Reports have shown that over the past four decades, 76% of the UK’s resident butterfly species have declined. Here Nicky Roeber shares his top tips for attracting more butterflies to your garden….
Over the past four decades, 76% of the UK’s resident and regular migrant butterfly species have declined, according to Butterfly Conservation. But, worryingly, the annual UK butterfly monitoring scheme (UKBMS) has found that they suffered one of their worst years on record in 2016. This means that, if things don’t change soon, there’s a real risk that previously common species could die out altogether.
There are things we could all be doing to help the UK’s butterfly population survive and grow. Here Nicky Roeber, the Online Horticultural Expert at Wyevale Garden Centres, shares his top tips for attracting more butterflies to your garden. Read on to find out more…
Choose your plants wisely
Butterflies rely on flowers and foliage throughout their lives, so it’s important that you choose these wisely. It’s a good idea to pick out a selection of nectar-rich plants that will bloom from spring to autumn, as butterflies need a steady supply of food from March to October. Aubretia, sweet rocket, and wild primrose are great for the springtime, lavender, chrysanthemums, and French marigolds work very well in summer, while buddleja, Michaelmas daisies, red valerian and ice plants are ideal for the beginning of autumn. Butterflies are attracted to warmth, so find a sunny, sheltered spot for your butterfly-friendly plants.
To help the butterfly population thrive, you should also grow plants that help them to breed. A patch of long grass makes an ideal butterfly breeding ground. Larvae love to feed on the likes of stinging nettles, holly and ivy as they grow. You can help to support their development by adding these to your garden too.
Insecticides and pesticides kill butterflies as well as all sorts of other beneficial insects, so avoid these wherever possible, and never use them on plants that are in flower.
Consider your area
Different species of butterfly are native to certain areas, so it’s a good idea to find out which ones are likely to live nearby. Then, you can find out what plants are going to attract them, and what kind of food they need at every stage of their development.
Country File has a great guide to identifying butterflies, which also outlines where you’re most likely to spot certain species. Give it a read before researching what your local species need from their habitat.
Butterflies are cold-blooded creatures that get their warmth from the sun, and they aren’t the best at dealing with the poor weather we often get in Britain. If you would like your garden to be a haven where butterflies can thrive, it’s important that you provide some shelter where they’ll be able to hide from the elements.
You can ensure there’s plenty of shelter by planting trees, shrubs, and maybe even a hedgerow if you have space.
Follow the tips I’ve laid out here, and you’ll soon be helping the UK’s butterfly population to thrive. Plus, your garden will be full of colour come next spring, which is always a bonus!
About the author
Nicky Roeber is the Online Horticultural Specialist at Wyevale Garden Centres, where he has worked for the last five years. He has gardened since he was a child, and has been involved in the horticulture industry for many years. Nicky launched one of the industry’s first retail websites in 2000, where he developed a real passion for the commercial side of gardening.