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Butterfly meadow

Marbled White on a thistle Photo: Dr. H. Fried

Butterflies are a common sight on the semi-dry grassland of the fruit orchard in Steeden. The orchard with forest, meadows and waterbodies nearby provides the diverse habitat many kinds of butterflies need.

Detail: Fruit orchard near Limburg

The butterfly meadow

One of the most striking butterflies to be found in fruit orchards is the Red Admiral. The butterfly can be found in late summer and early autumn primarily on the windfall of apples, pears and plums. Then, dozens of the butterflies sit sucking on the split fruit, strenghtening themselves for their long journey to the south. As a rule, Red Admirals migrate in October to their wintering place in the south of Europe. The following spring they return to procreate.

Peacock Butterfly, Brimstone, Green Hairstreak, Marbled White, Painted Lady, Réal's Wood White, Meadow Brown, Comma, Small Heath, Map, Old World Swallowtail, Orange Tip and many others can also be observed here. They are attracted by the rich offering of nectar and pollen. In late summer and autumn they drink the fermented juice of fallen fruit.

Different butterflies need different biotopes

Butterflies apply high standards to their habitat. Depending on their stage of development from egg, caterpillar, cocoon and butterfly, some kinds need different biotopes. The Marbled White, for example, feeds as a grown butterfly mostly from composite plants, such as cornflower and thistles. Its caterpillars, however, prefer various grasses. The females only lay their eggs on the ground of unmown meadows, which is why the fruit orchard in Steeden – where the butterfly is often found – is only mown in autumn.

Caterpillars of Small Tortoiseshell, Red Admiral, Comma and Map enjoy the nettles, their favourite host plant, on the border of the fruit orchard. The blooming flowers of lady's smock in spring are favoured by the offspring of the Orange Tip. Wild carrot, caraway and fennel are host plants to the caterpillar of the Old World Swallowtail.

Rich supply of food for many species

The occurrence of individual butterfly species is aside from the food supply also dependant upon local conditions, such as the climate and the interconnectedness of the orchard with other biotopes in the region. Particularly butterflies are often not very mobile and rely on small areas for their habitat.

The fruit orchard in Steeden is ideal as a butterfly habitat, surrounded by forest, meadows, water bodies and small woods. Seasonally phased mowings also affect the butterfly population positively.

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