the website -

0:57:440:57:46

Butterflies and moths add dazzling beauty and colour to our gardens

0:57:560:58:02

and the entire countryside,

0:58:020:58:04

but they're vulnerable to the slightest change.

0:58:040:58:07

They're very much creatures of boom and bust.

0:58:070:58:10

But by finding out more about their needs,

0:58:100:58:13

we might be able to help them,

0:58:130:58:15

and right now, they really do need our help.

0:58:150:58:20

And surely, we need them, too,

0:58:200:58:23

to continue to add beauty to our lives.

0:58:230:58:27

Subtitles by Red Bee Media Ltd

0:58:520:58:56

Join the Springwatch team for an in-depth view of the UK's most colourful and fascinating creatures, with private lives that are often stranger than fiction. Living all over our countryside as well as in our own back gardens, butterflies and moths are the animal world's ultimate transformers. Filming their extraordinary life cycles in ultra close-up, the team bring you the latest science on their remarkable adaptations and lifestyles.

Butterflies and moths are fussy creatures with very specific needs, and as such they are susceptible to the slightest change. Over past decades, their habitat and range has shrunk significantly and a recent spate of cold, wet summers has been disastrous for them. As the BBC's Summer of Wildlife continues, the Springwatch team show that it has never been more important to give them a helping hand, and it's possible for all of us to create a butterfly-friendly haven, even in the smallest of back gardens.


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