Peacock butterflyIt is always nice to see butterflies fly around in your garden. By planting the correct plants you can lure the butterflies to your garden. Don’t forget that there are no butterflies without caterpillars. That means that you have to accept that some plants or part of it will be eaten to maintain butterflies. That can also mean that you plant less good looking plants in your garden as food for the caterpillars. In this article I will give information about butterflies and caterpillars.

Butterflies feed mainly on the nectar of flowers. If you put plants in your garden that produce a lot of nectar you will see butterflies soon enough. Examples of such plants are:
• butterfly bush (Buddleja)
• lavender (Lavendula)
• stonecrop (Sedum)
• asters (Aster)
• hemp agrimony (Eupatorium cannabinum)
• vervain (Verbena)
• dandelion (Taraxacum officinale)
• creeping thistle (Cirsium arvense)
• coneflower (Echinacea)
Black-eyed Susan (Rudbeckia)
yellow ox-eye (Telekia speciosa)
Butterfly weed (Asclepias)

Apart from food for the butterflies you will also need food for the caterpillars (larvae). Without any food plants for the caterpillars there will never be any butterflies. The most important and widely available food plant in Britain and Ireland is the common nettle (Utrica dioica) but also the small nettle (Utrica urens) and hop (Humulus lupulus) are eaten.

Birds and (parasite) wasps are the main enemy of caterpillars, pupae and eggs. Of course it is also important not to use any poison in the garden. I am against any sort of poison. Not to fight plant diseases and not to kill insects or other animals. You can easily do without it. Sometime you just have to let nature take its course and live with it.

The most spotted butterflies in the UK are:
• Gatekeeper (Pyronia tithonus)
• Large white (Pieris brassicae)
• Meadow brown (Maniola jurtina)
• Small white (Pieris rapae)
• Peacock (Aglais io)
• Small tortoiseshell (Aglais urticae)
• Ringlet (Aphantopus hyperantus)
• Red admiral (Vanessa atalanta)
• Comma (Polygonia c-album)
• Common blue (Polyommatus icarus)

I have photographed the butterflies that I saw in my garden. Butterflies UK was kind enough to send me some beautiful pictures of butterflies that I have not been able to photograph yet.

See below the photographs and the name with some information about the butterflies. On the website of UK butterflies you can find much more information about butterflies with beautiful pictures. Do take a look at their website.

I hope this information helps and that you can make your garden a paradise for butterflies.

Red admiral

Red admiralThe scientific name of the red admiral is Vanessa atalanta and this butterfly is a member of the Nymphalidae family. This is a resident and common immigrant throughout the UK. The red admiral is not only common in Europe but also in the Americas, Asia and the Caribbean.

The red admiral is a migrating butterfly. In the winter it resides/hibernates in the Mediterranean region and in summer it migrates to the northern parts of Europe. Each spring the red admirals start appearing from about April. They reproduce and from about July the next generation red admirals appear. This new generation will migrate back to the south in October/November. Normally they will not survive the winter in the UK but now that the winters have become milder over the years the red admirals tend to survive the winter in the south of England more often.

The common nettle (Utrica dioica) is the main food plant for the caterpillars and they feed mostly at night. The red admiral butterfly feeds on nectar and overripe/rotting fruit.

The larva (caterpillar) hatches after about a week and pupates about a month later. The pupa (chrysalis) stage lasts about two weeks. The butterfly lives for about 8 months. 

Painted lady

Painted ladyThe scientific name for the painted lady is Vanessa cardui and it is a member of the Nymphalidae family. The painted lady can be found all over the world except for south America and Antarctica.

They are migrating butterflies that fly from the south of Europe and north of Africa to the north every spring and back to the south in autumn. The butterflies can appear in the UK from late March.

The food plants for the caterpillar are amongst others thistles, common nettle and mallows. The butterflies drink nectar from many different flowers and aphids' honeydew, but not the sap of rotting fruit like the red admiral.

It looks like this butterfly does not hibernate but continuously migrates and reproduces. The journey from south to north and back is done by several generations of butterflies. As soon as the butterflies reaches a location suitable for reproduction they will mate and lay eggs.

The caterpillar hatches after about a week and pupates after about a month. The chrysalis stage lasts about a fortnight. The butterflies live for no longer than a month.

Peacock butterfly

Peacock butterflyPeacock butterflyThe scientific name for the peacock butterfly is Algais io and it is a member of the Nymphalidae family. The peacock is found in the temperate regions of Europe and Asia.

The common nettle and small nettle are the main food plants for the caterpillars but also hob is eaten. The caterpillars feed during day and night.

The butterfly hibernates in damp, cool and sheltered spots like in hollow trees, in nests of mammals, in caves and cracks in the ground. Also buildings are very suitable as a hibernating spot. The butterflies may choose attics, sheds, barns or basements. If the butterfly is threatened from the sky by a bird then it will show its eyespots on it wings. With threads in the dark from rodents the butterfly makes a hissing sound by rubbing its wings together.

The caterpillar hatches after about a week and lives between May and June. In warm years there might even be a second generation. Those caterpillars live between July and September. Sometimes even a third generation develops. In favourable circumstances the caterpillar pupates within a month after hatching. The pupa stage lasts about 2 weeks. The peacock butterfly lives for about 11 months.

Comma

Comma Vince MassimoThe scientific name for the comma is Polygonia c-album and it is a member of the Nymphalidae family.

The comma is commonly found in Europe, North Africa and Asia. The comma is widespread in southern Britain and its range is expending northwards.

The common nettle (Utrica dioica) and hop are the main food plants for the caterpillars. The butterfly feeds on nectar and overripe/rotting fruit.

The butterfly hibernates on tree trunks or branches or in hollow trees or log piles. Sometimes they awaken on warm winter days.

The caterpillars hatch after 1 to 3 weeks. After about 2 to 5 weeks they pupate. After about 2 weeks the butterfly emerges.

The butterflies live in 2 generations. The first generation appears in June. The second generation appears in August. That generation hibernates. From March the butterflies that have hibernated will start flying about and reproduce.

 

 

Small tortoiseshell

Small Tortoiseshell Peter EelesThe scientific name for the small tortoiseshell is Aglais utricae and it is a member of the Nymphalidae family. The small tortoiseshell is found in almost all of Europe from the south of Spain to Lapland and to China and Japan.

The common nettle is the only food plant for the caterpillars. De butterfly drinks nectar from various plants.

The butterfly hibernates in damp, cool and dark spots like in hollow trees, in nests of mammals, in caves or buildings.

The caterpillars hatch after about one week and pupate after 2 to 3 weeks. The chrysalis hangs on the stem of a plant or on a wall. After more than a week the butterfly emerges. The butterflies live in 2 generations. The first generation appears in June and lives about 3 months. The second generation appears in August. That generation hibernates and can live up to a year. From March the butterflies that have hibernated will start flying about and reproduce.

Speckled wood

Speckled wood Henk BosmaThe scientific name for the speckled wood is Parage aegeria and it is a member of the Nymphalidae family.

The speckled wood is found in quite a large area, from Scotland to Central Asia and from the middle of Scandinavia to North Africa.

Grasses are the main food plants for the caterpillars and they eat during day and night. Butterflies drink aphid honeydew, sap from fruits and bleeding trees or nectar.

The speckled wood overwinters on the food plant mostly as chrysalis but sometimes as caterpillar. The butterflies live in 2 to 3 generations between March and October.

The caterpillars hatch after about 1 week and pupate after about a month. The pupal stage lasts for about 10 days. The butterfly lives for about 3 weeks.

Gatekeeper

Gatekeeper female Vince MassimoThe scientific name for the gatekeeper is Pyronia tihonus and it is a member of the Nymphalidae family. Another common name for this butterfly is hedge brown.

The gatekeeper is found in West and South Europe and the north of Morocco. In the UK and Ireland it is found mainly in the south.

The gatekeeper looks a lot like the meadow brown but there are differences. Contrary to the meadow brown the female butterfly of the gatekeeper has more orange on de hind wing and a brown band on the edge of the wings. The underside of the hind wings of the gatekeeper have more contrast. The meadow brown has no or little orange in the hind wing. Both species have an eyespot but the gatekeeper usually has 2 tiny white dots (pupils) in it and the meadow brown usually 1. The gatekeeper tends to rest with its wings open and the meadow brown with its wings closed.

The main food plants for the caterpillars are grasses. They have a preference for fine grasses. The caterpillars eat during the day. The butterflies drink nectar from various flowers.

The gatekeeper hibernates as caterpillar. In September they crawl deep into the vegetation to hibernate. In March/April the caterpillar starts eating again and mainly during the night. From the end of June they will pupate. Every year there is 1 generation of butterflies and they fly from end of June to August.

The caterpillar hatches after 2 to 3 weeks and lives for about 240 days. The pupal stage lasts 2 to 3 weeks. The butterfly lives for 17 to 34 days.

Meadow brown

Meadow Brown female Peter EelesThe scientific name for the meadow brown Maniola jurtina and it is a member of the Nymphalidae family.

The meadow brown is found from Ireland to the Urals and Northern Iran and from the south of Scandinavia tot North Africa. The meadow brown is common throughout Britain and Ireland with the exception of the most mountainous regions and Shetland.

Contrary to the gatekeeper the female butterfly of the meadow brown has no or little orange on the hind wings. The underside of the hind wings of the gatekeeper have more contrast. Both species have an eyespot but the gatekeeper usually has 2 tiny white dots (pupils) in it and the meadow brown usually 1. The gatekeeper tends to rest with its wings open and the meadow brown with its wings closed.

The main food plants for the caterpillars are grasses. They have a preference for fine grasses. The caterpillars eat during the day. The butterflies drink nectar from various flowers.

The meadow brown overwinters as caterpillar but does not seem to hibernate. They hide in the vegetation and if the weather is warm enough they appear and continue to feed. Young larvae feed during the day and as they become older they will feed at night. Every year there is 1 generation of butterflies and they fly from the middle of June to the end of September. The long flying period is the result of the long period during which the female butterflies lays their eggs. The caterpillars are of different ages when the winter sets in and they will pupate at different times.

The caterpillar hatches after 14 to 30 days and lives for about 240 days. The pupal stage lasts 14 to 30 days. The butterfly lives for 3 to 6 weeks.

Ringlet

Ringlet Peter EelesThe scientific name for the ringlet is Aphantopus hyperantus and it is a member of the Nymphalidae family.

The ringlet is found throughout Europe except in large parts of Scotland, Scandinavia, Spain, Portugal, Italy and Greece. It is also found in the temperate parts of Asia.

The main food plants for the caterpillars are grasses. The butterflies drink nectar from various flowers like thistles, blackberry and oregano.

The ringlet overwinters as caterpillar but does not seem to fully hibernate. They hide in the vegetation and if the weather is warm enough they will feed. The larvae eat at night. Every year there is 1 generation of butterflies and they fly from the middle of June to the end of August.

The caterpillar hatches after 2 to 3 weeks. The pupal stage lasts about 2 weeks. The butterfly lives for about 2 weeks.

Map butterfly

Map butterflyThe scientific name for the map butterfly is Araschnia levana and is a member of the Nymphalidae family. The map butterfly is common throughout large parts of Europe and the temperate regions in Asia.

The common nettle and small nettle are the main food plants for the caterpillars.

This is a non-native butterfly in the UK. There have been attempts to introduce this butterfly in the UK but they were unsuccessful and now illegal.

The map butterfly hibernates as pupa hanging from a stem. The butterflies live in 2 generations. The first generation butterflies lives from April to June and is orange/red with black markings. The second generation lives from July to September and is black with white spots and bands and is slightly larger than the spring generation.

Based on the information I have found I believe that this butterflies lives for about 3 months. There is not much more information available on this butterfly.

The photographs are of the butterfly from the second generation.

(Common) Brimstone

BrimstoneThe scientific name for the brimstone is Gonepteryx rhamni and is a member of the Pieridae family. The brimstone is common in large parts of North Africa, Asia and Europe. It is common throughout England (except north) and Wales (except south-west, central wet and far north-west).

The butterfly hibernates for about 7 months in hollow trees and in evergreen foliage (like ivy). From about September they will enter hibernation and in about March they start flying again.

The alder buckthorn (Rhamnus frangula) and the common buckthorn (Rhamnus cathartica) are the only food plants for the caterpillars. The caterpillars feed on the young leaves at night.

The caterpillars live from April till July and the butterflies appear in July. The development from the egg to the emergence of the butterfly is about 50 days. During the summer all brimstones of the year before will die. This butterfly lives for about a year and is therefore the longest-lived of the British butterflies.

As soon as the brimstone lands it folds it wings together. That way you can hardly see it because it resembles a leaf.

Large white

Large whiteLarge whiteThe scientific name for the large white is Pieris brassicae and it is a member from the Pieridae family. Other common names are cabbage butterfly, cabbage white and cabbage moth.

The large white is spread over a large area from Ireland to central Asia and China and from Scandinavia to North Africa and also from central Canada to the United States of America.

Many wild and cultivated members of the Brassicaceae or Cruciferae (both names are allowed) are the main food source for the caterpillars. Examples of such plants are cauliflower, cabbage, mustard and broccoli.

This butterfly hibernates as pupa hanging on tree trunks or walls. The butterflies live from April till July and from July till October in two generations. Sometimes there is even a third generation in September/October. They need a temperature of average 15 ºC (4 ºF). These butterflies are strong fliers and migrate to the UK from the continent to reinforce the resident population.

Caterpillars hatch after about 2 weeks and pupate after about 3 to 4 weeks. The butterflies live for about 20 days.

Small white

Small white Richard CarterThe scientific name for the small white is Pieris rapae and it is a member from the Pieridae family. Another name that is used for the Pieris rapae is small cabbage white.

Like the large white the small white is spread over a large area from Ireland to Japan and North America and from Scandinavia to North Africa, Australia and New Zealand.

The small white hibernates as pupa hanging on tree trunks and walls. The butterflies live in 2 generations in Britain. The first emerges in April and the second generation in July. Sometimes in favourable conditions a third generation emerges in October. These butterflies are also strong fliers like the large whites and they too reinforce the resident population from the continent.

The small white uses the same food plants as the large whites but they choose smaller plant and in more shaded places. The caterpillars eat mostly during the day and from the heart of the plant.

The caterpillar hatches after about 1 week and pupates after about 3 weeks. The butterfly lives for about 3 weeks.

Green-veined white

Green veined white Chris van SwaayThe scientific name for the green-veined white is Pieris napi and it is a member from the Pieridae family.

The green-veined white can be found from Ireland to Japan and North America and from Scandinavia tot North Africa. It is found throughout Britain, except on the Shetland Isles.

The green-veined white hibernates as pupa hidden in the vegetation hanging on a stem, tree trunk or wall. The butterflies live in 2 generations the first generation emerges in May-June and the second generation in early August. In warm years there may also be a third generation which emerges in late September.

The food plants are cuckoo flower (Cardamine pratensis), garlic mustard (Alliaria petiolata) and other crucifers. They prefer a damp and part shaded environment. The green-veined white prefers a natural environment and wild crucifers and therefore the caterpillars are hardly a problem for cultivated or garden cabbages unlike the caterpillars of the large and small whites. The caterpillars eat during the day.

Because the length of larval and pupal stages can vary per individual the period during which the butterflies fly can spread over a long time. This is also because the female lays eggs several times. The caterpillars hatch within a week and pupates after 2 to 4 weeks. The pupal stage lasts for 3 to 13 days, but if the pupa overwinters the pupal stage can last between 150 and 330 days. The butterflies lives for about 2 weeks.

The spring brood has more distinct veins than the summer brood and often mistaken for the small white. The butterflies are very mobile but does not migrate as much as the large and small white.

Mint moth

Mint moth Henk BosmaThe scientific name for the mint moth is Pyrausta aurata and it is a member of the Crambidae family. It is a small moth that flies during day and night.

The mint moth can be found in Europe, Africa and Asia and is common in England, Wales and southern Scotland. It is mostly seen in sunny spots.

The mint moth hibernates as caterpillar in a wrapping of folded leaves. The butterflies are seen from May to September. There are 2 generations. The first generation flies from May to June and the second from July to September.

The caterpillars feed on mints and other plants from the Labiatae family.

The caterpillar hatches after about 2 weeks and pupates after about 2 weeks. The butterfly hatches after about 1 week.

I have found quite a lot of photos of this butterfly but not very much information.

Common blue

Common Blue Peter EelesThe scientific name for the common blue is Polyommatus Icarus and it is a member of the Lycaenidae family.

The common blue is found in Europe, North Africa and the Canary Islands and in temperate Asia to Northern China. It is especially common throughout the UK. It has also been discovered in Canada and is extending its range from year to year.

The male butterflies usually have blue wings. The wings of the female are usually brown with a little blue.

The common blue hibernates as caterpillar in leaf litter at the base of the food plant and pupate on the ground in April and May.

The larvae eat wild, leguminous plants like bird’s foot trefoil (Lotus corniculatus), rest harrow and white clover. The butterflies drink nectar from flat-headed flowers like bird’s foot trefoil.

The common blue has 2 generations a year in the southern regions and 1 brood further north. The first generation flies in May until June. The second generation flies in July until September. In favourable years there may even be a third brood. In the north the single brood appears in June.

The caterpillar hatches after about 1 or 2 weeks and pupates after about 9 days. The pupal stage lasts about 2 weeks. The butterfly lives for about 3 weeks.