I posted a couple of days ago my astonishment at finding lots of moths visiting my flowers at dusk, and assumed that until I could set up a trap I wouldn’t get a chance to photograph them and show you how gorgeous some of them are. Well I was wrong. Throwing the ball for Daisy this afternoon, I spotted this flitting into the grass. A Magpie moth. How stunning! Apparently, according to my book, they do sometime fly during the day, and here’s the proof. Moths can be beautiful, just like their daytime counterparts that we call butterflies.
Have you spotted any in your garden? What could you do to invite them in?
Small Tortoiseshell Butterfly feeding on Allium Drumstick
As butterflies and moths are in serious trouble due to wet summers and massive declines in natural habitat due to intensive farming and the loss of meadows, This year conservationists are appealing to us all to help. So, here are my favourite top ten butterfly plants, based on observation of the insect life in my garden.
- The best nectar plant anyone can grow is buddleia. They are now available in dwarf form for the patio, so you don’t need a large garden or space to grow one. If you have room, grow several together, giving the butterflies a better chance of seeing them and lots more food.
- Verbena bonariensis. A gorgeous, delicate annual that is easily grown and can be left to self seed through your borders
- Nettles. Yep, nettles. If you live near waste ground and there are plenty of nettles around, you probably don’t need to have a nettle patch, but it is the food plant for many species of butterfly larvae, so worth having.
- Hawthorn, which is the home and food plant for many moths. It gives them somewhere, too to pupate in peace. My hedge comprises mainly of hawthorn. I see and am trying to identify lots of beautiful moths.
- Marjoram and oregano. I went out this morning to find these have just come into flower, and are smothered in small white butterflies eagerly feeding.
- Allium. Our Small tortoiseshell is feeding on drumstick, but all the alliums I have seem to attract plenty of butterflies when they’re around. Bees adore them, too. They happily move from flower to flower gorging themselves. As they are easy bulbs to grow and suffer no pest problems that I’ve encountered you too could have some. They will increase their own numbers in time and take up little space as they can be planted among other plants, covering their bare legs.
- Sedums. These are great plants that need little attention as they are drought tolerant. Just give them full sun and good drainage. Many are perfect for pots and alpine troughs. You can even grow them in a window box. The butterflies won’t mind!
- Cosmos. Easy annuals, bright and colourful, grow from seed or get young plug plants, often sold cheaply on your local market.
- Vetches. Native wild flowers that grow on verges and in hedgerows. Seed of many are now available through seed companies and young plants from specialist nurseries. They are food plants for larvae and adults.
- Scabious. These pretty nectar rich flowers seem to be a magnet for any butterflies around, and they spend ages on each flower head, dipping into a rich meal.Small White Butterfly Feeding On Marjoram
There is a lot more we can do. The BBC are running the Summer of Wildlife, where you can help increase the knowledge of scientists so they can further understand the needs of our precious butterflies. Their page How to Help Wildlife can start you off with all the information you need to join the growing crowd of people giving vital information to the scientists, plus TONS more information on how to help our declining wildlife in general. Their page Worrying Declines will tell you much more.
What can you do to help? What have you planted or plan to grow? I’d love to hear from you.
Mullein Moth Caterpillars
Last year, when I went to a specialist herb centre in the Cotswolds, I bought a mullein plant. The plant was new to me, but I understood it would be great for bees to feed on, so home it came. The rosette of woolly leaves grew steadily, despite all last year’s rain, then withstood the icy winter. Up it came this spring and produced flower spikes. When I looked closely, I found caterpillars were gorging on it. I decided to share the plant with them and left them there. I discovered these pretty creatures were larvae of the mullein moth, which looks like a twig, and is no-where near as pretty as the juvenile form, but I don’t care. Diversity and keeping balance is what I’m about. I thought I was sacrificing the flower, but no. What a gorgeous display, and the bees can have their share now, too.
Posted in ecology, lifestyle
Tagged butterflies, caterpillars, conservation, ecology, environment, gardening, lifestyle, moths, nature, Wildlife