Peacock butterfly

Hungry Critters 2: Butterflies

Recently I’ve been chasing around after butterflies to take part in the ‘Big Butterfly Count’. This is a UK survey where people from all over the country count the numbers of butterflies and some day-flying moths that they see in a 15-minute period.

(Actually counting the butterflies was quite tricky – some had to be ignored because they were too fast moving for me. A sudden flash of something brownish could be one of many butterflies. How frustrating!)

Small tortoiseshell butterfly
Small Tortoiseshell butterfly photographed in early summer.

Butterflies were being counted from the middle of July to the end of the first week in August. Anyone can take part in the butterfly count (the more the better) and from anywhere – gardens, parks, fields or forests.

The butterfly count was set up because butterflies are important as both pollinators and as part of the natural food chain, and because they react quickly to changes in their environment. A decline in butterfly numbers is a strong indication that other wildlife species are also struggling.

Comma butterfly
Comma butterfly on a blackberry

Unfortunately, because I was so busy with preparations for the fence being renewed, I only managed the one count right at the end of the survey. By then, there were only a few butterflies left in the garden – several Red Admirals, a couple of Commas and lots of Large Whites (which were probably taking advantage of the neighbours’ veggie patch).

Just a couple of weeks before I did my count, there had been around ten to a dozen Peacock butterflies sunning themselves on our brick path. I had hoped to be able to include them in my count but when the time came, they had all disappeared.

red admiral butterfly
A Red Admiral butterfly enjoying sedum flowers.

Nor were there any Painted Ladies or Essex Skippers, both of which I often see here. And I think that the Small Tortoiseshell that I photographed in May or June was part of an early brood. I haven’t seen any recently, so maybe there won’t be any from a later brood to overwinter here.

The variability of butterfly numbers here (and those that are scarce or just not seen in my garden) makes me feel that I need to do more to help. Like making sure I don’t weed out the food plants needed for caterpillars! (Nettles and other invasives may have to go in large tubs though.) And I need to do a bit of research to discover more plants that I can grow for butterflies. I hope that next year I’ll be able to count more butterflies in my garden.

Peacock butterfly
A Peacock butterfly suns itself on a brick path.

20 thoughts on “Hungry Critters 2: Butterflies

    1. Absolutely! And it’s a necessity here because nettles really spread a lot and would take over. I’ve found the same with deadnettles too. They’re good for bees. so shall be getting containerised! 🙂

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    1. Thank you Indira! I hope to get a bit quicker so that I can get more and better pictures! (So often they fly off before I’ve had a chance to photograph them – luck can play a big part!)

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    1. I am lucky to have them around. But a few years ago I reckon there were more of them. There are several buddleia bushes in the garden and on a good day you might have found around 40 butterflies on them – not now, sadly.

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  1. I have seen so few butterflies this year. Lots of Whites, large and small and several Red Admiral plus a lovely Meadow Brown, but only one Small Tortoiseshell and no Peacocks or Commas or Painted Ladies at all! Not sure if that’s to do with the warmth of early spring followed by the colder June/July.

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    1. I was surprised to see so many Peacocks here this year – we don’t usually get so many, so it was unusual. The numbers of butterflies from year to year seem to vary a lot, so I do wonder what things are affecting them – weather changes seems a likely one.

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  2. Beautiful butterflies! Our Photo Club went to a Butterfly Rainforest in Gainesville, Florida, right before the Covid shut down and it was absolutely incredible! These creatures are so much fun to photograph and watch! BTW, yesterday one of your Hungry Critter Bees stung me twice in the grocery store of all places and my hand is all swollen. Think I will stick to the butterflies – not so painful! HaHa!

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    1. Aw, your poor hand! Hope it feels better soon. (Butterflies do seem to be a safer choice!) A visit to a butterfly rainforest sounds absolutely amazing! Bet that trip produced some great photographs. 🙂

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      1. The Rainforest gets butterflies pupae from all over the world and different kinds are hatching during the year. I have posted several of them – I could do butterflies all day long! Hopefully I can get back there this year to see some different kinds. But yours are definitely beautiful. We have not had that many butterflies in my yard this year – usually my Pentas and Lantanas get lots of them.

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      2. Butterflies are amazing! I hope you do get back to the Rainforest – what a great photo opportunity! I want to make my garden more butterfly-friendly (and critter-friendly in general).

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  3. We have the Comma and the Red Admiral; it’s fun to see what we share. I’ve not seen many butterflies at all in the past couple of weeks, but we’re in the ‘pause’ between spring and fall flowers, and if I were a butterfly, I’d be laying low during the heat of the day, too.

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    1. It’s mostly Red Admirals here at the moment – I had to rescue one from the conservatory earlier and set it on a buddleia. Hope it approved! 🙂

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