Create a Butterfly Haven in your Hedge

Brown Hairstreak Butterfly

A true sign that better weather is just around the corner is the flutterpast of a butterfly’s path.  Fuelling larvae and fully matured butterflies, your hedgerow is a haven for our beautiful winged friends.  Find out how your hedge can help our butterfly and moth population – in some cases, those at most risk of disappearing from our gardens altogether.

Hedging for butterflies

There are 39 species of butterfly that have been recorded in UK hedgerows – that’s over 64% of the total.    From these, 20 species choose hedgerows as their breeding grounds, so it’s a double whammy in the life of a butterfly.  Understandably then, we want to make sure that their hedgerow hotels are replenished, replanted and restocked each year.

Here’s our lepidoptery list (that’s the study of butterflies) to help you choose which plants to use for your butterfly hedge this year:

Which hedging plants do butterflies love?

If you’re looking to boost your butterfly brigade, you’ll need hedging with flowers to feed the mature insects with nectar and great foliage for their larvae – and different caterpillars like different plants.

Holly Blue Butterfly

The Holly Blue lays her eggs on the holly leaves

Let’s look at the floral and foliage choices they can choose from if you plump for plants from Trees and Hedging:

  • Bird cherry (Prunus padus): It’s not just butterflies that favour the bird cherry – there are over 30 species of insect that thrive on its leaves and flowers.
  • Blackthorn (Prunus spinosa): The Brown Hairstreak favours the Blackthorn and is declining in numbers at an alarming rate (read on re. BAP below).  The pollen is a good food source for the larvae of a variety of moths and butterflies, including the Emperor Moth.
  • Alder Buckthorn (Rhamnus frangula): The favoured haunt of the Brimstone Butterfly, the buckthorn’s glossy dark leaves are a great source of sustenance and safety for their larvae to develop.
  • Osier Willows (Salix viminalis or purpurea):  The catkins provide early pollen and nectar for a number of butterflies and moths, including the Lackey Moth and the Herald Moth.
  • Field Rose (Rosa arvensis): Unsurprisingly, the flowers are an instant attraction to our winged friends, with its white flowers and yellow centres of great attraction.
  • Hazel (Corylus avellana):  Another firm favourite with their catkins providing early pollen and latterly their leaves and twigs providing useful sustenance to larvae of many varieties.
  • Holly (Ilex aquifolium):  Insects pollinate the flowers, and a number of butterflies, including the Holly Blue, who chooses to lay their eggs on the leaves.
  • Hybrid Poplar (Populus robusta): Bright red catkins appear in March and a superb beacon to attract the butterfly population.
  • Rowan (Sorbus aucuparia):  A true all-rounder, from berry to flower to branch, the Rowan enjoys visits from butterflies, moths and bees from the spring onwards.  The Case Bearer and Chinese Character moths are regular patrons.
  • Snowberry (Symphoricarpos albus): Blessed with tiny bell-shaped flowers that butterflies love in the Summer, their white berries are very distinctive.
  • Wayfaring Tree (Viburnum lantana): Great for bees, butterflies and hoverflies, the small tubulur flowers are the perfect resting place for easy nectar-gathering.
  • Wild Cherry (Prunus avium): Butterflies choose the cherry as a breeding base, with fuel on tap for their larvae and flowers for nectar appearing mid-April.
  • White Poplar (Populus alba): A multi-faceted hedge plant or tree, the poplar creates a fine shelterbelt and natural habitat for visiting insects, creating a healthy butterfly home.

Maintaining a thriving butterfly population


The Brimstone Butterfly loves an Alder Buckthorn base

A number of butterfly varieties are included on the BAP – the UK Biodiversity Action Plan.  These lists include 300 wildlife species, 11 of which were butterflies and 53 were moths.  Most of the butterflies and moths listed within this plan as requiring urgent action fell into a category no one wants to see them in: “>50% decline in numbers”.  Three-quarters of UK butterfly and moth species are in decline.  In fact in the last 150 years, 4 varieties of butterfly and over 50 of moth have disappeared entirely.

Not only are they a beautiful sight heralding the warmer months, but they are also a vital part of the food chain – blue tits alone eat 50 billion moth caterpillars per annum.

So, consider butterflies and moths and their part in the Circle of Life when you consider your hedgerow planting.   Encourage Purple Emperors and Pear-Bordered Fritillarys to bask on your hedging foliage, seek their nectar and solace for breeding.  Guide Peacock Butterflies as they use hedges for territory marking and think of the Barberry Carpet Moth and Brown Hairstreak – both on the BAP list – who survive only on hedgerows.

Find out more about Butterfly Conservation, how you can help and also identify the butterflies you find in your garden or the countryside here.logo-butterfly-conservation

Ready to choose your best butterfly buddies this season?  Great! Here’s 10% off from your online purchases on Trees and Hedging>>

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