• IvyShepherd

Five butterflies that are flying now in my garden

A spotlight on these beautiful insects of summer



Butterflies are a common sight in our gardens over summer.


But while some species are enjoying huge successes and increasing their numbers, others are becoming less common every year.


This is due to a number of factors, not least a scarcity of food and destruction of their specific habitats. There are many nectar-rich plants we can grow for our butterflies, but also crucial is to provide food plants for their caterpillars to eat once they hatch.


By providing some key food sources in our gardens and shelter for overwintering insects, such as climbing ivy, we can ensure that we are protecting and encouraging these beautiful butterflies to our gardens for years to come.


Here are a few that are on the wing now.


Silver-washed Fritillary

A large and fast flying butterfly, blink and you will miss these. This fritillary is one of my favourite signs of summer.



My garden borders a large area of broadleaf woodland and so these butterflies are regular visitors, as they adore the sunny glades amongst the trees. In the woodland grows a lot of bramble, which this butterfly is rather partial to.


The caterpillars like to feed on the common dog-violet, so look out for these plants if you want to get a glimpse of this fritillary.


Vivid orange and black in colour on the top of the wings, this butterfly gets its name from the washed, silvery streaks on its underside. Leave some bramble to grow in your garden and you might just get a visit from some of these fast flyers.


Painted Lady

The Painted Lady is quite simply beautiful and one of my favourites. I don’t see very many each year, so when I do see them, I consider it very special.



A well-travelled little lady, they migrate every year from southern Europe and North Africa. They cannot winter here in the UK, as it is too cold. A great distance for such a little insect.


To see them in your gardens, try growing buddleia, as they love these and other nectar-rich plants. Their caterpillars are partial to thistles, nettles and mallows.


They can be found all across the globe, apart from South America. Have you seen them where you are?


Red Admiral

The very distinctive red and black colours of the Red Admiral are a familiar sight and they can be seen throughout the year feeding in warm and fine weather.



They can be found in many different habitats and the adults will occasionally hibernate over winter. You might find them in your sheds or garages. But we can help these little insects along by growing climbing ivy in our gardens to provide some shelter over winter.


To encourage them into your gardens, grow the ever-popular buddleia, as the butterfly bush will attract many species of butterfly, as well as the Red Admiral.


Their caterpillar food plants are the common nettle and hops. And although the Red Admiral is common and not a species in threat, we can still help these wonderful garden visitors by leaving some nettles to grow wild.


Large skipper

Another sign of summer for me is seeing the Skippers arrive in my garden.


Although it’s name suggests it is large, this little butterfly has a wingspan of about 3.5cm. This small, orange butterfly is busy, not resting for long and always on the go.



When they do stop however, they love to bask in the sun. They can be seen in gardens, but they favour woodlands in particular where brambles can be found, as well as rough grassland and by the roadside.


They like to lay their eggs on blades of tall grass and the caterpillar food plants are false broom and purple moor-grass. They can be seen on the wing from June until September.


Small Tortoiseshell

One of our most common and widespread butterflies, the distinctive, orange colours of the Small Tortoiseshell butterfly can be seen in many different habitats.



As such, it is a very familiar visitor to gardens especially and like the red admiral, is sometimes seen all year round when the weather is fine and warm. The Small Tortoiseshell loves to overwinter in garages or sheds, so keep an eye out for them, as you may come across them.


If you want to attract them to your garden, then why not try leaving an area of your garden to grow wild, as their caterpillar food plant is the common nettle.


A wonderful excuse to let a small corner of nettles grow in your garden. And this won’t just benefit the Small Torts, but a whole host of other wildlife will thank you for it too.


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