Vineyards experimenting with the elimination of pesticides have stumbled upon a pleasant side effect — attracting swarms of butterflies.

Washington state wineries, seeking more organic forms of pest control, have been creating habitats for so-called “good” insects which feed on bugs that harm crops. Researchers have discovered that these “habitat-enriched” vineyards are hosting three times the number of butterfly species and four times more butterflies than conventional vineyards.

The vineyards never intended to attract butterflies, because they don’t actually help protect the grapes at vineyards, as they don’t eat pests. But butterflies thrive in the native shrubs planted to attract the insects that do–and they provide a pleasant visual for people visiting wineries.radar-shows-butterflies-Natl-Weather-Service

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“To have butterflies flying around could be part of a tourism drive and an attraction for visitors,” said David James, an associate professor in Washington State University’s Department of Entomology. “In these days of organic production and not wanting pesticides on food, butterflies can be a symbol of that.”

James was among the WSU researchers who discovered the new diversity of butterfly species and populations popping up around the vineyards. Their paper will be published in the June issue of the Journal of Insect Conservation.

Butterfly populations have been declining as more and more farms continue to take over natural habitats, but James says these vineyards have shown that agriculture can live alongside, and even preserve, nature.

Photo by Washington State University

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