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Butterflies


by Adam Pasco

It's not just my memory playing tricks on me - when I played in the garden as a child I remember it being full of butterflies.


Red admiral butterflyIt's not just my memory playing tricks on me - when I played in the garden as a child I remember it being full of butterflies. The buddleja was alive with them in summer, but how times have changed.

In my own garden I've seen just a handful of small tortoiseshells this summer, but hardly anything special. It wasn't until I spent a few days in the Cotswolds recently that I spotted a red admiral feeding avidly on a white buddleja. Even then it was just one solitary butterfly, hardly the numbers you'd hope for.

Have I just been unlucky in the days I've been out in the garden, and missed their antics, or has this year been a bad year for butterflies?

Comma butterfly feeding on sedumOver the past ten years I've regularly seen several of our popular native butterflies in my garden, including peacock, comma (pictured, left), red admiral and small tortoiseshell. The painted lady should also have appeared by now, after a long flight from Africa, but this year I haven't seen any.

I'll get an occasional glimpse of a few other butterflies from time to time. There's a flash of yellow around April when a brimstone flitters quickly by. Then I'll see the occasional holly blue or orange tip, plus some cabbage white butterflies. Even they've been visiting less frequently.

The wet weather must have played its part, but when I fill my garden with so many tempting plants for them to feed and breed on it's such a shame they don't visit. What else can I do to attract wildlife into my garden?



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Gardeners' World Web User 01/01/2008 at 00:00

Gardeners' World Web User 15/09/2008 at 19:46

Our buddleja has proved very popular with butterflies in the past few days - think they were Peacocks - very attractive. While not teeming, there were at least 5 or 6 at any one time. It's our garden's first full year, so not sure if this is a good or bad indicator of the numbers of butterflies in the area. Our 5 year old and her assorted friends have been quite interested to see them all fluttering about the garden.

Gardeners' World Web User 15/09/2008 at 21:49

I love seeing the butterflies that you have. My home garden is a Monarch Waystation. I've got over 30 Black Swallowtail caterpillars on the bronze fennel that I planted. Lots of buddleja here as well. Thanks! Cameron

Gardeners' World Web User 16/09/2008 at 19:24

I too remember loads of butterflies in the garden when I was a child. Like Lainey, my own garden is only really in its first year but I haven't been as lucky! It's only a small garden but I've got 5 buddleias and a verbena bonariensis which has done brilliantly, along with lots of other tasty plants, plus I don't keep the lawn immaculate - I let the clover grow, etc - but hardly any butterflies have graced my garden this summer! :-( I have seen the odd cabbage white but nothing else at all. Lots of bees though, especially bumbles (along with a hornet a few weeks ago which was interesting) and I'm not complaining about that!

Gardeners' World Web User 17/09/2008 at 09:24

Despite its reputation as a butterfly magnet, buddleja is a very poor nectar source for butterflies, bumblebees or hoverflies. I've never quite worked out exactly why this should be so, since I too have memories of the purple spikes dripping with brightly coloured butterflies. I wonder whether it is linked to the fact that buddleja is a deep-rooted thug of a plant. After a hot dry summer many nectar sources have dried up leaving buddleja, with its tenacious grip on the water table, able to get enough water to produce some nectar. Most years, however, buddleja is easily out-competed in the insect-visitor stakes by simple garden staples like orpine, golden rod and even thistles.

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