TROPICAL butterflies are being bred in anticipation of Stratford Butterfly Farm’s eventual reopening.
Owner and international lepidopterist – or butterfly and moth expert – Clive is breeding the butterflies in greenhouses before they are released into the farm’s ‘flight area’.
Clive, alongside gardener Leslie Pattenden, is breeding a variety of brightly coloured ‘Heliconius’ or longwing butterflies, fragile, semi-transparent ‘Glasswing’ from Costa Rica, and the tiny ghost yellow ‘Eurema albula’ from Central and South America.
Also being bred is a rare and unusual brown butterfly called ‘Heteropsis fraterna’, originating from Madagascar.
The butterflies feed on a mix of specially prepared nectar which sustains them through the lean months when most natural nectar plants are taking a winter rest. The ‘Heliconius’ quickly learn to use the bright orange golf tees which mimic their favourite flower in the rainforest, the Psiguria, and queue up in the mornings for their breakfast feed.
The greenhouses have underfloor heating and a fan to maintain an even temperature and keep the miniature residents warm.
At the same time Richard Read, resident tropical horticulturist, is overseeing the restructuring and planting of the outdoor gardens from one large wildflower garden to three distinct planting areas including a UK native wildflower garden with lavender, cornflowers and marigolds.
There will also be a tropical area, planted with large foliage including ferns and banana plants, and the third area will be the Prairie bed containing grasses such as Miscanthus and hardy perennials such as Echinacea which provides insects with nectar, pollen, and shelter.
Spokeswoman Jane Kendrick said: “When the country emerges from lockdown, we want hundreds of stunning butterflies to emerge at the same time.
“Breeding the butterflies now ensures we can re-populate the farm quickly and by preparing our gardens in spring it will ensure they look stunning in the summer.
“Connecting with nature is beneficial to our mental health and in these uncertain and challenging times, it’s imperative we look forward to brighter days and ones filled with an abundance of butterflies and flowers.”