Nettles for butterflies

Can anyone advise me when is the best time in the growing season to cut back a nettle patch? The nettles grow along the river edge on our housing development and many residents like to see them cut back in the summer so they can see the river. I read in the August Gardeners World that nettles are important for butterflies at each stage of their life cycle so I worry about harming the butterfly population by random cutting. As the nettles do need to be controlled I want to make sure that we do the least amount of damage to the butterflies by finding the best time to cut. Any advice would be much appreciated.

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  • ButtercupdaysButtercupdays Posts: 2,580

    It's hard to give a precise answer, as like everything else,  it depends on the weather.Seeing the adults is a good sign to look out for caterpillars or eggs, but  last month I found a mass of peacock butterfly caterpillars on some old nettles, though I have still only seen 1 adult this year and that was in the spring.There have been more Red Admirals and I have found their caterpillars too.

    Some butterflies like to lay their eggs on younger growth and some caterpillars move from their feeding plants to others to pupate. It is probably best to have a patchwork of younger and older growth and to be vigilant when cutting to preserve any plants that have caterpillars on them. That is not going to be the easiest for you though. Could you find a way to get the residents involved in butterfly spotting and help them to understand why you cannot always cut ?

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