Elephant hawk moth

Grow food for moths

Activity time:
More than 2 hours
Difficulty level:
Easy
Suitable for:
Balcony/roof, Small garden, Large garden, Medium garden
To help:
Bats, Butterflies & moths, Birds

Grow flowers that release their scent in the evening and put on the outdoor lights to see which of the UK's moths live in your garden.

Moths are rarely given as much attention as their daytime flying cousins, the butterflies, but they deserve to be! Many are exquisitely marked, and some are incredibly colourful, too.

 

With so many different moth species living in the UK, they form an essential part of food chains.

 

If you're a bat or bird, the adults can be a tasty treat, while blue tits, great tits, robins and many other garden birds feed moth caterpillars to their young.

 

To help moths, it's important to provide plants for their caterpillars, as well as flowers for adults. 

 

We've recommended growing your food for moths in summer and autumn, but you can start off some plants in spring.

  

Are you doing this activity as part of your personal plan? Either take a look at your progress or create your own easy-to-follow personal plan to help you give nature a home where you live.

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What you will need

  • Moth-friendly plants
  • Somewhere to plant the plants
  • Torch
  • Trowel 
  • Watering can
  • White sheet
Green veined white butterfly

Step-by-step guide

  1. Just as we enjoy a glass or two of something tasty of an evening, so do many moths. This activity is all about growing the right flowers which moths need for nectar. Select a space where you have room to grow more, whether it be in a border or in pots. If you want, you can create a whole border selected for moths, but it's fine if you grow them among your other flowers.
  2. Buy or grow a selection of the best nectar-rich plants for moths.  For night-flying moths in summer plant:
    • Nicotiana alata - grow in the flower bed
    • Jasmine - a climber to grow up a trellis 
    • Honeysuckle - a climber to grow up a trellis or into a tree
    • Hemp-agrimony - a perennial plant about 1m tall, with soft, lilac heads of flowers, that will form a bigger and bigger clump each year
    • Sweet rocket - a beautiful plant for the flower border you can grow from seed each year.
  3. For night-flying moths in autumn try:
    • Ivy
    • Michaelmas daisy
    • Sedum spectabile
  4. Remember moths also need plants for their caterpillars to feed on. Different species feed on different plants, so your garden will be home to many moth species if you grow a bounty of trees, shrubs, flowers and grass. The greener your garden, the better it will be for moths. Where you put your plants will depend on the conditions they flourish in, so check the planting recommendations they come with. Maintain your plants by watering them in dry weather. Where you can, use water collected in a water butt.
  5. Go moth spotting. At night, walk around your garden with a torch, looking to see if any visitors are drinking the nectar from your flowers.

    If you have an outside light, turn it on and see what moths are drawn there, especially to any white wall nearby.

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