It’s estimated that almost half of the 59 species of butterfly found in the UK have seen an overall decline in numbers in the last decade. Loss of habitat, increased pollution and more recent changes to our weather have contributed to the falling numbers. If you want to attract butterflies to your garden, here are some useful tips:
Feed the caterpillars
Host plants are those that caterpillars can feed on. One of their favourites is the stinging nettle. While not ideal for a family garden, allocating a small, hidden patch for nettles can help. You’ll find that butterflies will choose to lay their eggs on them. The caterpillars of most butterfly species won’t cause any damage, although if you grow cabbages and other brassicas, hungry cabbage white caterpillars are to be discouraged. Other popular host plants include holly, nasturtium and honesty.
Plant butterfly-friendly flowers
Like many other visitors to your garden, butterflies depend on nectar-rich flowers. Perennials like sedum, hebe, verbena bonariensis and echinops all offer dense, nectar-packed flower heads that butterflies love. Cornflowers, asters, lavender, fennel, bluebells and primroses are also appealing.
Let fallen fruit lie
Any fruit that falls to the ground can provide a meal for butterflies, so leave your plums, apples or pears where they fall. In fact, damaged windfalls are ideal for butterflies, as their sweetness is already exposed.
Make a butterfly feeder
Make a simple syrup from equal parts of sugar and water, heat it to dissolve and then leave it to cool. Find a brightly coloured old kitchen cloth and soak in the syrup. Left in a sunny corner of your garden, this will prove a magnet for butterflies.
Perhaps place your feeder near to your rattan garden furniture so you can relax and enjoy the delights of spotting your winged visitors as they come to your garden and feed.