Jenny Tweedie, gardening enthusiast and RSPB Media & Communications Officer, tells us about the butterflies that share her garden.
A good summer for garden butterflies
The results of the Big Butterfly Count are in, and Butterfly Conservation has announced that it’s been a really good summer for peacocks, large whites, small tortoiseshells and lots of others.
Anyone with a garden had probably figured that one out for themselves, given that every inch of every buddleia seems to have been hoaching with butterflies in the last few weeks. And what an absolutely beautiful sight it’s been.
But of course, one good summer does not secure the future of one of our favourite insects, with numbers declining in the long term, and some sharply (take a look at the State of Nature report for more). Loss of habitat seems to be the main culprit, with climate change likely to bring its own winners and losers, as it does for birds and other wildlife.
We can of course, all do our bit to help butterflies in future years. I planted a strip of wildflowers this summer, as well as the ubiquitous buddleia, and lots of annuals like cosmos and pot marigolds, which pollinators love. It’s been a revelation to see my garden quite so alive with insects, and after standing in relative clouds of small tortoiseshells and peacocks a few weeks ago, I’m planning a bit of research to see what else I could sow for them next spring. If you don’t have space for plants, you could always try putting up a butterfly feeder.
What this summer might also have encouraged you to do is get out and about and see even more butterflies. RSPB reserves are a great place to start: their rich diversity of habitats attracting and supporting a huge range of insects.
Sometimes you don’t need to go far, either. Commas, for example – lovely orange butterflies with ragged wings, and a distinct punctuation mark on their undersides – can sometimes be seen at Baron’s Haugh near Motherwell, even in the car park! For the more adventurous, rarer wall butterflies can be found at the Mull of Galloway, right at the southernmost tip of Scotland, while Loch Gruinart on Islay, is one of the few places you might see marsh fritillary butterflies.
You can search for good butterfly reserves using key words on our website (scroll down, it’s at the bottom of the page) http://www.rspb.org.uk/reserves.
With the summer coming to an end, however, and autumn on the way, butterflies will be slowing down and their numbers falling. But why not plan to go searching for them next year? We’ve got around 30 species in Scotland. How many have you seen?
All photos by Jenny Tweedie