Spotters' guide to five British butterflies

31 May 2019 | Posted in Gardening by The Marshalls Family

Flights of fancy

British butterflies are a joy to observe with their character, charm and, in some cases, charismatic colours. In America they are celebrating Butterfly Education and Awareness Day today to pay homage to these beautiful creatures and bring attention to their vulnerability and importance.

Here we highlight five of our favourite butterflies and where you are likely to see them, perfect for a countryside walk or even if you're walking around somewhere built up. A scruffy car park or abandoned railway tracks can be a haven for butterflies to feed and breed.

Our five favourites

butterfly tortoiseSmall tortoiseshell
Aglais urticae

A garden visitor seen in groups on butterfly bush -Buddleia in mid summer and on sedum flowers in late summer and autumn.

A useful allotment and garden butterfly in that the caterpillars eat stinging nettles. Great news for effective weed control, especially for organic and wildlife gardeners.


Butterfly peacockPeacock
Aglais io

Master of camouflage and predator evader. With wings open this butterfly reveals eye-like spots that deceive predators. With wings closed the peacock is dark brown emulating a non-descript leaf- the perfect camouflage.

A fan of wildflowers like agrimony and the pollen-rich flowers of golden hop. Great when you are designating part of your plot to natural planting.


butterfly brimstoneBrimstone
Gonepteryx rhamni

More common on roadside verges and in meadows rather than gardens this green/yellow butterfly is particularly playful and is often seen in pairs.

Very cleverly camouflaged emulating a fresh young leaf, unnoticed by butterfly-eating birds like flycatchers and warblers.



butterfly paintedPainted lady
Vanessa cardui

A migrating species, painted lady butterflies arrive in Britain in summer from Africa and Asia every year. Often seen feeding on butterfly bush Buddleia with other decorative-winged species like peacocks and tortoiseshells.

Like small tortoiseshells the caterpillars feed on nettles – to control your weeds – so it pays to encourage them onto your plot by planting Buddleia and mallows.


butterfly orange tipOrange tip
Anthocharis cardemines

This small yet pretty species is a UK-wide frequent visitor to church yards and dilapidated sites. The males display the give-away orange tips while the females display black tips. A pleasant and common sight in hedgerows in rural settings.

Encourage these butterflies onto your plot with honesty, garlic mustard and cuckoo flower.

Make A Comment

You need to be a registered user to submit comments. Login or register.