Before I start, this article was made in conjunction with the 10 Most Common Butterflies list video on Wild Suburbia, It will give you a good round up 2019’s most sighted butterflies.
If you’re here from Wild Suburbia then you clicked through because you were interested in how you can help butterflies, this is the article for you, it is just a quick summary of ways to help and there are many more ways out there and I’d recommend also referencing the various conservation charity websites out there on how you can do more.
Butterflies are brilliant creatures, they pollinate plants and just generally brighten our gardens with their colourful wings.
It is a devastating fact that that butterflies and moths are threatened through habitat loss, invasive species and climate change. All hope is not lost however and today’s post will give some highlights on how we can help them
Step 1: Butterfly Buffet
Adult butterflies and moths feed off of nectar which they obtain from flowers during pollination. So the first step of converting your back garden to a pollinator haven is having a diverse mix of plants.
Firstly, I’d recommend that you look at your local park or even a grass verge or common, once you see which butterflies and moths you have nearest to you, you can plant with them in mind. I say “plant” loosely because if you left a spot to grow wild, you may find that the typical wildflowers that are endemic to your area will take hold there is more on this in my article ‘Weeds, the Unwanted Wildflowers?’, and your endemic wildflowers will be likelier to appeal to the endemic pollinator populations.
However, for many gardeners there is a reward in planting a seed and nurturing a plant to its full potential, so select plants that your nearby moth and butterfly species find appealing, in my garden for example, we had planted birds foot trefoil to attract the Common Blue Butterflies that are nearby. Another thing to bear in mind when you’re shopping for plants to attract wildlife is to try and get a diversity of plants to reflect the natural diversity that would exist for example, in a meadow. Please also try and be sustainable in buying seeds and try to buy native.
The timing of the flowers is also important, you should strive to have a garden where you get flowers in late winter or early spring all the way into late autumn, this is because the different butterfly and moth species will emerge at different points in the year, and it is difficult to find early and late sources of nectar.
Step 2: One of Your Five a Day
Another good bit of help that you can give butterflies is to give them discarded fruit, they will feed on the sugary liquid within the fruit and it can be a welcome boost. I have tried this with a few fruits and I can say that this has been successful with oranges, the butterflies have certainly taken to them in the past.
Step 3: Heating up
Important also for butterflies is the ability to warm up, as cold blooded creatures they thrive on warmth and require it to become active. My suggestion for this would be a rock pile, this will absorb the heat nicely, also an exposed log, lying down with one side facing the sun will also work quite well and the heat will be a bit softer.
Step 4: Shelter
Butterflies are very fond of warm and sunny weather because as cold blooded creatures, this is an environment they thrive in. They are not fond of cold and rainy weather though, this is why you should ensure that there is sufficient shelter in the garden. You’ll find that the shelter requirements of a butterfly can be relatively easily fulfilled, they’re pretty resourceful creatures.
My main recommendation for this is a hedge, tree or a shrub, these have the bonus aspects of being able to feed the butterflies if they’re Alder Buckthorn for example or even a Holly bush. Again, consider the resident status of these plants and try to aim for native.
Another resource for shelter is a bug hotel (pictured below for reference). These will be a little less space consuming but won’t have the added benefit of flowering and feeding your now resident pollinators.
If you want to help butterflies outside of your garden then please visit the Butterfly Conservation website and leave a donation.
They do some very good work and you can learn more about their work here.
Garden Butterfly Gallery
Created by Jack Phillpotts