September is a cracking month for observing butterflies! Many of the buddleias dotted around the gardens and wider countryside are a magnet for many of the autumn-flying species but also take the time to check out ivy for the second hatch of holly blues and any brambles with late flowers may still host some woodland species. A question we have been asked recently, is it normal for butterflies to fly in the autumn, yes it is, if the weather stays mild in the autumn you can expect a number of species including red admirals and peacocks to fly until November, occasionally beyond on warm winters days!
Another regular query we get about our fluttery friends is how best to attract them into the garden? Well, the first thing is diversity, different butterflies need different food plants for their caterpillars and different food plants to get nectar from, so a garden brimming with butterflies is usually a garden with a range of different habitats compromising a range of different plant species. A wild patch can be a great feature, nettles, brambles and ivy and allsorts of other usually unwanted wild plants are key to the success of many butterflies so leaving an area to 'go wild' can be a good step. If you have not got room for that you could try planting buddleia as it is an easy way to provide butterflies with a quick fuel stop. Try looking for Buddleia globosa, it's globe shaped orange blooms are just a little bit different and really popular with nectaring insects. If you would rather go for a wildflower border for butterflies rather than a shrub, some plants to consider adding to borders for the benefit of butterflies can include verbena, ice plant, lavender, birds-foot trefoil, red valerian and Michaelmas daisies to name just a few!
Butterflies also use dense foliage to hide over night, the other evening whilst picking some blackberries I watched a red admiral come into a thicket of tangled ivy, bramble and blackthorn and tuck itself away , such a brightly coloured creature instantly vanished amongst the tangle of branches. If you have a patch of ivy in your garden it is worth watching in the late afternoon to see what comes in to spend the night there!
Many birds seem to be bursting out from their late summer/autumn moults already, we are seeing some very dapper looking robins out and about singing their autumn tunes as well as some very busy mixed flocks tumbling along hedgerows. There is still a wealth of natural food out there but you will probably start to see a bit more activity around bird feeders in the next few weeks if you have not already, as there are plenty of birds on the move!
Please share your butterfly observations and bird feeder shenanigans on our forums!
Thanks for your comment Cirrus, I must agree regarding the hummingbird hawkmoth, no sign of one for me this year and far fewer nationally than previous years. Let's hope we get a few more bright and warm autumn days!
How right you are IAN ! I have been delighted with the butterflies that have finally turned up in my garden. Not that there have been the numbers that there were three years ago. As you know, two really bad winters did nothing for these beautiful creatures.
With the September warmth and sunshine I have had red admirals (at least two) and large and small whites, a gate keeper, a comma , holly blues, several speckled woods (which seem to have done better than other species in my garden) and a peacock, But alas, none of many others that have used by buddleia as a fueling stop. And certainly not the wonderous humming bird hawk moth that stunned and amazed me two years ago by gracing my buddleia.