Peacock with caterpillar [Inachis io] beta

Peacock Butterfly, caterpillar and foodplant (nettle)

Butterflies and moths have lived on our planet for over 50 million years. But with climate change and human activity taking away their habitat, three quarters of British butterflies are in severe decline, and many moths face an uncertain future.


The Very Hungry Caterpillar is often eaten by the very hungry baby Blue Tit and other members of the bird world. That is nature taking its course. But it isn’t the birds who have wiped out the butterflies.


The gardeners’ eye view of the caterpillar has been encouraged, in our time, to be one of fear and loathing and the use of pesticides. Perfect garden plants have been more highly valued than butterflies. Not helpful when so much of their habitat has been altered by other human activity.

Holly Blue Butterfly

Holly Blue Butterfly




More of us need to try and see the caterpillar as a possible future butterfly or moth, to be encouraged wherever possible. Whether we have a windowbox, a patio, a garden, or are in charge of a park or the grounds of a stately home, we can still make an effort to increase butterfly and moth numbers.




* Garden makeover

* Mature trees and shrubbery are cut down

Has the resident any idea of wildlife nesting in that mature tree, that unfashionable evergreen? Garden makeover programmes encouraged us to stamp our own personalities on the garden. This may involve ripping out all vegetation ‘to let the light flood in’. Concrete, decking, glass blocks and lighting could be part of the new look. ‘Our personalities’ may mean doing away with places where an ecosystem had developed, with life forms so small we would not have noticed. Even if we had had no intention of doing harm to local wildlife, changes we initiate to a small area may be ‘collateral damage’.

A garden makeover may mean that the resident spends more time in the garden. Friends are invited round for barbecues, etc., sit out on the decking, eating and drinking. Heating set out on some patios takes the chill off and allows more time to socialise later into the evening, when the weather cooperates. Now well-designed for the urban human, the garden may be less wildlife-friendly.

  • * Property Developers

* Even an empty plot, overgrown with scrub and self-seeded trees & looking unkempt compared with what we see as acceptable – can be being used by wildlife. Insects can be living there. Food for birds, insects and their eggs and grubs. When the property developer flattens the area, a vast food harvest is taken away – like demolishing a high street, a supermarket for the birds.

We can support BUTTERFLY CONSERVATION, a group working to save native butterflies and moths from extinction.

This UK-based charity

       *  promotes butterfly-friendly, moth-friendly gardening

       *  carries out surveys, monitoring and research

*  advises landowners, managers and organisations on how to conserve and restore natural habitats vital to the life-cycles, and the lives, of butterflies and moths.


Elephant Hawkmoth

Elephant Hawkmoth

Row 1 No 3 Mint Moth

Mint Moth

2 - Comma on garden chair

Comma Butterfly

1 - Plume Moth Amblyptilia acanthadactyla on Teasel stalk, July 2014

Plume Moth

Row 5 No 3 - Wildflower mural - Common Blue Butterfly (underside), Birdfoot Trefoil

Common Blue Butterfly on Wildflower Mural, Ecology Centre, Gillespie Park



You can sign up to Butterfly Conservation‘s free monthly newsletter, All-Aflutter. It provides the latest butterfly & moth news, tells you which species to look out for, & provides gardening tips & special offers.

Photo galleries and a-z listings on their website can help you to identify butterflies and moths :


If you can, join them. This charity relies on donations and membership subscriptions. Members receive their magazine, BUTTERFLY, three times a year.

BUTTERFLY CONSERVATION, Manor Yard, East Lulworth, Wareham, Dorset BH20 5QP


Butterfly Conservation’s Tips


* Grow some native foodplants to feed caterpillars :

HOLLY and IVY to feed caterpillars of the Holly Blue Butterfly  perfect ivy leaf close up

GARLIC MUSTARD and CUCKOOFLOWER: Orange Tip and Green-veined White  Hedge Garlic

HOP: Comma and moths such as Buttoned Snout, Angle Shades and Dark Spectacle  Hop leaves


Nettles Jan 2015

NETTLES: Comma, Red Admiral, Brimstone, Small Tortoiseshell and Peacock, and moths such as Plume Moth, Scarlet Tiger, Spectacle, Small Magpie and Snout


Row 3 No 3 - Snout MothSmall Magpie Moth on Ivy leaf 14 July 2015Red Admiral Butterfly on BuddleiaPlume Moth under Alkanet leaf Jun 19 2014.jpgHolly Blue Butterfly on Sumac colour


Nettle Bucket, spring solstice 2015

Nettle bucket, Spring Solstice 2015

 Tip: Limit the spread of your nettles by growing them in a large container in a sunny corner.


Small Tortoiseshell Caterpillar on Stinging Nettles, Wildflower Mural, Ecology Centre, Gillespie Park


* Provide nectar right through the Butterfly season – Choose sunny, sheltered positions in which to grow plants known to attract butterflies and moths :

Dandelion from Ecology Centre mural Oxeye Daisy cropWhite Cloverforget-me-not-sharp

Spring nectar : Aubretia, Bluebell, Clover, Cuckooflower, Daisy, Dandelion, Forget-me-not, Honesty, Pansy, Primrose, Sweet Rocket and Wallflower

Late summer / Autumn nectar : Buddleia, French Marigold, Ice Plant (Sedum Spectabile), Buddleia 2013Ice plant (Sedum spectabile) cropIvy, Knapweed, Lavender, Marjoram (Oreganum), Michaelmas Daisy, Mint, Red Valerian, Scabious and Thyme

SAMSUNGApplemintScabious 2012

Tip: If you have Buddleia, prune some of it hard in March to ensure late flowering. Night-flying Moths visiting Buddleia include the Silver Y, Willow Beauty and Mother of Pearl


* Go wild. If you have a lawn, let part of it grow tall during the summer.

Butterfly caterpillars that prefer to eat tall grasses include Speckled Wood, Gatekeeper, Meadow Brown, Small Skipper, Wall, Marbled White and Ringlet

* Don’t buy peat-based compost, water-worn limestone or other materials taken from natural habitats vital to endangered butterflies and moths.