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Garden Survey Findings

Butterfly Conservation Ireland members and members of the public participated in a garden survey from March to November inclusive. The survey form, available as a download from our website www.butterflyconservation.ie asks the participant to record the first date each butterfly listed on the form was first recorded in their garden in each of the following three month periods: March-May, June-August and September-November. In a final column the highest number of each butterfly seen and the peak date is given. Finally surveyors are asked to indicate which of the following attractants are provided in their gardens: Buddleia, butterfly nectar plants other than Buddleia and larval foodplants. Twenty butterflies are listed for recording and a total of 16 were recorded in respondents’ gardens during 2010.Those recorded were: Réal’s Wood White, Brimstone, Large, Small and Green-veined Whites, Orange-tip, Small Copper, Common Blue, Holly Blue, Red Admiral, Painted Lady, Small Tortoiseshell, Peacock, Speckled Wood, Meadow Brown and Ringlet. Of these the Small and Large White, Holly Blue, Red Admiral, Small Tortoiseshell, Peacock and Speckled Wood and Meadow Brown were recorded in 75% of gardens but there was no ubiquitous species. Regarding the number of individual butterflies the least numerous was the Brimstone and Réal’s Wood White and most numerous was the Small Tortoiseshell with a peak figure of 40 or over. Of the white butterflies the Small White was the most numerous with the Large White close behind. Of the Lycaenids [Blues and Small Copper] the Small Copper proved the most numerous with a peak of 3. Two broods of Holly Blue were noted in two midlands gardens in Meath with 3 broods recorded in a coastal garden in County Dublin. The highest recorded number of a brown butterfly was 16 Meadow Browns on 05/07.

For those interested in phenology the first record of the year of a garden butterfly was of a Small White on 13/04 while the final record was of a Common Blue on 03/10.

The garden that saw the largest number of species is Patrick Sheridan’s garden located near Enfield. Patrick planted Alder Buckthorn plants in order to attract the Brimstone and was rewarded by a visit from this lovely insect. Intriguingly, Enfield is at, near or even slightly beyond the eastern extremity of the Brimstone’s current known range in Ireland so the record is of particular interest. Perhaps the species will start to breed in the area now that the foodplant is provided.

The most significant finding from the survey is that the species tally is vastly increased in gardens that offered nectar and larval foodplants compared with gardens that provided nectar only. The provision of Stinging Nettles, brassicas, Bird’s-foot-trefoil, Lady’s Smock and wild grasses in sunny, sheltered conditions is a great draw to butterflies and moths. Pushing the boat out a little more by offering Alder or Purging Buckthorn, Common Holly and native ivy will enrich the species count and numbers further.

We hope to expand the garden recording scheme further in 2011.Our website www.butterflyconservation.ie contains information about butterfly gardening; click on the “Life-cycle” tab and select “Garden” for details. If you have any doubts about the identity of any garden butterfly check our website by clicking on the “Butterflies” tab. Thank you for taking part in the scheme and please continue to be involved. Recording begins again in March and here’s hoping for a good season ahead after the onslaught of winter.