How you can help butterflies and moths

Six spot burnet moth

By taking a few simple steps you can turn your garden into a haven for wildlife and important pollinators like moths and butterflies.

Butterflies and moths that call Northern Ireland home….

Northern Ireland is home to 33 species of butterfly and around 1000 species of moth. Along with bees and hoverflies they are important pollinators of our crops and native plants. Butterflies and moths which are found in our gardens and wider countryside are known as Generalists or Wider countryside species. Species that can be attracted to our gardens include the Peacock, Orange tip, Ringlet, Speckled wood, Small tortoiseshell and Green-veined white.

Some butterflies and moths are known as Specialists as they are restricted to a region or even just a few sites. An example of this is the Marsh fritillary butterfly which relies on one specific flower, Devil’s-bit scabious, which is found in flower rich meadows. Murlough Nature Reserve is one of the best sites in Northern Ireland for butterflies and moths and is home to the Marsh fritillary butterfly. Some moth species provide a very specialist pollination service, for example night flying moths are the only insect to pollinate some of our native orchids, called butterfly orchids.

A male marsh fritillary butterfly on a purple orchid
A male marsh fritillary butterfly on a purple orchid
A male marsh fritillary butterfly on a purple orchid

Declines in insect numbers….

Unfortunately our butterflies and moths, along with other pollinators are not faring well in today’s environment and they are experiencing serious, long-term declines. The main reason for decline is the loss of habitat and therefore their food source. Butterflies and moths require larval (caterpillar) food plants and flowering plants which adult butterflies and moths visit to feed on nectar.

Orange tip butterfly, one of the first butterflies of spring
Orange tip butterfly
Orange tip butterfly, one of the first butterflies of spring

What can we do to help butterflies and moths

The good news is that we know how to change the fortunes for our pollinators. Our pollinators need a landscape rich in flowers to provide a reliable food source.

Allowing native plants to grow, flower and set seed provides a vital food source for our pollinators and other wildlife higher up the food chain. By taking a few simple steps you can turn your garden into a haven for wildlife.

  • Try planting pollinator-friendly flowers, trees and shrubs in your garden, flowerbeds, planters or window boxes.
  • Make simple bug hotels to attract insects into your garden
  •  Leave part of your lawn uncut and see what wildflowers appear – you may be pleasantly surprised! See www.pollinators.ie for advice on all types of land.

The National Trust has signed up to the All-Ireland Pollinator Plan and is dedicated to making outdoor spaces pollinator friendly. At its core, the Plan is about providing food and shelter across all types of land, from gardens, farmland, public and private land, so that our pollinators can survive and thrive.

Neds meadow Minnowburn is a wildflower field

Go wild for nature this summer  

Come and meet us at The Balmoral Show from 15-18 May and pick up your packet of wildflower seeds...