Any gardeners out there will lament with me on the subject of white butterflies….certainly a lovely sight as they flit around the garden but for us gardeners, it strikes a chord of dread in our hearts. These unassuming little butterflies have a penchant for your garden greens, in particular, brassicas (cabbages). They flit around and lay their eggs under the leaves of your greens, and the emerging little green caterpillars will gorge themselves bloated on your leaves meant for your own plate!
So gardeners will go to great lengths to eliminate this pest, including running around rather undignified, butterfly net in hand, trying to capture them. This method by the way, is great for keeping fit, as the target flits around in a random zig-zag method and one has to dart around in an unseemly comical fashion. I have gotten quite good at this method but one cannot lurk about the garden all day, just waiting for a hapless white butterfly to emerge from around the neighbourhood.
Then there is Derris Dust, an organic control (poison derived from plants) which we enjoyed until some controversial research came about and is still highly contended whether this really is a good method of control as it may have an effect on bee populations. Derris Dust is also impractical to use as it’s supposed to be sprinkled liberally on your target plants and is supposed to deter these pesky guys BUT you have to repeat sprinkles after rain. Now as you know, New Zealand gets more than it’s fair share of rain, so one would potentially be sprinkling crops every day, sometimes several times a day to keep up with the rain fall events!
So desperate gardeners will pounce on any measures to control white butterfly. A year back, I read in a magazine that they are territorial and won’t land where another butterfly is flitting, so one can erect dummy butterflies to deter them. My early butterfly models were cut out of Soy Milk Tetra Pak cartons, and I am not sure if they actually did much to deter the butterflies, but they did look rather quaint.
During my last gardening workshop I ran, one participant gifted me three white butterfly decoys. I was humbled by such a kind and generous gift and promptly placed them in the veg beds with brassicas. There must be some truth behind this decoy thing, as they were manufactured plastic butterflies, rather lovely. I was annoyed that they lasted less than two weeks, as a strong gusty wind simply snapped them off their stakes and the plastic was so brittle that they broke up. So Kiwi Ingenuity in mind, I decided I would make my own replacements.
What to use? Where to get soft pliable plastic to make the butterflies from? Ice cream lids! But how to get my hands on these, as we are vegan, and ice cream containers are in short non-existent supply in this house? The internet! I posted a message asking for white ice cream lids to our local Facebook community page and the next day, I had two lids in my postbox!
Using the manufactured butterflies as templates, I managed to cut out one big and three small butterflies. Next, I nailed the butterfly decoys onto long wooden stakes and placed them in the garden, where I have my cabbages fattening up. So now, I will watch and see if they really do keep the pesky white butterflies away……
Anyway, even if they don’t do the proposed job, they do look rather lovely and whimsical.