Wednesday 05 June 2019 | 5

Nettles, the friend of butterflies

 Nettles, the friend of butterflies

Mis à jour le 23 March 2020

This plant covered with stinging hairs does not look like much and attacks those who underestimate her. Able to defend herself against brutes, she protects her virtues as much as her allies. You have to have the grace of a butterfly to know how to approach her, talk to her and take refuge in her.

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She bites and she burns. However, one rarely declares her flames as a bouquet of flowers when she is in blossom, presenting herself mainly in the form of multi-coloured rows of clustering small pale flowers. A nettle (Urtica), whatever her species, she has no allies. Of the nettle family of Urticaceae, her hairy prickly leaves, are uninviting. We avoid her at the side of the roads, we curse her when we accidentally rub against her and the well-mowed lawn enthusiasts pull her out or kill her with pesticides. We don’t know her well enough.

Safe Haven

Because this very old herb has many properties. She has been used since time immemorial, both in food and medicine, in particular. A natural fertilizer, her liquid manure is also very beneficial to the rest of the vegetation. But the benefits of nettles are not limited to the exploitation of them by humans. Her mere presence on the banks of streams, at the edge of the fields, at the bottom of a vacant plot, represents a boon for the surrounding flora and fauna. While cleaning up polluted soils, she attracts a host of admirers, and in particular butterflies! Many have understood how this uninviting plant is an ideal refuge for sheltering from predators. And her mass turns out to be a small garden of Eden where the cunning lepidopterans come to fly with grace.


In a group of colourful foragers, we can in particular admire the Vulcan, the Small Tortoiseshell, the Peacock Butterfly, the Comma, the Map or even the Beautiful Lady. Sometimes less flamboyant, the Owlet moths are not left out either: the Jersey Tiger, the Nettle moth, the Small Magpie, the Silver Y and the dark spectacle, are just a few of the many who regularly visit this "weed". Many also put their offspring in her care. Depending on the species, each butterfly has its own technique. The Vulcan, for example, deposits its eggs one by one on the top of the leaves (the caterpillars later roll up the leaf to feed on from the inside out), while the Map prefers to lay its eggs underneath the leaves, in the form of cascading rosaries ... which look like the inflorescences of the plant itself!

Winged poets in danger

Thus, nettles provide both food and shelter for a host of butterflies, whatever their stage of metamorphosis. When you know that these endangered insects are threatened with extinction, mainly due to the degradation of their natural environments, preserving their habitat is more essential than ever! Leaving a square area of nettles at the bottom of your garden is more than an easy gesture, it is an act of resistance against the decline of biodiversity! To fight alongside us and sanctify more and more green spaces, join the Arches of Nature!

Marie-Sophie Bazin
Hr blog

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Nounoune | Thursday 06 June 2019

Préservons cette nature !