What do butterflies need?

18th – 24th May 2013 is Save our Butterflies Week organised by Butterfly Conservation. 

Spotting the occasional butterfly here and there is wonderful but there is something very special about butterflies in abundance.

I remember walking along a secluded woodland ride in Thetford Forest a couple of summers ago and suddenly being surprised by a whole host of meadow brown butterflies rising up from the long grass all at once – no doubt having been disturbed by my dogs.

At Meadowmat, butterflies are important to us – after all, our wild flower mat is designed to provide food for butterflies and caterpillars and so here our top tips for creating butterfly habitat.

Top tips for making butterflies feel welcome

honesty for orange tip butterflies

Provide plenty of flowers with high quality nectar


It’s nectar that gives butterflies the energy to keep flying.  In the world of wild flowers, good nectar plants include knapweed, birdsfoot trefoil, yarrow, scabious, salad burnet and oxeye daisy (all of which can be found in Meadowmat) and there are a great many garden flowers that butterflies will feed from.

The important thing is to ensure that butterflies have food all through the season, from March to October. So make the most of every possible space and plan to ensure that something is blooming every day – flower borders, hedges, verges, planters, even the veg patch.  Aim for flowers where the nectar is easily accessible.   Daffodils for example, are beautiful spring flowers that are invariably too narrow for big wings to fit into.


Provide food plants for caterpillars

Without caterpillars there would be no butterflies, and some caterpillars, unlike their parents, are REALLY fussy eaters.  (little wonder so many of them are under threat).  In order to breed, butterflies need native grasses like cocksfoot, timothy and fescues --- highly bred lawn grasses such as perennial ryegrass are no good to caterpillars.  Sorrel, stinging nettles, cabbages, honesty and buckthorn are all good laval food plants.


tortoiseshell butterfly sunbathingCreate some sheltered spots for sunbathing.

Butterflies like to warm themselves on stones, walls or even on the ground.  If you have sunny corner, away from the wind, where butterflies can spread their wings out and enjoy the sunshine, you’ll make them very happy indeed.


Join up butterfly hotspots with wildlife corridors

Butterflies are only tiny and there’s a limit as to how far they can fly without topping up their fuel tanks with nectar.  So that individuals from different communities can meet up to breed (too much in-breeding could weaken the gene pool) there needs to be corridors (or roads) between them so that can re-fuel on the way.  Road verges, hedgerows, central reservations, gardens, green roofs can all be part of wildlife corridors and play a vital part in butterfly conservation.

>green roofs as wildlife corridors