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Butterflies and Moths

We love to watch butterflies and day flying moths in the garden and we grow lots of high-nectar plants for them to feed on. Fortunately we are bordered by lots of stinging nettles which are food plants for the caterpillars of several species.

Another food plant for Orange-Tip Butterflies. Cardamine pratensis ("Lady's Smock" here in Cheshire, "Milk Maids" in Essex where we come from) grows wild in the fields around us.  We also leave windfall apples for late flying butterflies to feed on - watch them get tipsy on the fermenting juice.

All the pictures below are from our garden.

To help conserve Britain's butterflies you can join Butterfly Conservation.

List of recorded species:


Common Blue
Green-Veined White
Holly Blue
Large White
Meadow Brown
Orange Tip
Painted Lady
Red Admiral
Small Copper
Small Tortoiseshell
Small White
Speckled Wood


6-Spot Burnet Moth
Grey Dagger
Eyed Hawk-Moth
Hummingbird Hawk-Moth
Elephant Hawk-Moth
Ghost Swift
Magpie Moth
Orange Underwing
Silver Y
Small Magpie
Swift Moth
The Vapourer


Red Admirals are one of my favourites but they are more shy than some other types and are more likely to be disturbed when trying to get a close up.

But here on Joe Pie Weed (Eupatorium maculatum Atropurpurem) this one was too happy feeding to be concerned with me.

The name "Red Admiral" apparently has nothing to do with the sea or sailors (although these butterflies do cross the sea to migrate to the UK), but is a corruption of "Red Admirable".

British populations are supplemented by influxes from the Continent each year. Individuals seen before July are almost certainly migrants.

Caterpillars feed on nettles and are greenish brown. Eggs are laid individually and the caterpillars make a tent of silk on a nettle leaf.

Here is the same individual with wings closed showing the underwing pattern. I love his or her stripy antennas.

Next to him or her is a busy honey bee.

Painted Lady butterflies have become more common in our garden over the last 5 years or so and are flying from May in some years. All have migrated in from North Africa. Later flying adults may have come from eggs laid here in late summer. Eggs are laid on a wide of plants including thistles, nettles, mallows and burdocks.

The caterpillars have a yellow stripe down each side. They are spiny with yellow or black bristles.

They seem to be territorial and chase each other frequently.

Heleniums are probably one of the best flowers for butterflies between July and October.

A Painted Lady again, with wings closed. Eye patterns on the wings are designed to scare or at least distract predators.


With wings closed the Small Tortoiseshell is inconspicuous.


The Ringlet is quite similar to the Meadow Brown but is altogether, darker and more velvety brown. The ringed dots on the undersides of the wings are a dead giveaway when at rest.  Seen 8th July 2012. We also several of these butterflies visiting the garden in July 2014.

The Common Blue is anything but blue at rest with its wings closed like here on the flower bud of Succisella inflexa during August.

The Holly Blue at rest is completely different to the Common Blue with beautiful shimmering silver-blue under wings.  It is feeding on Echinops ritro, the Globe Thistle and don't the two blues complement each other so well? A butterfly of great taste.

With their wings closed you can see the relationship with the common blue.

Speckled Wood

Hummingbird Hawk Moth

Eyed Hawk Moth

The Magpie Moth is a real beauty although its caterpillars eat the leaves of gooseberries.

Mullien Moth

Silver Y

I think this is a Grey Dagger Moth caterpillar which has been having a good feast on a leaf from our hazel hedge.

The Drinker moth caterpillar is not a pest in the garden

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