Habitats for moths and butterflies

Butterfly66Butterfly66 BirminghamPosts: 29
I’m trying to make my garden as wildlife friendly as possible. I can find lists of plants which are important for food and egg laying  but no advice on how to create and look after them to be a successful habitat. For example if a weed is on the list do I need at allow it to go through its full lifecycle e.g set seed and die down naturally or is it ok to weed (some of) them out before they set seed or some/all when they go over?

im quite happy to keep weeds that are important for egg-laying etc but it would be frustrating if I was then doing something which cancelled out my efforts. I have a large nettle patch which we happily leave untouched but not sure what to do when these beneficial plants are mixed in my borders.
 If you have a garden and a library, you have everything you need.”—Marcus Tullius Cicero
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  • GrannybeeGrannybee Sunny South EnglandPosts: 213
    I suppose it depends on your level of tolerance for weeds. I let my ragwort grow to allow the cinnabar moth caterpillar to feed until the plants are stripped. I also let dandelions flower as they are good for early pollinators. And they are pretty. Nettles are left in a corner of the garden too as well as lots of other stuff. This lot grow away from the borders and I weed the borders. They are stuffed with pollinator friendly plants. 
  • CeresCeres Posts: 1,823
    Unless you go full on feral, you are always going to have to compromise a bit and treat the weeds as decorative plants, which a lot of them are. For a start, they won't all like your garden as they are particular about habitat but you will find out in a year or two which ones are happy and which ones to abandon.
    It is best to let a plant live out it's full life cycle if you are aiming for a wildlife area.....they will self seed and the cycle will continue without too much input from yourself. Insects will pollinate the flowers and birds will eat the seeds.....some things will attract caterpillars.....and some plants will give shelter to overwintering insects.
    I have a lot of wild plants living at the back of the flower beds. They don't get in the way and often make a lovely display in spring. After that they are partly hidden by the conventional flowering plants. Occasionally I have to take them in hand so that they don't dominate things but on the whole I just let them get on with being beautiful and useful.
  • FireFire LondonPosts: 5,436
    I would just leave the flowers to do their own thing - don't pull them, don't deadhead them. Perennials and flowers that self-seed would be easiest, like nasturtiums, verbena bon., oregano, ox-eye daisy, sweet rocket or honesty.  White flowers tend to be good for night-flying moths. Pink, yellow and purple for butterflies - not red or blues so much.
  • Butterfly66Butterfly66 BirminghamPosts: 29
    Thanks all. Have a good tolerance for weeds so will just decide where I am happy to leave them untouched- will definitely be the back of borders as @Ceres suggests as I can’t reach then anyway once all the perennials are in full flow.

    @Grannybee have just had my first ragwort appear so will let that stay for the Cinnabars.

    i have most of those @Fire and agree with leaving them alone. Luckily I love ox-eye daisies as they are quite a thug in our garden. My Oregano Rosenkuppel is smothered in bees at the moment 🙂
     If you have a garden and a library, you have everything you need.”—Marcus Tullius Cicero
  • CeresCeres Posts: 1,823
    Like you, I have a nettle patch and I'm rather fond of the plants. I also have white dead nettle which is lovely.....the flowers look like a tiny carousel. Linaria purpurea is a good plant to have as it self seeds prolifically and the bees love it. Mint attracts a lot of insects and at the moment the flowers are covered in beautiful metallic flies.
    You don't necessarily have to go for wild plants to get a lot of creatures in the garden. Nepeta is good for bees, nasturtiums are loved by cabbage white caterpillars, agastache attracts insects, foxgloves, honeysuckle, geraniums......they're all good.
    If you are growing plants from seed, there is information on the websites that will tell you if a plant is good for insects.

  • Butterfly66Butterfly66 BirminghamPosts: 29
    I love linaria too, unfortunately one of our (visiting) cat loves nepeta too much and it doesn’t survive her attentions. Thanks for the reminder re mint @ceres, I need a bigger pot so I have enough to pick and still have some left to flower. I also love Agastache but haven’t got any in this garden so that’s an excuse to peruse the seed lists again.

    I’m allowing wild flowers/weeds to grow if they are specifically good for butterflies or moths - specifically  for egg laying and caterpillar food. Although lots of our ornamentals are good as food sources many species still insist on specific plants or a much narrower range when it comes to their caterpillars.
     If you have a garden and a library, you have everything you need.”—Marcus Tullius Cicero
  • nutcutletnutcutlet PeterboroughPosts: 26,043


    I’m allowing wild flowers/weeds to grow if they are specifically good for butterflies or moths - specifically  for egg laying and caterpillar food. Although lots of our ornamentals are good as food sources many species still insist on specific plants or a much narrower range when it comes to their caterpillars.
    so many people miss this point. There are loads of flowers suitable for adult insects but the needs of the larvae are more specific and often ignored
  • Couldn't agree more.
  • FireFire LondonPosts: 5,436
    "Many species still insist on specific plants or a much narrower range when it comes to their caterpillars."

    That is the main, strong argument for planting native, wild flowers. Many moths and butterflies need one specific plant to live.
  • CeresCeres Posts: 1,823
    nutcutlet said:


    I’m allowing wild flowers/weeds to grow if they are specifically good for butterflies or moths - specifically  for egg laying and caterpillar food. Although lots of our ornamentals are good as food sources many species still insist on specific plants or a much narrower range when it comes to their caterpillars.
    so many people miss this point. There are loads of flowers suitable for adult insects but the needs of the larvae are more specific and often ignored
    How very true. It is always a good idea to let the "weeds" proliferate at the margins and to have an area set aside for them if it is possible.
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