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Over The Garden Gate

British Butterflies in the Garden

Planning a Butterfly Garden
Caterpillars
Butterfly pictures & information

Owing to the decrease in the natural habitats, gardens are becoming more important to the survival of British butterflies. We as gardeners can help them flourish by providing plants that are attractive to butterflies.

butterfly The species of butterfly which may visit your garden will vary depending on where you live in the country, soil type and what else is around the area e.g. heathland, woodland or meadows.

Research has shown that most British butterflies favour blue, yellow and white flowers, though scent and size of flower also determine which species feed on which plants. The Small Tortoiseshell is probably our most frequent garden diner, and will visit almost all flowers its 14mm proboscis can reach.

Not all butterflies feed on flowers. Some, such as the Red Admiral, are also attracted to tree sap and rotting plums, and others to honey dew.

butterfly Most of us are familiar with the way that buddleia's attract a variety of butterflies, so much so that it is often known as the 'butterfly bush'. Other common garden plants, such as Sedum's and Lobelia attract Small Tortoiseshells and Whites respectively.

The most likely butterflies to visit you garden are listed below with the plants they enjoy.
A list of caterpillar food plants can be found here

 

Butterfly Food Plants
Brimstone Aubretia, Buddleia, Lavender, Purple Loosestrife, Runner Bean, Scabious
Comma Bramble, Budleia, Devilís-bit Scabious, Sedum spectabile
Common Blue Birdís-foot-trefoil, Budleia, Lavender, Marjoram
Gatekeeper Bramble, Budleia, Candytuft, Thyme
Holly Blue Bramble, Escallonia
Large White Aubretia, Bugle, Budleia, Candytuft, Common Thistle, Lavender, Nasturtium, ragged robin
Meadow Brown Bramble, Budleia, Field Scabious, Lavender, Marjoram
Orange Tip Aubretia, Bugle, Honesty, Sweet Rocket
Painted Lady Aubretia, Buddleia, Hebe, Lavender, Common Ragwort, Red Valerian, Scabious
Peacock Budleia, Common Ragwort, Common Thistle, Hemp Agrimony, Scabious.
Red Admiral Aubretia, Budleia,Common Thistle, Ivy, Privet, Rotting fruit
Small Tortoiseshell Aubretia, Budleia, Candytuft, Common Ragwort, Common Thistle, Michaelmas Daisy, Scabious,
Small White Aubretia, Buddleia, Common Ragwort, Lavender, Ragged Robin
Speckled Wood Budleia, Honey dew from aphids, Marjoram
Wall Brown Budleia, Lavender, Red Valerian

Planning a Butterfly Garden

Butterflies need a certain amount of warmth before they become active, they will seek out sunny sheltered spots to warm themselves, before searching for nectar. A good butterfly garden doesn't have to be a wilderness.

When planning a butterfly garden choose a sheltered sunny spot which is warm in spring and autumn, this when planted with the flowering plants of those seasons, will provide a food source for over wintering butterflies. During the summer months this isn't quite so important as the sun is higher in the sky and so more of the garden is attractive to butterflies.

There are a wide variety flowering plants which will attract butterflies, buddleia (butterfly bush) being the most well known, many of which may already be providing a varied menu in your garden. Some other tasty morsals are below with rough flowering times to keep the butterflies coming back to your restaurant.

 

Spring Flowering Summer Flowering Autumn Flowering Plants for the wilder garden...
Annual Chrysanthemums
Aster sinensis
Aubretia
Buddlia alternifolia
Buddlia globosa
Buddlia nanhoensis
Buddlia weyerana
Corn Marigold
Cornus - Willow family
Forget-me-nots
Hebes
Helenium
Holly
Honesty
Heliotrope
Lavender
Nepeta cataria
Perennial Cornflower
Polyanthus
Primroses
Sweet William
Violets
Wallflowers
Yellow Alyssum
African Marigold
Ageratum
Aster amellus
Buddleia davdii
Dahlias
Dianthus
Dwarf Helechrysum
Dwarf Phlox
Dwarf scabious
Echinops
Erigeron
Escallonia langleyensis
French Marigold
Hebes
Hemp Agrimony
Hyssop
Inula denticulata
Lobelia
Marjoram
Mignonette
Phlox
Scabious
Sunflower
Tithonia "Torch"
Teasel
Verbina
Wild Cornflower
White Allysum
Candytuft
Dwarf Golden Rod
Golden Rod
Hebes
Sedum spectabile
Michaelmas Daisies
Bramble
Bugle
Dandelion
Grasses
Hawkweed
Privet
Ragwort
Rockrose
Thistles
Violets

 

When planting for butterflies we mustn't forget that these beautiful insects don't just appear. They have a larval stage which have different dining requirements to the adult butterflies. So don't forget to put something on the menu for the caterpillars.

Caterpillars

caterpillar eating leaf Although sixty species of butterflies breed in the British Isles, many can't readily find the food their caterpillars need in our gardens, as they usually feed on native plants. Each species needs to lay it's eggs on or near the caterpillars food plant. You might enjoy having some caterpillars as residents in your garden 'restaurant', others may be less welcome, especially if they take a liking to your prize cabbages!

It is easy to see the adult butterflies as they flit around the garden, but you have to look closer for their eggs, pupa and caterpillars (larva). Often the first signs of these are holes appearing in the leaves of your plants. The eggs are generally around 1mm tall, difficult to identify and are either laid singly or in clusters on the backs of leaves or stems. The caterpillars are the eating machines, and are easiest to identify when fully grown.

Many of the caterpillar food plants below are well suited to being planted in wilder areas of the garden where they can munch away in peace, but remember caterpillars will appreciate a warm, sunny and sheltered spot as much as we do!

Caterpillars will often pupate and overwinter on dead vegetation, so try to avoid being too tidy with your garden, particularly where you know there have been caterpillars around.


Caterpillar Food Plant
Brimstone Alder Buckthorn, Purging Buckthorn
Comma Currant, Elm, Hop, Stinging Nettle
Common Blue Clover, Birds-foot Trefoil, Lesser Yellow Trefoil, Restharrow
Gatekeeper Bents, Cocksfoot, Couch, Fescues
Holly Blue Bramble, Gorse, Holly, Ivy
Large White Plants in the cabbage family, Nasturtiums, Wild Mignonette
Meadow Brown Grasses, especially Poa pratensis
Orange Tip Arabis, Charlock, Cuckoo Flower, Garlic Mustard, Hedge Mustard, Honesty, Ladies Smock, Watercress
Painted Lady Thistles, Burdocks, Mallows, Stinging Nettle
Peacock Stinging Nettle
Red Admiral Stinging Nettle, Hop
Small Tortoiseshell Stinging Nettle
Small White Plants in the cabbage family, Nasturtiums, Wild Mignonette
Speckled Wood Annual Meadow Grass, Cocksfoot, Couch,
Wall Brown Most of the common grasses

Ragwort

Ragwort is a dangerous weed to livestock and is controlled by law:-
http://www.defra.gov.uk/wildlife-pets/wildlife-management/weeds-act-1959/
However, as with many species, it also has an important role to play in the ecosystem - please be aware of the law and use common sense if considering growing or allowing Ragwort to spread.

Butterfly pictures and information

Brimstone
Brimstone
Clouded Yellow
Clouded Yellow
Comma
Comma
Gatekeeper
Gatekeeper
Green Hairstreak
Green Hairstreak
Holly Blue
Holly Blue
Large White
Large White
Marbled White
Marbled White
Meadow Brown
Meadow Brown
Orange Tip
Orange Tip
Painted Lady
Painted Lady
Peacock
Peacock
Red Admiral
Red Admiral
Ringlet
Ringlet
Silver Studded Blue
Silver Studded Blue
Silver-washed Fritillary
Silver-washed Fritillary
Small Copper
Small Copper
Small Skipper
Small Skipper
Small Tortoiseshell
Small Tortoiseshell
Small White
Small White
Speckled Wood
Speckled Wood
Wall Brown
Wall Brown
   

There is more information on Butterflies and Moths
from the UK and the rest of the World in our Wildlife Archive


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