A Fluttering of Butterflies

A butterfly perched on a magnolia at Stoneywell, Leicestershire

As the days begin to lengthen and the weather gets significantly warmer the gardens and woodland at Stoneywell come alive with the delicate fluttering wings of a number of beautiful butterflies.

A walk in the gardens at Stoneywell in spring and summer is a rewarding experience and with a riot of colour and fragrance it's certainly an assault on the senses. It's not just us that appreciates the blooms though, as an array of nectar-feeding insects ascend on the blooms abundant  sugar supply. 

During April, May and June, our bluebells, magnolia, wisteria, and not to mention many of the 150 named varieties of rhododendron, all come in to flower attracting numerous butterflies, day-flying moths and bees.

The first to be seen is usually the brightly coloured beast of the butterfly world - the Brimstone. It's easy to spot with large wings that are sulphuric, almost fluorescent yellow . One of the first to emerge on warm spring days as it spends the winter hibernating as an adult in the thick foliage of ivy. It isn't just a harbinger of spring though as it can be seen most of the year round which is a real delight.

Brimstone butterfly in the garden at Stoneywell
STWS Brimstone garden butterfly
Brimstone butterfly in the garden at Stoneywell

The other common butterfly in the garden on warm spring days is the Orange-tip, another unmistakable butterfly and looks just like its name would suggest, with pale cream wings tipped bright orange. Whilst these are easy to identify when dancing through the air, they can trick you when perched on a flower with their wings closed as the underside is white, with fine vein-like green markings that look like lace - and not a tip of orange in sight.

Orange tip butterfly in the garden at Stoneywell
STWS orange tip garden butterfly stoneywell
Orange tip butterfly in the garden at Stoneywell

The bold and brightly coloured blooms of the rhododendrons attract some of our more brightly coloured butterfly species, the Peacock with its large eye-spots on its wings to deter predators, the Red Admiral, the Tortoiseshell and the Comma, with it's comma shaped marking on its underwings which have unmistakably jagged edges.

Tortoiseshell butterfly in Stoneywell garden
STWS butterfly garden stoneywell
Tortoiseshell butterfly in Stoneywell garden

As spring turns to summer the highlight of our butterfly visitors is the purple haistreak which is a very delicate butterfly indeed. Not much bigger than a twenty-pence piece with bright purple wings it is butterfly with an unusual habit which makes it hard to spot. Surprisingly it feeds on honeydew, the sweet secretion from aphids, and as a consequence it spends much of the day high up in the canopy of oak trees, where high concentrations of aphids are found. They do sometimes fly to the ground when they need to quench their thirst. So when looking for some butterflies it really is a case of looking up. 

The garden team work hard to ensure the grounds at Stoneywell are enhanced for their suitability for butterflies, not just for their aesthetic appeal, although if they look good then more often than not they are super for our nectar feeding flyers.

A small skipper butterfly pays a visit to the garden
Small skipper butterfly in the garden
A small skipper butterfly pays a visit to the garden

Every visit you make to Stoneywell helps us look after their habitat so make sure you keep your eyes peeled for these wonderful insects next time you visit.