Naturalist Nick Baker is encouraging primary school pupils in Dorset and Somerset to connect with nature with the launch of a ground-breaking education campaign.
The ‘Munching Caterpillars’ project, run by Dorset-based wildlife charity Butterfly Conservation, will encourage children in the region to take a closer look at moths, butterflies and their caterpillars.
The project will teach primary school pupils to take positive, practical action to help moths, butterflies and caterpillars.
As part of the scheme, children will plant ‘caterpillar munch boxes’ and ‘butterfly fuel stations’ in their school grounds, gardens and community spaces; pupils will grow specially selected plants that provide food for hungry caterpillars or nectar for the adult butterflies and moths.
School children will observe live specimens close up and learn about the life cycles, adaptations and ecology of butterflies and moths.
The ‘Munching Caterpillars’ team will visit community groups and public events with their unique workshops. The project offers training workshops for those wishing to volunteer, or run moth and butterfly activities within their own organisations.
Naturalist Nick Baker, a Butterfly Conservation Vice-president, said: "The fascination with butterflies and moths started for me with no more than a few Large White caterpillars, plucked from the leaves of my mum’s Nasturtium and a jam jar - watching what can only be described as a magical transformation from an ever-hungry caterpillar, to twitching chrysalis and then the final act as a perfect butterfly emerges.
To this day this metamorphosis still blows my mind and the fascination for these insects still holds as true today as it did 35 years ago, such is the power of these childhood experiences.
Munching Caterpillars Project Officer Catherine Mason said: “We hope that for many children, our project could be the spark that leads to a deep and lasting interest in nature. It’s really important that we inspire our children to care for the natural world around them.”
The project was officially launched by Baker at Groves Nurseries in Bridport, Dorset on Thursday 25 July.
Becky Groves, manager of Groves Nurseries, said: “We are thrilled to have teamed up with Butterfly Conservation on the ‘Munching Caterpillars’ Project.
“It makes perfect sense for garden centres to show their customers which are the appropriate plants for butterflies and moths. Butterflies should be a part of every garden and it's important that children know what they are and how to encourage them.”
The Munching Caterpillars website www.munchingcaterpillars.org features colourful resources for children and adults to download. They can ‘register’ their munch boxes and fuel stations to find out which species they are helping and ‘ask an expert’ all their questions.
Munching Caterpillars is funded by the Heritage Lottery Fund, which awarded Butterfly Conservation a grant of £212,100 over three years and will run until the end of 2015. The project aims to reach thousands of children and their families across Somerset and Dorset.