How To Spot Butterflies

As you know, we are running a monthly series of articles on butterflies (see here and here for the April and May posts).

The Independent newspaper is running The Great British Butterfly Hunt and as part of this it gives tips on how to spot them. Here they are, as they might be useful whilst wandering around the pond or else in your back garden:

  • Butterflies are active in warm sunny weather, so choose days when the air temperature is above 14C and there is at least 50% sun
  • Butterflies are most active from 10am to 4.30pm
  • Most species like sheltered, sunny positions to bask or feed. Try sheltered gardens, parks, derelict land, hedgerows, tall grasses, bramble, wild flowers, woodland clearings or south-facing slopes (take care)
  • Certain garden plants are magnets. Butterflies visit to drink nectar through a long coiled proboscis (like a drinking straw). In spring, try dandelions and sweet rocket. In summer: buddleia (the “butterfly bush”), scabious, thistles, brambles and herbs in flower like majoram and thyme.
  • Approach slowly. They have all-round vision. Any quick movement will make them take off.
  • If you are lucky enough to live near chalk or limestone grassland, several beautiful and rare species of blue butterfly thrive in short-grazed vegetation.
  • Carry a picture guide or poster.
  • Binoculars can be very useful.
  • Follow a feeding butterfly to where it lands to feed. This sometimes offers a better look at its underside markings, helpful for identifying species like the green-veined white.
  • Three don’ts. Don’t handle caterpillars; they are delicate. Don’t catch butterflies with bare hands; their scaly wings do not regenerate. And try not to trample vegetation or wild flowers which may be used for breeding.

If you spot a species you can even add a sighting online, see here.

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