Love is Like a Butterfly

Do you remember that song from the 1970’s/1980’s? I think it was the theme tune for the TV sitcom Butterflies. This, in a way is very apt that I should think of a program from the 1980’s, as it was in 1987 that the first Red List assessment of butterflies of Great Britain (by Shirt) was produced.

Why is this important?

This Red List assessment allows us to see the trends within our butterfly populations, especially long-term and 10-year population trends. And, it’s not great. In 2010 a new Red List of British Butterflies was produced and it has now got over 30 butterflies listed.

What Did I do to Help?

A few years ago I decided to re-do my front garden and made the conscious decision that any plant that was going into it would have to be good for bees or butterflies. Well, that did work for the bees, I have regularly seen loads of bees on my plants, especially the Sea Holly.

Red Admiral on wood low res

Red Admiral on planter

But it wasn’t so great for the butterflies. I really hadn’t cracked that – there were one or two but nothing spectacular. Then, some of my Hebe’s died off and needed replacing. I did try planting a Buddleja a few years ago but it died too. So last year, I bit the bullet and planted 2 Buddleja in the front garden. This year they seemed to have grown but no butterflies. Then suddenly, at the start of this month – both plants were alive with butterflies.

Small Tortoiseshell low res

Small Tortoiseshell on Buddleja

The whole garden has been transformed. Apart from the colour of the plants there’s a riot of colour from the different types of butterfly. I’ve now spent some time out inbetween the two plants studying and photographing them. Actually, it is a bit freaky doing that, as they really do not care about me being there, and flutter right up to me. And it’s great, as they don’t seem to mind me photographing them either.

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Even when we’re inside we see butterflies fluttering up to our windows – something we’ve never done in the past.

Peacock Butterfly on purple slate low res

Peacock on Plum Slate

So – what about the species that visit me? So far I’ve seen:

  • Small White,
  • Red Admiral,
  • Small Tortoiseshell,
  • Peacock

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None of these are categorised on the Red List, and all have the category Least Concern, and many of these have been downgraded from Vulnerable due to the 10-year population decline not supported by the long term trend.

Next Steps

Well, we are planning an overhaul of the garden at the side of the house, so perhaps a bit more investigation to see what butterflies are native to this area, which are on the endangered list and try to identify any plants that will encourage them to my garden. Oh, and probably at least another buddleja.

And As for the Moth

And, as a completely accidental find. On the floor of my garage, was this beauty. Actually, I thought we might stand on it when we were cleaning out the garage, so I carefully moved it and then came to the conclusion it was dead. So again carefully (fortunately) moved it into the garden to photograph it. It’s only when I did that that I realised it was moving its antennae. So, back it went to the garage – and has now flown away. After a bit of investigating it is a moth and it’s called a Large Yellow Underwing.

Large Yellow Underwing low res

References:

Fox, R., Brereton, T.M., Asher, J., August, T.A., Botham, M.S., Bourn, N.A.D., Cruickshanks, K.L., Bulman, C.R., Ellis, S., Harrower, C.A., Middlebrook, I., Noble, D.G., Powney, G.D., Randle, Z., Warren, M.S. & Roy, D.B. (2015). The State of the UK’s Butterflies 2015. Butterfly Conservation and the Centre for Ecology & Hydrology, Wareham, Dorset.
Available at: http://butterfly-conservation.org/files/soukb-2015.pdf

Fox, R., Warren, M.S., and Brereton, T.M. (2010). A new Red List of British Butterflies, Species Status 12; 1-32. Joint Nature Conservation Committee, Peterborough.
Available at: http://butterfly-conservation.org/files/red-list.pdf

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