Butterflies are often portrayed as the essence of nature or as representing freedom, beauty or peace. For many people, one of the first signs that spring is truly on its way is the fluttering of butterflies in the garden. Butterflies are important for so many reasons: not just aesthetically but also scientifically, for the ecosystem and for our health. We all know how important bees are to the environment but butterflies are the secret heroes, crucial in pollination and a natural form of pest control. So which species should we be looking out for?

What to look out for in March

Some of the most common native species in the UK are the Comma, Brimstone and the Gatekeeper, as well as the Marbled White, Meadow Brown and Peacock butterflies. Now that March has arrived and the temperatures are beginning to rise, the first butterflies are appearing. You may spot the Peacock, Brimstone and if you’re lucky, the Red Admiral when the sun comes out. These early species will produce the offspring that will be seen during the summer months. Take a look at the BBC nature features page to help identify different species. http://www.bbc.co.uk/nature/22907171

How can you attract more butterflies to your garden?

The key is to have plants which butterflies can collect nectar from to feed. Known commonly as the ‘Butterfly Bush’, Buddleia is by far the best plant for nectar and is therefore a haven for butterflies – a favourite for eighteen species including the Brimstone and Peacock.  While most people know that Buddleia is a guaranteed way to attract butterflies, there are many other plants which are firm favourites for our fluttery friends. Tall, delicate Verbena bonariensis is popular for butterflies as well as providing a change of height amongst the planting. Equally many herbs such as Oregano, Mint and Thyme do well to attract butterflies. A veg bed featuring rocket, runner beans or onions is sure to be a hit as well as fragrant Lavender and cheerful marigolds. With so much variety amongst the plants that will bring butterflies to your garden, why not design your planting with butterflies in mind, helping to conserve butterflies and bring more species to your garden for you to spot!