3. Creativity in Nature -Butterflies and Moths

This is a collaboration between Friends of the Storey Gardens (FOSG) and The Bay – A Blueprint for Recovery (The Bay).

Butterflies and moths are a beautiful example of the hidden creativity of nature with a fascinating life cycle. The adult female lays eggs that hatch into caterpillars.  These feed voraciously before forming a chrysalis (pupa) in which it breaks down and reforms.  Eventually the chrysalis splits and the adult butterfly or moth emerges fully formed, rests and dries its wings, and flies off to start the cycle all over again. Transformation can take from one week up to one year depending on the species of butterfly or moth.

Some species of butterfly (e.g. Meadow Brown and Gatekeeper) are single brooded so only go through the cycle once each year. This means that all individuals emerge, mate, lay eggs and die within a set period. Others such as the Holly Blue have multiple generations. Different species of butterfly vary in the life stage that individuals spend the winter. Species seen earliest in the year (e.g. Small Tortoiseshell and Brimstone) are usually those which hibernate over winter as adults.

The adults lay their tiny eggs on the plants that the hatching caterpillars like to eat.  Examples of these food plants for butterfly caterpillars are ivy for the Holly Blue, nettle for the Red Admiral, Comma, Peacock and Small Tortoiseshell and grasses for the Meadow Brown, Gatekeeper and Speckled Wood.  The Cinnabar moth caterpillar feeds on ragwort and the Elephant Hawk moth caterpillar likes rosebay willow herb and fuchsia. All these food plants can be found in the borders, wild flower meadows or hidden wild areas in The Storey Gardens.

The wide range of plants growing in The Storey Gardens support butterflies and moths through all the stages of their lifecycle. Adults feed on the nectar from flowers. The fruit tree blossom (March/April), clover, buddleia and lavender are all good sources of nectar for butterflies. Some species of butterfly feed on fallen fruit, particularly apples and berries.

Below are photos of some of the butterflies that can be found in the Storey Gardens between spring and autumn. Some of these photos were kindly provided by The Bay.

Cinnabar moth caterpillars can be found on the ragwort in the wildflower meadow during July and August.  The brightly coloured Cinnabar moth was photographed in the gardens. An Elephant Hawk moth caterpillar was found in the gardens in 2022.  During the night of 26/06/2023 The Bay set up a Robinson Moth Trap, which they borrowed from the Lancashire Branch of Butterfly Conservation.  One of the moths captured and set free the next day was an Elephant Hawk moth.