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Caterpillar Host Plants?


I want to make a caterpillar host bed but find google a bit overwhelming when trying to cross reference what will work for my garden by acknowledging butterflies that I'm very unlikely to see anyway.

Will caterpillars who normally eat a plant naturally found in a boggy woodland, for example, appear on the same plant in a comparatively dry open expanse of grassland?

My garden is in the south peak district, is surrounded by hills, grazing farms and some woodland. The ground seems more wet than dry and we have a constant battle with moss.

Nettles and common dog violet. Should they be effective in a sunny spot?

Is there another must have perennial to increase the range of butterflies that I'm accommodating?



  • ObelixxObelixx Vendée, Western FrancePosts: 28,580

    Funnily enough I have been looking this sort of thing up for my garden and found this -    Hope it helps.

    "We don't stop playing because we grow old; we grow old because we stop playing." - George Bernard Shaw
  • I'm in the South Peak District too, with a lot of marshy ground and a similar mix to you. My actual garden is ai 1200ft, but our bit of grazing land rises to over 1500. Butterfly population varies from year to year, and was very poor last year, though I believe that was the case everywhere.

    It makes sense to concentrate on increasing the populations of the ones that you know can survive locally, then help others if you can. I get mostly nettle eaters and grass eaters, as I let part of my garden grass grow long and there are several different species of grasses. Tortoiseshells and Peacocks are fairly common, Red Admirals less so, Comma occasional. Get plenty of Meadow Browns and also Speckled Woods, who also eat grasses.

    One very reliable one, and early, so you can enjoy it on its own, is the Orange Tip, which eats Cuckoo Flower/Ladies Smock, Cardamine Pratense. You should be able to grow this easily in your damp, mossy grass, it doesn't mind a bit of shade. The flowers are very pretty and it likes shorter grass, but longer than lawn length. It will survive being mown later in the summer though.

    I get a lot of white butterflies in the summer, when I had cabbages there were definitely both large and small white, can't be sure about the green veined one. I don't know what they feed on now, haven't had much veg for a few years, and and none of the other listed plants either, but they love hanging around my marshy 'Wilderness' and the adults favour the Great Willowherb that grows there.

    Rosebay willowherb (and oddly, fuchsia!) is the host plant for a lovely moth, the Elephant Hawk and I've had one or two of those. Never yet found a caterpillar though!

    On the smaller ones I am less certain, as It is often difficult to get a good enough look for a sure ID if you aren't an expert, but I think I've seen the odd Ringlet and also there has been a Small Copper once or twice. There may well be loads of them, as Sheep's Sorrel grows freely, just I haven't seen and ID'd themimage Did once have a Brimstone show up, it loved a scarlet pelargonium, but this was a freak occurrence!

    Also a Painted Lady , only once, but as they like thistles and nettles these could perhaps be encouraged. When my daughter was little we reared and released some from a kit and it is amazing to think that they or their offspring could have ended up back in Morocco!

  • WateryWatery Posts: 388

    Clicking around following Obelixx's link I found this one which answers some of the questions you asked about aspect and quantity.  The site in general seems to take quite a scientific approach to things, which I like.

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