One of the talks that I give to gardening and WI groups is about gardening for wildlife, and butterflies feature in that talk, but today I got to see some rather different and exotic butterflies and learn a bit about what goes on behind the scenes at Wisley to get these wonderful creatures into their glasshouse to amaze the public in the depths of winter.
The butterflies are sent in Chrysalis form, from Belize to Wisley via the experts at Stratford Butterfly farm. When they arrive, they are hung upside down (stuck on with non toxic copydex) in an emergence cage which is kept warm and humid. These green chrysalis will be Blue Morpho Butterflies in a couple of weeks.
When they do emerge, they need to hang for a few hours for their wings to dry out, before they fly.
(Owl and Malay Lacewing newly hung from the emergence cage)
When they've warmed up (and the glass house at Wisley is lovely and warm for them at the moment) then they'll fly off to find out what tropical delights the glasshouse staff have laid on for them.
Each year the Wisley team find more varieties of plants that are able to flower in an English January, and to provide nectar for tropical butterflies.
Orchids, Calliandra, the Jade vine Strongylobum and Lantana were all being well visited today by butterflies.
But for those that don't like the Wisley specimens, there is a buffet table
Where the guests actually prefer the fruit at the rotting, past it's best stage, and the centre of the flowers are sugar water (10% solution) for feeding and drinking.
I really enjoyed my butterfly trip today. And they are very popular as the queues on Sunday when I went with my family, and the full glasshouse today prove. So I hope they are here to stay as a winter attraction at Wisley. - They are in the Glasshouse until Mid February, so don't worry if you can't get there in the next few days.
Now i'm off to plan more attractive plants for our native butterflies this summer. - Anyone know if they like sugar water too?