The St Albans Butterfly Challenge 2023

We officially launched our St Albans Butterfly Challenge at the Growing the Greenhouse event on June 11 2023 at the George Street Canteen. It was a beautiful day and the wildlife garden was buzzing with life. A perfect place to enthuse people about butterflies and how to attract them!

Left to right: Malcolm Hull giving us a fascinating talk about butterflies. Jo and Nadia behind the WW stall, which was offering free pollinator friendly seeds and plants. One of our younger visitors enjoying the butterfly matching game!

Our challenge involves all of us growing in our gardens or on our patios the favourite food plants of a selection of 7 butterfly and moth species. These have been carefully chosen for us by Malcolm Hull from Butterfly Conservation, who opened his butterfly friendly allotment to the public during Sustfest.

Our 7 selected species are:

Butterfly or Moth speciesFood plantsTop Tips
1.Peacock

Peacock butterfly on
verbena bonariensis
Caterpillar:
Common stinging nettles
Adult:
Verbena and Buddleija
Grow nettles in a sunny corner of
the garden away from
children, as they do sting.
Butterflies like verbena
bonariensis the best!
2.Orange tip

Orange tip butterfly
on garlic mustard
Caterpillar:
Garlic mustard,Lady’s smock,
Sweet rocket and Honesty
Adult:
Garlic mustard
Orange tip butterflies breed
more successfully on garlic mustard
(also known as hedge garlic),
than on honesty. Lady’s smock
is also good, but prefers damp soil,
whereas garlic mustard is drought
resistant.
3.Common blue

Common blue
butterfly
Caterpillar:
Bird’s foot trefoil
Adult:
Knapweed
Common blue butterflies like
all species of knapweed.
4.Gatekeeper

Gatekeeper butterfly
Caterpillar:
Finer grasses such as bents,
fescues and meadow grasses.
Adult:
Oregano and Fleabane
Source a meadow grass mix from an
organic supplier such as Bee Happy
Plants
.

Gatekeeper butterflies seem
to prefer laying their eggs in the
shade.
5.Comma

Comma butterfly
Caterpillar:
Common stinging nettles
Adult:
Knapweed
Comma caterpillars will also eat
Wild hop, but they prefer stinging
nettles.

Like common blues, commas like
all species of knapweed.
6.Hummingbird hawk moth

Hummingbird hawk
moth on jasmine

Caterpillar:
Lady’s bedstraw and Hedge bedstraw
Adult:
Honeysuckle, Buddleija
and Red valerian
This year there is evidence that
the hummingbird hawk
moth, a European visitor, hibernated
over winter in the UK for what may be the first time.
7.6-spot burnet

6-spot burnet moth on clover
Caterpillar:
Bird’s foot trefoil
Adult:
Knapweed and Scabious
You can also look out for the cocoons the caterpillars make on grass stems.










Once you have turned your garden into a smorgasbord for butterflies, the challenge is to spot any or all of the 7 species in your garden over the course of the summer. If possible, we’d also like you to photograph them.

Please send your photos in to nadia@wilderhoodwatch.org so that they can be added to our Butterfly Challenge photo gallery and entered into a competition to win this beautiful, weatherproof butterfly guide.

You can also download the Butterfly Conservation’s Big Butterfly Count app, and submit your sightings between Friday July 14 and Sunday August 6.

For more useful information, check out these website pages:

Butterfly Conservation Wild Spaces (for more great tips on butterfly friendly gardening) – https://butterfly-conservation.org/wild-spaces

Herts & Middx Butterfly Conservation Branch (for up to date info on which species are flying in our area and the best places to see them and more) – https://www.hertsmiddx-butterflies.org.uk/sightings-new.php

Big Butterfly Count (for info on how to take part) – https://bigbutterflycount.butterfly-conservation.org/