Gardeners' World Web User
30/01/2009 at 09:41
Reply to Weakleys. Please do not buy butterfly caterpillars to release in the garden. This is a waste of money, interferes with the local butterfly populations and may be illegal. The only sensible way to get more butterflies in the garden is to grow butterfly-attractive flowers and leave some parts of the garden to run wild for foodplants and shelter. There are plenty of butterflies about, all they need is to be able to colonize gardens which are much less intensively manicured.
Captive breeding of butterflies from caterpillars can be very interesting and children especially will benefit from seeing the larvae grow and transform into adults. Kits are available from educational suppliers where no foodplant is required — artificial nutrients are supplied for the caterpillars to eat. The butterflies are usually painted ladies, Cynthia cardui, a regular migrant to the UK from southern Europe and North Africa, but which cannot survive our winters, so any release of adults into the wild will have no effect on local genetics, because they all die off each year any way.
Releases of native butterflies, for conservation purposes, have to abide by a code of conduct, and licences from Natural England. Many years ago there was a colony of Glanville fritillary Melitaea cinxia, in Orpington, Kent, where an amateur breeder had some escapes, or deliberately let them go. This very rare butterfly only naturally occurs in the UK on the SW coast of the Isle of Wight and Purbeck, so it was very confusing for butterfly recording and monitoring.
Releases of non-native animal species into the wild are technically illegal, since they may become invasive pests or spread disease.