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Butterflies: A Reminder Of Biodiversity’s Role

Are nettles a thing of beauty? Every spr ing my mother bends over her flower garden yanking any greenery even slightly related to nettles.

With a toss over her shoulder, these withering plants do not even get a parting glance. In her eyes these plants are downright ugly, even worse than quack grass.

Who finds a metre-high stinging plant anything but ugly? Nettles do not seem productive in any way, shape or form. Well, a nettle might not be anything to look at, but what is attracted to it certainly is.

For the first time this spring, a large group of Red Admirals lives in our yard. With a wing span of two to three inches, a Red Admiral landed on my shoulder, entirely winning over my heart. From that point, I decided to watch for this beautiful creature always.

These stunning black, orange and white butterflies survive only with the aid of their fellow companions – nettles. In its caterpillar stage, the nettle is its main source of food. Other plants such as milkweed, aster, clover, and alfalfa are on a Red Admiral’s menu, but a nettle is always its favourite. A Red Admiral butterfly is attracted to a yard that has any fermenting fruit or running sap.

These butterflies migrate from Texas into Manitoba each year and reside in Manitoba from April to October. They become a wonderful addition to any garden, as they are incredibly people friendly. So, the next time you walk the edge of your garden and spot a nettle taking root, remember the Red Admiral’s beauty.

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