Worldwide there are at least 15,000 species of butterflies. Most butterflies are diurnal, so they spend most of the day flying and sleep at night. Butterfly species in the United Kingdom are on the decline, with some even becoming extinct.
So how can we increase their chances of survival? To increase butterfly numbers, we need to ensure their habitat, food source and environment is correct and amble enough to sustain them.
Planting a Buddleia, Ice Plant or Lavender will serve as a huge benefit, as these are the top three butterfly attracting plants. They are easy to grow too.
Butterflies love warm, sheltered spots, so ensure you plant any nectar producing plants in a suitable sunny position. It is also a good idea to widen the variety of plants, as this will increase your chances of attracting more species of butterfly into your garden. When planting your flowering plants, planting several of the same variety in blocks, rather than scattering around the garden will also increase your success rate.
By deadheading your flowering plants regularly, you will help prolong the actual flowering periods of most of these plants. This in turn, prolongs the nectar supply and will ensure butterflies have essential food for a few more months. Keeping your garden plants well watered will help the plant grow more, product more flowers and, in turn, prolong the nectar output for butterflies.
Insecticides and pesticides are harmful to butterflies, as well as other essential pollinating insects. Going organic is perfect, however if this is not practical for you, at the very least make sure you limit your use of chemicals in the garden.
Keeping an area for natural wild flowers (ensure you use UK wild flower seeds) and wild grasses is good for butterflies. If you cut the area several times in the first year, you will give the wild flowers a chance against the wild grasses. You can then cut the grass at the end of each summer, leaving a small long area of grass undisturbed. The decrease in wildflower meadows has had a huge impact on our butterfly numbers, along with the decrease in trees – so if you have room, plant a few miniature fruit trees or native trees in your garden.
Keeping a small area for nettles will be beneficial to the butterflies, as well as providing an egg laying area for some species. If you are worried about them spreading, plant the nettles in a tub.
Butterfly hibernation boxes are also a good idea. They are wooden boxes with straw inside, easy to build and can be placed in a secure, sheltered place. Dense plants, like Ivy, also provide hibernating places for butterflies.
Finally, it is worth remembering that they need a supply of water too. If you can install a pond, or even a small, shallow area of water, that is safe for them to land and drink from, it will be a huge benefit to them.