Gardening with Children

School Zone

Attract Butterflies to your garden

Date Posted: 01 July 2014

Painted lady
We all love butterflies, they are unique little creatures of varying shapes and sizes with dazzling vivid colours, but our native butterflies need our help. Butterflies are far less common now than they were 50 years ago, much of their natural habitat, wildflower meadows, heath land, woodland and peat bogs has been lost to industrial and housing developments and intensive farming. Your garden, however large or small, could be a haven for butterflies, providing food and shelter; even a window box or container garden can help.
To attract butterflies into your garden you will need to provide nectar rich flowers throughout the butterfly season, as well as food plants for the butterfly caterpillars to eat. Butterflies love a warm, sunny sheltered spot, so here would be an ideal place to grow your nectar rich plants. To attract a wider variety of species choose different types of plants and ones that will flower at different times, it is better to grow and plant the same varieties in blocks if you have room. Butterflies need a supply of nectar throughout the year; Spring flowers provide food for the emerging butterflies from hibernation whilst Autumn flowers help butterflies build up their reserves for Winter.
Buddleia and Small Tortoiseshell

Spring Nectar Plants

Aubretia, Bluebells, Cuckooflower(Lady’s Smock), Dandelion, Forget-me-not, Garlic Mustard, Honesty, Lilac, Pansy, Primrose, Sweet Rocket, Sweet William, Violas, Wallflower, Willow.

Summer/Autumn Nectar Plants

Buddleia, Candytuft, Catmint, Chives, Chrysanthemum, Common bird’s-foot trefoil, Cornflower, Escallonia, Forget-me-not, French Marigold, Marjoram, Globe Thistle, Hebe, Honeysuckle, Hyssop, Ice Plant, Ivy, Lavender, Marjoram, Michaelmas Daisy, Mint, Perennial Wallflower, Phlox, Red Valerian, Scabious, Thistles, Thyme, Verbena bonariensis.

Food plants for caterpillars

Cabbage species, Common bird’s-foot trefoil, Cuckooflower (Lady’s Smock), Fennel, Garlic Mustard, Holly, Honesty, Ivy, Nasturtium, Nettles, Sweet Rocket, Thistles
Extend the flowing/growing period of your plants by removing dead flowers, mulching and watering in dry weather, well watered plants will produce more nectar.

Make a ‘wild corner’ in your gardenInstant Meadows

Leave a corner of your garden to go wild, allowing grasses and native flowers to grow this will encourage butterflies to breed in your garden, many caterpillars eat common native grasses but only when they have grown tall. Sow more wild flower seeds direct or in trays to plant when they are bigger or even better create a wildflower meadow in an area of your garden, small or large, it will attract more different species and provide them with somewhere to lay their eggs and spend the winter. Nettles are a very important food source for many caterpillars, to inhibit their growth plant them in buried containers. 
Don’t use pesticides or insecticides as they will kill butterflies as well as other beneficial insects. If caterpillars are a problem on cabbages etc. cover your crops with netting and grow Nasturtiums nearby as an alternative food plant.

Provide extra food and a safe place to hibernate

It is a good idea to provide extra food for butterflies by putting up a Butterfly/Bee Nectar Feeding Station
Butterfly/Bee Nectar Feeding Station
or a Butterfly and Moth Feeder which has two feeding cups and also provides a safe habitat for roosting and hibernating too.
Butterfly and Moth Feeder
The Butterfly Biome has two feeding cups, and space for hibernating as well as a Colour Guide to Common Butterflies and a packet of Wildflower seeds specially selected to attract butterflies.
The Butterfly Biome

Take part in the Big Butterfly Count - one of the worlds largest surveys of Butterflies

This year from Friday 17th July – Sunday 9th August take part in the Big Butterfly Count a nationwide survey run by the charity Butterfly Conservation. It was launched in 2010 when over 10,000 people took part, counting 210,000 individual Butterflies and day flying moths, last year in 2014 more than 44,000 people took part counting over 560,000 individual Butterflies and day flying Moths.
Butterflies react quickly to change in their environment and are excellent biodiversity indicators making butterfly declines an early warning for other wildlife losses. This survey helps to identify trends in species as well as to understand the effect climate change has on wildlife and how to protect butterflies from extinction.
What you need to do
Simply count butterflies for 15 minutes, preferably on a sunny day, recording the maximum number of each species that you see at a single time and submit your sightings online before the end of August. You can submit separate sightings for different dates and places: parks, school grounds, gardens, fields and forests. This is a great family activity that you can do during the summer holidays, whilst you are away on holiday or as a class activity at school if you have time before the end of term.
For more information have a look at the Big Butterfly Count website.


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