The Big Butterfly Count
Have you spotted any butterflies lately? If your garden is a haven for them then why not take part in the Big Butterfly Count? This annual event runs from Friday 17 July and Sunday 9 August this year, so you still have plenty of time to get involved.
It’s a simple but effective way of testing the state of the UK’s butterfly populations. People up and down the UK will be stepping outside for 15 minutes with a cuppa and an identification sheet, downloaded from Butterfly Conservation’s website https://bigbutterflycount.butterfly-conservation.org/ . Choose a sunny spot to sit and record how many of each different species you can spot in your garden.
Remember to submit your butterfly count to the website, along with your location. The combination of everyone’s findings will provide valuable data on how our Butterfly populations are doing this year.
So what’s in my garden?
To be honest, I wasn’t expecting much. I have lots of flowers but not many that are known to attract butterflies. I was pleasantly surprised to see a bright orange butterfly which was sunbathing on a Dahlia leaf. My ident sheet tells me that this is a Comma Butterfly, a species which suffered severe decline during the 20th Century but has now made an extraordinary comeback.
Less welcome were the two Large Whites which fluttered by. Interestingly I was able to tell that one of these was female, due to the black spots on her upper wings which the males don’t have. They flew off in search of vegetable patch, so I don’t hold out much hope for my Cabbages this year!
Growing plants for butterflies
Encouraging more butterflies to your garden is easy. You don’t even need to be a great gardener. Nectar rich species such as Buddleja, Dahlia, Hebe and Sedum are all easy to grow and provide excellent food sources for Butterflies. It’s equally important to provide plants for their larvae – yes that’s right; where you have butterflies, you must also have caterpillars!
Plant Holly, Ivy, Nasturtum, Willow, Comfrey and Verbascum to provide caterpillar plant foods. Don’t be upset when they get nibbled. Remember that these plants are there for encouraging wildlife – a small price to pay for the pleasure of inviting butterflies into your garden.
Many species such as Peacock butterflies and Red Admirals rely on weed plants such as the humble stinging nettle and thistle to feed their larvae. A wild and weedy corner of the garden can be really valuable.
Tips for encouraging butterflies to the garden
Grow plants for butterflies in a sheltered, sunny spot.
Don’t be too tidy – a wild area provides valuable food and cover for caterpillars.
Avoid using pesticides in the garden.
Grow a range of nectar plants to provide food for butterflies from spring through to autumn.