Get a flutter for our butterflies

The UK’s 2019 Big Butterfly Count takes place across the country from 19 July to 11 August, when people are encouraged to find a nice spot in their garden, park or local woodland and take 15 minutes to record sightings.

Last year, more than 100,000 people took part, making it the biggest citizen science insect survey in the world. Between them, they spotted almost 1 million of the 19 target species.

The count is run by Butterfly Conservation and gives us a picture on the health - or otherwise - of the environment.

The nature charity also offers tips on how we can attract more butterflies to our gardens. With three-quarters of British butterflies in decline and some facing extinction, they need all the help we can give them.

Here are a few simple things we can do.

Introduce nectar-rich plants - preferably in a sunny, sheltered spot. Choose different plants to attract more types of butterfly but clump the same plants together. And have plants that flower at different times of the year, so butterflies have a rich source of nectar from spring to autumn.

Top butterfly plants include buddleia (blooms in July and August), English lavender (all summer), perennial wallflower, or Bowles’s Mauve (from April), wild marjoram/oregano (June to September), and verbena bonariensis (August to October). Other butterfly-friendly plants are red valerian, common knapweed and hemp agrimony.

Deadheading the plants will allow them to flower for longer, and regular watering will keep them healthy. Do these two things, and the butterflies will keep fluttering back.

Allow part of your grass to grow long and let a patch of weeds such as dandelions to flourish - butterflies and bees love them.

Butterflies enjoy basking in the sunshine, so give them somewhere they can ‘sunbathe’ such as a fence or a flat rock.

There are some important don’ts, too: Don’s use pesticides; don’t use peat-based compost because many butterfly species need peat bogs; and don’t keep your garden too neat and tidy during winter, as a small area with logs or leaves provides shelter for butterflies during their dormancy.

To log your sightings during the count period and for tips on how to make your garden butterfly-friendly, visit www.butterfly-conservation.org - it also has a butterfly identification page.