Butterflies have been decreasing more and more throughout the years due to a decline in their habitats. I remember that the Peacock butterfly used to be common in my garden, but I’ve only seen one this year. The butterflies in our garden are definitely declining and we shouldn’t accept this, we need to do something about it! In this post I am going to be sharing a few ways to attract butterflies to your garden.
Why do we need butterflies?
- Butterflies are pollinators which are essential for fruits, vegetables and flowers to produce new seeds. Therefore, we cannot survive without pollinators! It is often spoken about how bees are essential for humans to survive, but butterflies should be included in that sentence too.
- They are a natural pest control as they eat weeds and the Hoverfly larvae feed on aphids which attack plants (Omondi, 2010).
- Butterflies play a key role in ecosystems as they are prey for many birds, reptiles, mice and other insectivores. With butterflies declining, it reduces the amount of food available to insectivores, which causes the food web to be out of balance.
- They are a healthy environment indicator because they are around when plants and flowers are thriving. Butterflies are sensitive to habitat and climate change which means that the decline in them indicates the environment is becoming unhealthy.
How to attract butterflies to your garden
Plant their food plant
Butterflies lay their eggs on plants that the caterpillar larvae eat from. Therefore we need to plant lots of larval food plants to ensure all the caterpillars survive. Butterfly food plants are also needed so that they can lay eggs for the next brood of butterflies and to ensure they pollinate plants. You will attract the most butterflies by planting flowers that bloom at different times of the year to always ensure there is food available. Additionally, the shape of the petals should vary to attract different butterflies.
When reading the following list, you will probably have the best results with planting something that will attract a butterfly that has been seen in your region. For example, if you live in the north, there’s no point in planting the food plant for the Adonis Blue, because they are only in the south of England.
Larval food plants:
*This list doesn’t include every species of butterfly in the UK
- Adonis Blue, Chalk Hill Blue, Dingy Skipper – Horseshoe Vetch
- Brimstone – Alder Buckthorn
- Comma – Common Nettle, Currants, Elm, Hopps, Willows
- Common Blue – Common Bird’s Foot Trefoil, Common Restharrow Greater Bird’s Foot Trefoil, Lesser Trefoil
- Duke of Burgandy – Cowslip, Fasle Oxlip (hybrid of Cowslip and primrose), Primrose
- Green-veined White – Garlic Mustard, Hedge Mustard, Watercress, Wild Cabbage, Wild Radish
- Large Blue – Wild Marjoram, Wild Thyme
- Large Skipper – Cock’s Foot, False Brome, Tor-grass
- Large White, Small White – Cabbage Family, Sea-kale
- Marbled White – Cock’s Foot, Red Fescue, Sheep’s-fescue, Tor-grass
- Marsh Fritillary – Devil’s-bit Scabious, Field Scabious, Small Scabious
- Orange-tip – Cuckooflower, Garlic Mustard, Hedge Mustard, Honesty, Winter-cress
- Painted Lady – Common Nettle, Thistles, Viper’s-bugloss
- Peacock, Red Admiral – Common Nettle, Hop, Small Nettle
- Small Copper – Broad-leaved Dock, Common Sorrel, Sheep’s Sorrel
- Speckled Wood – Cock’s Foot, Common Couch, False Brome, Yorkshire-fog
- Wood White – Bitter-vetch, Common Bird’s Foot Trefoil, Greater Bird’s Foot Trefoil, Meadow Vetchling
Nectar plants for attracting butterflies:
*Doesn’t include all plants, otherwise I’d be here forever!
- Field Scabious
- Lady’s Smock (Orange-tips love this plant)
- Red Clover
- Vetches (Horseshoe, Kidney)
Make butterfly food
There are ways that you can make your own nectar! This is useful if you are unable to plant flowers, maybe if you are renting or live somewhere without a garden. Here is a recipe I found:
- Mix 1 cup of granulated sugar with 4 cups of water in a bowl
- Boil the mixture until all the sugar has been dissolved
- Let the nectar cool down to room temperature
- Serve up in a dish which butterflies will be able to drink from
There are some DIY butterfly feeder ideas here. Some butterflies also like overripe fruit, though you might not want to do this because it could attract flies.
Stop using pesticides
If there are pests you want to get rid of, try planting something that will attract them to a different part of the garden. You could also plant something for the pest’s predators as a form of natural biological pest control. Pesticides are really bad chemicals that continue to kill thousands of bees and butterflies. As I mentioned earlier, pollinators are essential for the future of humans so you really aren’t helping anyone by using them! Sometimes garden centres use pesticides to keep the plants perfect before being bought so if you can, try and grow flowers from seed.
Leave part of your garden mow-free
Butterflies love to stop off in long grassy areas to avoid being seen by predators. This is also a good place for them to rest during the hibernation period in order to stay warm. With a lot of nectar-providing flowers blooming in April and onwards, the early butterflies really rely on Dandelions and Daisies. Try to leave a patch of these to ensure there is nectar for the butterflies that have broods early, such as the Brimstone butterfly.
Related post: 10 ways to attract garden wildlife
Create a sunny spot
A fact you may not know about butterflies is that they love sunbathing! Laying in the sun gives them time to recharge their energy before flying onto the next place, so it is essential they can find somewhere to do this. Creating a sunny spot in your garden will attract more butterflies to your garden because they will use it as a rest spot.
Which method will you be using to attract butterflies to your garden?
Best wishes, Cx