Five garden butterflies

With butterfly habitats disappearing, many species rely on our gardens as a refuge. You can help them by growing nectar-rich plants and avoiding the use of pesticides. Instead, switch to alternative controls, such as garlic sprays and plant oil extracts, which are more butterfly friendly.


You needn’t worry that butterflies will become pests themselves because most of them breed away from gardens and the rare, prettier ones produce caterpillars that won’t eat your prized garden specimens.

Here are five beauties to look out for.


Small tortoiseshell

This is one of our most common garden butterflies, with orange and black marked wings, edged with iridescent blue. It’s mostly seen between mid-March and May, and then from mid-July to September.




Large and striking, this butterfly has peacock-like eyespots on its wings. Look out for it between mid-March and mid-May, then mid-July until hibernation time in September.



Red admiral

One of Britain’s best-known butterflies, this beauty has a near-perfect wing pattern of red bands and white spots on a black background. It’s most commonly seen from late March to October.



Painted lady

Migrating in large numbers from North Africa in spring, this fast-flying butterfly has pale, buff-orange wings, the black tips marked with white spots. Look out for it from late March to October.




Named for the comma-shaped silver marks on the undersides of its wings, you can see commas in March and April. Offspring emerge as dazzlingly bright adults in July, or darker, more angular ones in August, before hibernating from around the end of September.


Many thanks to Andy Seely and Butterfly Conservation for their kind permission to use their beautiful image of a comma butterfly.


Kate Bradbury says

These butterflies are on the wing from late July and through August. If you cut your buddleia down hard in May, then it will flower slightly later, to coincide with the key butterfly flight period.

Kate Bradbury