Buddleia, Butterflies and Human Folly

I was looking out the window this morning, drinking my coffee, and my attention was drawn, as it usually is, to the buddleia bush. When I was growing up, buddleia bushes would be alive with all sorts of butterflies. This one, by comparison, like others I’ve seen in the last few years, is relatively naked.

So what is it that is making our butterflies disappear? It’s now unusual for me to see a butterfly and I’ve been known to shriek with delight when I do, whereas during my youth, each summer was a colourful experience and I would find them sunbathing everywhere. And I got to thinking: it’s GM and pesticides, isn’t it? Think about it. It makes perfect sense. If a crop that butterflies lay their eggs on, and that their caterpillars then eat, is genetically modified or sprayed with poison, how can they pupate? Will they die before they’ve even had a chance to make a cocoon? If they do, will they emerge as butterflies or will they perish before they get that far? If they do emerge, will they have the capacity to breed and will they live out their full life span?

Looking it up on the internet to see if I could find confirmation for my gut feeling, I found an article about monarch butterflies in the US. Their sole food is milkweed, and pollen from GM Bt corn crops is dusting the leaves, which the caterpillars eat. Half die. Many of the ones who don’t will grow to only half their normal size. It doesn’t take a genius to extrapolate this to the UK. So many of our native butterflies are an unusual sight, these days. Even the Red Admiral, such a common sight when I was growing up, is a rarity. The most numerous species I’ve seen in recent years is the Cabbage White, and even these guys are not as ubiquitous as they once were. OK, my dad used to grow cabbages in the garden, so that may have had something to do with why I would see so many, but there are other people with vegetable patches and allotments around that area who still must grow them. And yet the Cabbage White seems to be disappearing, too.

This makes me even more determined to continue to do what we did yesterday (no smut, please…) – we needed to stock up on food, so we took a stroll down to the Open Market off London Road. On the way to Jay’s place to get eggs, we passed a grocer. All sorts of fruit and veg were on display and I looked back to see Laz had been distracted by the bounty. I went back to join him and we were in seventh heaven. Even the spelling of ‘broccoli’ here (’Brockley’) amused rather than annoyed us, and we spoke at length to the stallholder, who let us try a greengage before buying some (which of course we did), along with some plums, some small orange peppers and a bag of mushrooms, all of which added up to less than £4. When we finally made it to Jay’s, he wasn’t there, but we bought eggs, bacon, dried apricots and a couple of different cheeses. We then made our way round the corner to the butcher and bought some local sausages and some stewing steak (nearing purple and veined throughout, with the promise from the butcher that it had been hung properly, which neither of us doubted for a second). I think, in all, we spent around £25. (How much would that cost in a supermarket, these days? I honestly have no idea, but suspect it would be more than we paid to the indies.) It was fun, shopping this way. It gives a real buzz that supermarkets can’t provide, and made us excited at the idea of putting meals together. We made sure we bought enough greengages to make a lattice (though a few jumped right out the bag and into my hand straight after getting back – I tried to stop them, but no, they would insist on being eaten…).

Greengages and plums, just begging to be eaten

And this morning, our Riverford box arrived. I’d ordered a mini fruit and vegbox and a bag of apples, and it’s always exciting looking through the box, even if you know what’s going to be in it.

Mini fruit & vegbox…

…with extra apples. Wait… there’s one missing… Oops!

So Laz’s kitchen is now stuffed with goodies and we’re not short of ideas about what to eat.

All this GM crap, pesticides that kill wildlife as well as weeds, supermarket buyers paying suppliers less than cost price, often tasteless fruit and veg, uniform sizes and appearance, limited varieties… WHY??? Our friend and protector, Mother Nature, has already done the work for us. She’s done it for so long that her system is perfect. We don’t need to mess with it to make it ‘better’. All that does is prove that we, as a species, think we’re so fucking superior that we can improve on Nature. And those of us with even half a brain know that we can’t, never have and never will.

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