What do Butterflies like to Eat?
Butterflies are welcome visitors in any garden. They help to pollinate plants and look beautiful to boot. If you’re keen to create your own butterfly garden, you need to know just what these colourful insects like to eat.
Butterflies eat (or drink) through their proboscis – a tube that works a bit like a straw. But they actually taste using their feet! Here are a few of their favourite foods:
The butterfly’s primary source of food is nectar. It gets nectar from plants and flowers. Butterflies prefer to visit flowers that are placed in a sunny but sheltered spot. If you’re planting your garden with butterflies in mind, try to include plants that flower throughout the season. That way you can provide a reliable supply of food from spring to early autumn.
A few nectar-rich plants you could consider for your garden include:
Verbena – This is a tall plant with lots of purple flowers on wiry stems.
Hebe – This is a reliable shrub all year round, with flowers that attract butterflies in the summer.
Perennial Wallflower – This plant produces pretty purple flowers from spring until autumn.
Buddleia – Known as the “butterfly bush”, buddleia comes in a number of colours and flowers in July and August.
Marjoram – This is a perennial herb that can grow to 80cm tall. White, pink or purple flowers grow from June to September.
Butterflies love a sweet treat. And in the autumn months, a sugary boost can help to keep them fit and healthy. If you want to provide your butterflies with an autumnal feast, leave out an overripe banana. Alternatively, if you have fruit trees in your garden, leave fallen fruit on the ground. Butterflies seem to have a particular taste for pears, plums and apples.
Butterflies are often sleepy when they first wake from their cocoons or from hibernation in the spring. If you come across a butterfly struggling to get going, you can prepare a boiled then cooled mix of sugar and water. Use a brightly coloured sponge to soak up the solution. A butterfly will take sips from it and get the boost it needs to take flight.
The glucose in nectar and fruit give butterflies their energy. But butterflies also require other nutrients. That’s why you may sometimes see them crowded around a muddy puddle. By sipping from the puddle they take in minerals and salts from the soil, which are thought to be important for reproduction.
By including a few of these food sources in your garden, you can attract butterflies for the whole of the season, making your garden into a festival of colour and life.
Boxwild sells the perfect gift for Butterfly and Bug Lovers
- Nikki Boxwild
8 Interesting Facts about Butterflies
Seeing butterflies fluttering round your garden is one of the first welcome signs that spring has sprung. Here are 8 interesting facts about these beautiful creatures:
#1 There are around 24,000 different species of butterfly around the world. The only continent without butterflies is Antarctica. In the UK, we have around 56 native species of butterfly.
#2 Each butterfly species chooses a select few plants on which to lay their eggs. Every species has their own preference. They find suitable plants through a combination of sight, smell and taste.
#3 Butterflies suck up nectar through their proboscis. And they taste with sensors on their feet rather than through their mouths. Nectar is their favourite food but butterflies have also been known to eat tree sap, dung, pollen and rotting fruit.
#4 Different butterfly species have different lifespans. The common blue might only spend a few days as an adult butterfly. In contrast, the peacock butterfly emerges from its cocoon in August, hibernates over winter and can still be seen in June the following year.
#5 The number of butterfly species in the UK is boosted in the summer. Around a dozen different species migrate to the UK from across the world. One of the most famous varieties is the painted lady, which travels all the way from North Africa to Europe.
#6 Many butterflies are endangered. Over the last 150 years, five species have become extinct in Britain. They are the large copper, mazarine blue, black-veined white, large blue and large tortoiseshell. However, there are hopes that the black-veined white may be able to return to the UK due to rising average temperatures.
#7 Butterflies are cold blooded. But they need to raise their body to temperature to 27⁰c in order to take flight. They do this by basking in the sun and vibrating their flight muscles. Because they can’t cope with the UK’s low winter temperatures, most butterflies enter a dormant phase as either an egg, larva or pupa. Some also hibernate.
#8 Peacock, red admiral, small tortoiseshell, comma and brimstone butterflies spend the winter as adults. They try to find an outbuilding, a log pile or vegetation in which to hibernate. However, this hibernation isn’t total. If the winter sun is warm enough, these butterflies can wake up which is why they can be spotted all year round. If woken, they’ll find food and then resume their hibernation.
If you’d like to see more butterflies in your garden, try planting nectar-rich plants and flowers. You could also make them feel more at home by installing a butterfly box. Boxwild sells the perfect gift for a Butterfly Lover!
- Nikki Boxwild
How to Choose Bird Seed
When it comes to feeding your garden birds, there’s an incredible selection of bird seed to choose from. Each blend has its own recipe and ingredients. Here are a few of the most common bird seed ingredients you’ll come across and the birds that like to eat them:
Niger seeds are small and black and have a high oil content. Goldfinches, siskins, greenfinches, nuthatches, sparrows and tits are all regularly seen tucking into niger seed. However, because niger seeds are so small, a special niger seed bird feeder is required.
Sunflower seeds are enjoyed by blackbirds, blue tits, chaffinches, goldfinches, greenfinches and house sparrows. They have a high oil and fat content, making them a great food source throughout the whole of the year.
Tits and greenfinches love to eat peanuts. Robins, dunnocks and wrens are also partial to them. Peanuts in a seed mix should be little more than granules. If you’re choosing a whole peanut bird feed, it’s important to put it in a dedicated peanut feeder, which will prevent birds from choking on bigger chunks of nut.
Because of their hard outer shell, safflower seeds are preferred by birds with a strong beak, such as the house finch. Squirrels don’t like safflower seeds so they’re a good option if you’re trying to deter these animals from your bird feeders.
Millet seeds are a favourite amongst doves, dunnocks, finches and sparrows. These seeds are lower in fat than some other varieties. But they are very nutritious, containing high levels of protein. And they’re easy to digest too.
Blackbirds and robins love flaked maize. It has the highest oil and energy content of all cereals and it’s perfect for feeding trays.
Why is it important to choose quality bird seed?
The quality of a bird seed depends on the ingredients used. The best seed mixes contain plenty of sunflower seeds, peanuts and flaked maize.
Cheaper, lower quality bird seeds contain a lot of “filler”. These are seeds and grains, like wheat, dried rice and lentils. This filler content attracts bigger birds, such as rooks and jackdaws, but is often bypassed by smaller birds.
Low quality feed may even include dog biscuits that you’ll see as pink or green lumps in the mix. These are only edible to birds when soaked so should definitely be avoided.
Choosing the best quality bird seed allows you to provide a nutritious meal for your garden birds. It will also see them returning again and again for another tasty treat.
How to Identify Common British Butterflies
Do you know your red admiral from your peacock? Or your meadow brown from your tortoiseshell? Get to know and identify the most common British butterflies with our handy butterfly guide:
The gatekeeper butterfly is found around hedgerows and in clumps of flowers around gateways, hence its name. Its wings are orange with a brown border. There’s also a black eyespot on each forewing with two white pupils on each.
The red admiral has brown or black wings with red bands towards the edges. Little white spots can also be seen at the tips of the forewings. This is a butterfly that can be found in wide variety of habitats – gardens, town centres, seashores and mountain tops!
One of our more understated butterflies, the meadow brown is brown with an orange tint. It has two eyespots near the tip of the forewings, with just one pupil in each.
The small white has bright white wings. The forewings have small black tips and a few black spots. Underneath, wings are creamy white. The large white is very similar – just slightly bigger and with a larger spot on the forewings.
Peacock butterflies are as striking as their avian namesakes. Mainly red but with vibrant eyespots on all wings, they’re a regular and easily recognisable garden visitor.
The comma butterfly is orange with brown spots. Its wings are scalloped making it look a little ragged. This butterfly gets its name from a small silvery comma shape which you can just about spot on the underside of its wing.
The small tortoiseshell can be seen almost all year round in urban areas. It has right orange and black wings, the bottom edges of which are fringed with blue spots. Another distinguishing feature is a white spot at the tip of the forewing.
Common blues are delicate looking butterflies, usually found in grassy habitats. Males have blue wings with a brown and white border. Females tend to be brown in colour. They have a touch of blue close to their bodies and a speckled pattern at the bottom edge of their wings.
Often found in woodland, but in gardens and hedgerows too, the speckled wood butterfly is mainly dark brown in colour. It has creamy white patches on its wings, designed to act as camouflage in the dappled sunlight of forest habitats.
- Nikki Boxwild
6 Interesting British Insects to Spot in your Garden
Here are a few interesting British insects you can try to spot in your garden this year:
Common Darter Dragonfly
If you have a pond in your garden, you might be lucky enough to spot the common darter dragonfly. This species is very common in England, Ireland and Wales but less so in Scotland. Males have a red body. Females and juveniles have a pale green brown body. And you’re most likely to see them from June through to November.
Lacewings are a very beautiful and delicate looking insects. They have bright green bodies and lacy, transparent wings. They feed on aphids and other small insect pests, making them a firm friend of gardeners. Make them at home in your garden by providing a bug hotel, perfect for winter hibernation.
The magpie moth has striking markings. Wings are white with black spots and yellow stripes. It can be found throughout the UK (apart from the far north) from June to August. Adults drink nectar. When they’re in the caterpillar stage they love to feed on blackthorn, hawthorn and gooseberry bushes.
Ruby Tailed Wasp
Unlike the common black and yellow variety, these wasps have a ruby red abdomen and metallic colouring across the rest of the body. You’re most likely to find them running over walls and tree trunks from April to September as they look for the nests of solitary bees. Once they’ve found the perfect spot, they lay their eggs alongside those of the bee. Hatched larvae then eat the bee’s eggs before emerging from the nest in the spring.
The froghopper is a small, brown insect with the ability to jump many times its own length, sometimes up to 70cm. Their larvae can be found on plant stems, covered in a frothy coating. Larvae produce this froth to protect themselves from predators as they feed on leaves and shoots. Froghoppers are most often seen between June and September.
Stag beetles are the largest beetles in the UK. They can be found in the woodland and gardens of South East England from May to August. The stag beetle’s impressive head gear is used to attract a mate and to fight off rival males. Unfortunately, the stag beetle population has declined over recent years. We can help by providing logs and compost heaps in which they can hide, feed and breed.
So keep an eye out for these less common garden bugs this summer. And, create your own bug habitats if you’d like to attract more them.
How to Choose an Insect House
Insects are an essential part of the food chain. Some garden-friendly insects can also lend a hand to gardeners. Bees and butterflies help to pollinate our plants. Ladybirds and lacewings eat aphids. They’re an important part of any garden eco-system.
Well-kept gardens don’t always provide the damp, dark hiding places that bugs love to live in. But, even if you don’t want to place a pile of rotting wood or leaf litter in a corner of your garden, you can still provide a welcoming habitat for insects.
Many creepy crawlies will set up home in an insect house. These small and attractive garden additions allow you to look after your garden bugs without compromising on aesthetics. If you’d like to install an insect house in your garden, here are a few tips on what you should be looking for:
A Variety of Hidey Holes
Different insects look for different things in a home. Ladybirds like to hibernate in amongst dead wood. Lacewings look for a place with separated chambers. Solitary bees like hollow tubes that imitate the plant stems in which they usually lay their eggs. Your insect house should provide a variety of different sized holes, nooks and crannies if you’re to attract a wide selection of insects.
When choosing an insect house, you need to look for a sturdy structure that can stand up to the British weather. A roof needs to protect internal nooks and crannies from the rain – insect houses can be damp but not wet. You should also be able to secure your insect house to a wall or fence – you don’t want it to blow away in the wind.
Made from A Variety of Natural Materials
You’re much more likely to attract residents to your insect house if it’s made from natural materials. Bugs tend to look for homes that resemble their natural habitats. Wood and muted colours are a must. You can also look for insect houses that incorporate a number of different natural materials – pine cones, wood bark and straw are all appealing to different insect species.
Once you’ve chosen your insect house, be sure to place it in a cool, shady place that offers plenty of cover from predators. Fix the box firmly to a tree trunk, wall or post and wait for your garden creepy crawlies to take up residence. If it’s in the right place, your insect house should be full of life within a week or two.