Helping the environment

One school girl, Arietta Northover checks out a privet hawk moth

One school girl, Arietta Northover checks out a privet hawk moth - Credit: Archant

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 wildlife charity Butterfly Conservation, will encourage children in the region to take a closer look at moths, butterflies and caterpillars.

The project will teach primary school pupils to take positive, practical action to help them.

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.

Nick Baker, a Butterfly Conservation vice-president, says: “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.”

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The Munching Caterpillars website 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.