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Talkback: Butterflies

Our buddleja has proved very popular with butterflies in the past few days - think they were Peacocks - very attractive. While not teeming, there were at least 5 or 6 at any one time. It's our garden's first full year, so not sure if this is a good or bad indicator of the numbers of butterflies in the area. Our 5 year old and her assorted friends have been quite interested to see them all fluttering about the garden.


  • I love seeing the butterflies that you have. My home garden is a Monarch Waystation. I've got over 30 Black Swallowtail caterpillars on the bronze fennel that I planted. Lots of buddleja here as well. Thanks! Cameron
  • I too remember loads of butterflies in the garden when I was a child. Like Lainey, my own garden is only really in its first year but I haven't been as lucky! It's only a small garden but I've got 5 buddleias and a verbena bonariensis which has done brilliantly, along with lots of other tasty plants, plus I don't keep the lawn immaculate - I let the clover grow, etc - but hardly any butterflies have graced my garden this summer! :-( I have seen the odd cabbage white but nothing else at all. Lots of bees though, especially bumbles (along with a hornet a few weeks ago which was interesting) and I'm not complaining about that!
  • Despite its reputation as a butterfly magnet, buddleja is a very poor nectar source for butterflies, bumblebees or hoverflies. I've never quite worked out exactly why this should be so, since I too have memories of the purple spikes dripping with brightly coloured butterflies. I wonder whether it is linked to the fact that buddleja is a deep-rooted thug of a plant. After a hot dry summer many nectar sources have dried up leaving buddleja, with its tenacious grip on the water table, able to get enough water to produce some nectar. Most years, however, buddleja is easily out-competed in the insect-visitor stakes by simple garden staples like orpine, golden rod and even thistles.
  • Cameron, lovely to hear from you in the States. I dream about seeing a swallowtail in my Cambridgeshire garden, but am afraid this will remain a dream. They are such a beautiful butterfly, but then aren't they all.

    I do agree with John that it helps to look at our gardening activities as a whole, and the things we plant as well as the things we do (or don't). It's as important considering the role of our gardens in providing egg laying sites and supporting caterpillars as it is flowers to feed butterflies.

  • I live in South Norfolk and have been plagued with butterflies this year - my garden is full of flowers particularly lilac, buddleia, verbena bonarienis. Having started a veg plot last year I've tons of cabbage whites and their offspring which I pick off and throw on the lawn for the birds. I can't begin to list the different varieties as there are so many ... particular favourites I have are Orange Tip (I squeal every time I see one early in the season)and the Common Blue (which has to be the prettiest blue ever). We see so many Cabbage Whites and Green Veined that our buddleia bushes look like they're covered in dancing confetti!
  • I agree with John waters' comment. A couple of years ago I did away with all insecticides, slug pellets, weed killers etc. I do not cut the lawns too closely and then only once a fortnight. I also introduced some red valerian. The butterflies love it, especially when it starts to go to seed. The return of wildlife into the garden since I stopped trying to manicure it is amazing.
  • Ten years ago I was living in Dumfries and Galloway.My garden was very large so I made a butterfly garden for my grandchildren. It was a large one with a path running through the middle so that they could get in and amongst it.It had buddleias, sedum, michaelmas dasies etc. When they played so many butterflies visited that sometimes the children were scared.Too many to count at any one time.I have now reproduced the garden at our local school in the ribble valley, Blackburn.We get very excited if we see ONE butterfly these days.
  • As a novice gardener, my mowing got behind and a rough patch of buddleia and nasturtiums ran riot at one end of my garden. It attracted lots of butterflies and bees(the Cabbage White particulary enjoyed my nastursiums.) Next to this patch, I also have a pile of logs,twigs and softwood trimmings which the hedgehogs seem to like.

    I also get wild rabbits visits from the the church grounds nearby, who ate all my annual seedlings earlier in the year. I thought my next doors huge veg patch would have been much more attractive!

    Whilst attempting to move some Sweet Williams at the base of my compost bin in the same area, my spade inadvertently disturbed a nest of bumble bees which flew up at me. I stood very still and they swarmed up and around me for a few moments and then resettled. A bit nerve racking to say the least! Thats nature for you - I would not change a thing.

  • I have many plants to encourage butterflies and bees.The honey and bumbles seem to be doing ok but I have seen very few butterflies. We live at the edge of a wild scottish hillside which has not changed nor has my garden.I am inclined to put the lack down to so much rain.
  • I do not wish to labour this gruesome point but when was the last time you needed to clean your car bonnet after driving through the countryside.It seems to me that it is not only the butterflies and moths but all forms of flying insects have declined.(by the way I have introduced buddleia to my garden and have had a super year for butterflies).
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