Making your garden moth-friendly

A Scarlet Tiger Moth

Our own back gardens are great for moth spotting. Even a small garden can easily support more than a hundred different species – more if your garden is surrounded by equally moth-friendly gardens or has native trees nearby. Oak and willow are especially good. You could see species like the Ruby Tiger, Peach Blossom or the Buff-tip which, when it’s resting, looks almost exactly like a fat twig.

Moths are great plant pollinators and are food for other garden wildlife like hedgehogs, toads, bats and birds. So making your garden good for moths will encourage lots more wildlife too.

Burnet moth on a thistle
burnet moth on a thistle
Burnet moth on a thistle

Keeping paving and gravel to a minimum and giving more of your garden over to plants is a great start. Stopping being so tidy will help too, as moths need fallen leaves to help them hide from predators and old stems to lay eggs in and spend the winter. If you can’t bear the mess, you could hide it at the back of a border so that it stays neat at the front.

Organic gardening, or at least cutting down on the chemicals is good for wildlife as even herbicides can enter the food chain if caterpillars are eating treated plants.

Plants like scabious, pansy and aubretia as well as buddleia and lavender are a good source of energy for adult moths
Late summer chalk grassland
Plants like scabious, pansy and aubretia as well as buddleia and lavender are a good source of energy for adult moths

Having a wide variety of plants is good for moths, with a mix of large and small flowering plants and shrubs. Planting nectar-bearing flowers such as buddleia, lavender, scabious, pansy and aubretia are a good source of energy for adult moths. Varieties that flower at different times throughout the year helps prevent a glut of nectar followed by lean times. The more old-fashioned varieties tend to have more nectar than modern hybrids or ones with double flowers.

A Burnet moth and pupa
A Burnet moth and pupa
A Burnet moth and pupa

Caterpillars are generally unloved by gardeners, but if you want to see moths, you’ll have to reconcile yourself to caterpillars. Fortunately many of them prefer native trees, fruit trees and native grasses and weeds such as dandelions and nettles to flowers. It’s the perfect excuse to let your garden grow a bit wild in places.

A cinnabar moth caterpillar on a ragwort plant
A cinnabar moth caterpillar on a ragwort plant
A cinnabar moth caterpillar on a ragwort plant

Now you know your garden is moth-friendly, find out how to start moth-spotting.Why not give it a go? You’ve got ‘mothing’ to lose.