Lucky for us, our gardens are sanctuaries where butterflies can obtain all they need to survive. With a variety of plants to attract butterflies in our gardens, we can have the privilege of hosting the flickering colours of Britain's native butterflies throughout the summer, and keep them coming from year to year.
Plants for butterflies
In the UK, gardens cover an estimated one million acres, providing a huge opportunity for us to help butterflies survive. We can use this space efficiently to plant a nutritional variety of butterfly-friendly plants that are rich in pollen or nectar, and ideally both. As we know, butterflies visit gardens to drink nectar from flowers, which provides fuel to keep them airborne. Planting nectar-rich plants is a great way to help conserve the butterfly population, and in return helps to pollinate our crops. Here are some great plants for butterflies:
Attract butterfly species with a variety of butterfly-friendly plants, especially those with open, tube shape flowers that they can easily feed from, and 'host' plants which they can lay their eggs on. It is important to provide plants that attract butterflies right through the butterfly season, and particularly in the spring, when they are coming out of hibernation, and in autumn, when they are building their reserves for winter. You can extend the flowering period of your plants by deadheading, mulching with organic compost and watering well. These things all help to produce plants with lots of nectar for the hungry butterflies. It is very important that you choose sunny, sheltered spots when planting - butterflies have no internal way to increase their body temperature, which is why they love the sun!
Go the extra mile
If you'd like to take a step further with butterfly conservation, put small amounts of over-ripe fruit nearby your butterfly-friendly plants; the sugars of which they simply adore! Purpose built butterfly feeders are available to purchase, which provide a safe place for butterflies to feed and can also attract other important insects for the garden such as bees. You can also try to maintain a small puddle nearby your butterfly-friendly plants, so that they can drink the minerals that arise from the soil following a bout of rain.
Pesticides and insecticides are harmful to all insects - the ones we do and don't like - so think very carefully before using them! If you must use pesticides on your crops, there are measures you can take to help butterflies survive. Do not use sprays while flowers are in full or part bloom. Common pesticides which contain neonicotinoids (also known as neonics), can be harmful to butterflies and should be avoided. Do make sure to spray in the evening when butterflies have stopped drinking nectar, which allows several hours for the pesticide to dry before butterflies emerge again in the day time. Above all, do not spray unless you have to.
It is very important to severely limit your use of peat-based composts, and if possible stop using completely. Peat forms a vital natural habitat for endangered butterflies, and when forcibly taken for compost, these habitats for rare wildlife forms are destroyed.