In honour of the Big Butterfly Count kicking off from 17th July-9th August, we thought we’d tell you a little bit about why it’s happening, why butterflies are important to our eco-system and we also want to give you some tips on creating a butterfly friendly garden to encourage them to visit.
Why are butterflies good for our environment?
Butterflies help our eco-system in a variety of ways but primarily they act as great indicators of the health of the environment. The lifecycle of a butterfly is an annual one, which means conditions need to stay the same every year in order for the eggs to mature. Any change in climate or habitat affects them, so an abundance of butterflies therefore indicates a healthy eco-system.
They are also beneficial for pollination, and in terms of the food chain, they are prey for birds and other animals. They are also enjoyable to see, lifting the spirits. To many of us they’re a sign of summer, a healthy garden, colour and warmth.
All of those reasons are why the Big Butterfly Count is run every year by the Butterfly Conservation. They consider counting butterflies to be like taking the pulse of nature, because butterfly declines act as an early warning sign for other wildlife declines too.
So how can you create a garden that encourages these beautiful insects?
A good thing about butterflies is that they don’t mind whether your garden is big or small, all they’re looking for is bright, colourful plants that produce nectar they can drink. They are attracted to large coloured areas, so planting your flowers together in a larger area rather than spreading them out means you’ll be more likely to see many different species paying your garden a visit. They also love the sun and warmth, so if your garden gets a lot of sun you’ll be a favourite. Adding some large stones or rocks to your garden will provide both a large surface for them to land and warmth because the stones will absorb the heat of the sun. These will also provide a bit of shelter.
Planting the right type of flowers is just as important as creating the right environment, taking into account all stages of a butterfly’s life. The plants you put in your garden must be caterpillar friendly to encourage the butterflies to lay their eggs in the first place, but they must also support the caterpillars after they have hatched. Many different species of butterflies and caterpillars only eat specific plants, so learning what species you’re attracting can help you give them what they’re after. This is another good thing about the Big Butterfly Count. It gets people outside recording and learning about the diversity of their gardens.
Saying that, if there was one plant in particular that many different butterflies love its the Buddleia, aka The Butterfly Bush. This plant has it all. It’s easy to grow in most types of soils, there are lots of different varieties so you can easily get different coloured flowers that will produce lots of nectar, and it’s large which means it will attract butterflies very easily.
We’re sure after reading this you’ll be noticing butterflies around more than ever before, but will you be making some changes to your garden to make it butterfly friendly and joining in with the count?