How to attract butterflies to your garden
Watching butterflies flutter about in the sunshine is one of life’s pleasures, but you might have noticed there are fewer around these days.
The UK has 59 different types of butterfly. But sadly populations have declined recently due to loss of their habitat, pollution and changing weather patterns. So we've put together some top tips for giving them a helping hand by making your garden a haven for butterflies.
Credit: Anthony D Robson / WTML
Butterflies feed on nectar, so a really simple way to encourage more butterflies to visit your garden is to plant lots of colourful flowers.
Butterflies flock to flowers like bluebell, lavender, red campion, cornflower, primrose, bird's-foot-trefoil and clover. Buddleia is a real favourite of butterflies too, but we wouldn't recommend it as it is an invasive plant that spreads really quickly, often at the expense of other native plants.
Grow your flowers in a bright, sunny spot that’s sheltered from the wind. If you have less space, plant them in a window box or large pot.
There are plenty of other plants that attract butterflies. Try to include a mix that flower and fruit at different times of year as this will help support lots of other wildlife too.
Some butterflies can get drunk on fermenting fruit.
We’re not the only ones who benefit from fruit trees – the juice from ripe fruit provides valuable energy for butterflies in the autumn, while spring blossom is a great nectar source for pollinators.
They might not seem an obvious choice, but these plants help butterflies too. Some have flowers that benefit adult butterflies, others are valuable food plants for caterpillars.
- Trees and shrubs like hawthorn, holly and bramble.
- Herbs like rosemary, thyme, sage, oregano and mint.
- Ivy is a key source of nectar in autumn, when many other plants have finished flowering.
- Nettles. They're not a garden favourite, but stinging nettles are an important food source for the caterpillars of small tortoiseshell, red admiral, peacock, comma and painted lady. Plant them in a quiet part of the garden away from places where children play.
Make a butterfly feeder
As well as planting for butterflies and their caterpillars, you can also help by providing a sweet snack to give them an energy boost. This is especially helpful in autumn when many plants finish flowering and nectar is not so easily available.
Add a quarter cup of sugar to two cups of water and heat in a saucepan until the sugar has dissolved. Leave it to cool for at least 30 minutes. Soak a brightly-coloured cloth in the sugary water and place it near to some flowers.
You can also try putting out overripe fruit in a warm, sunny spot. Mushy bananas are a big favourite – butterflies love the sweet, stickiness.
Attract butterflies with a 'puddling pool'
Some butterflies gather on muddy patches of ground or puddles to drink and to feed on nutrients from the earth. You can make your own by mixing some soil with water in a shallow pan. Put it in a shady area near your flower patch and be sure to keep it wet.
They also need somewhere to rest and soak up the sun's rays, so place a large flat stone in a sunny spot. It will give you a chance to observe them too.