Butterflies to See in May
Two drawers of British butterflies are our ‘Objects of the Month’ for May. They contain some of the butterflies that you might spot visiting your garden or local park during May. These butterfly species are the Brimstone, Green-veined White, Holly Blue, Orange-tip, Peacock, Painted Lady, Red Admiral, Small White and Large White. The drawers are from a wooden cabinet of butterfly specimens collected in Essex and other places in Britain between 1890 and 1968. The collection was donated to Saffron Walden Museum in 2002.
Butterflies that may hibernate over winter as adults in the UK include the Brimstone, Red Admiral, Peacock, Comma and Small Tortoiseshell. This means they can wake up bright and early to make the most of sunny spring days. There are 59 species of butterfly in Britain, 57 that live in the UK and two regular migrants – the Painted Lady and Clouded Yellow.
Butterfly Conservation found that 76% of butterflies have declined in numbers and range (occurrence) over the last 40 years due to habitats being destroyed, pollution, weather patterns and climate change. Gardens and balconies are very important for butterflies because they are wildlife corridors. They cover a large area, which according to the RSPB is about 1,500 square miles or twice the size of Greater London. This habitat provides the flowering plants, such as Buddleia, that butterflies need for nectar, or nettles and thistles which are eaten by caterpillars.
SAFWM : 2002.110.2 Butterfly cabinet drawer 2 containing Small White, Green-veined White, Bath White, Orange-tip and Wood White butterflies.
What can you do to help?
Butterfly caterpillars need nettles, thistles and shrubs like Buckthorn to eat, so leave parts of your garden to get wild and overgrown.
Plant cornfield annuals and nectar rich flowering plants such as Buddleia, Lavender, Betony and Red Valerian to provide nectar for butterflies.
Take part in No Mow May or leave part of your lawn uncut until autumn.
Enjoy watching butterflies and do the National Garden Butterfly Survey.
SAFWM : 2002.110 Butterflies from cabinet drawers 3, 11 and 1. Brimstone male and female, Holly Blue males upper side and underside and female, Large White butterflies upper side and underside.