Counting the days until it’s time to spot butterflies

Next month sees a new initiative to help butterflies, as well as the return of the Big Butterfly Count – the biggest ever nationwide count of butterflies and day-flying moths, carried out by members of the public to assess the health of our environment.

On April 4, the charity, Butterfly Conservation, in partnership with Marks & Spencer, is launching the national Planting for Butterflies campaign to encourage people to plant butterfly-friendly plants in their gardens on the run-up to the Big Butterfly Count.

The top five nectar plants Butterfly Conservation recommend are buddleia, Verbena bonariensis, the perennial wallflower (‘Bowles Mauve’), lavender and marjoram (oregano).

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You can do your bit for butterflies by planting these plants – and many more butterfly-friendly ones – in April and enjoy taking part in the count from the July 16-31. You may be surprised about what visits your garden.

There was a fantastic response to the first ever Big Butterfly Count last year, with 187,000 individual sightings that winged their way across the internet from all over the country. More than 10,000 people carried out more than 15,000 counts during the event.

The count was designed to give scientists an overall indication of the state of the nation’s butterfly population, particularly in gardens and urban areas.

As well as being beautiful visitors to our gardens, butterflies are valuable indicators of the environment but many species are declining rapidly.

The Big Butterfly Count is helping to build a picture of the changes taking place in our towns, cities and countryside.

Celebrities including Sir David Attenborough, Alan Titchmarsh and Mike Dilger have given their enthusiastic backing to the event.

For more information about butterfly friendly gardening, visit www.butterfly-conservation.org