Start Surveying Your Garden This Spring

Spring Brimstone

As the season shifts we can start to enjoy flowers in the garden, more daylight hours and rising temperatures. These changes will coax the butterflies that have been hibernating as adults out of their hiding places. Peacocks, Small Tortoiseshell, Red Admiral and Comma butterflies are all common species that you might spot in your back garden this month.

As the conditions become more favourable for butterflies, the Small, Large and Green-veined Whites, as well as the stunning Orange-tip will emerge from the safety of their winter-proof pupae in search of springtime nectar. Look out for a flash of blue in the hedgerow and you could be rewarded with your
first Holly Blue sighting of the year. 

Holly Blue on Holly

After a bumper year in 2015, it should be a good spring for our most urban blue butterfly. Although the first Speckled Wood was reported in early January this year it’s much more likely that you will see now.

With springtime garden butterflies expected to emerge over the coming weeks, it is the perfect time to get involved with the Garden Butterfly Survey. 

Butterfly Conservation’s new Garden Butterfly Survey aims to find out how butterflies are faring in the UK’s 22 million gardens and what gardeners can do to help these beautiful insects. We need your help to answer these questions.

Butterfly populations in nature reserves and special habitats have been monitored for decades, and we know how they are doing in the countryside as a whole, but there is very little information about butterfly trends in private gardens. It isn’t known how important gardens are to local butterfly populations, either as breeding habitats or as sources of nectar, or what impacts specific garden features such as nectar plants or long grass have on butterfly trends. 

peacock in garden

If you have access to a garden, then you can help by noting the sightings of butterflies throughout the year as part of the Garden Butterfly Survey. It’s really simple to do and suitable for beginners and experienced butterfly watchers alike.  

Visit and create a free account, registering the location and some basic information about the garden. Then simply log your butterfly sightings online. Ideally, you’d watch for butterflies in the garden at least once in each month of the year, but you can do it as often as you like, even daily should you wish. How you do it is up to you – there is no procedure to follow and no time limit. You could just keep an eye out for butterflies when you are gardening or relaxing in the garden, or you could spend a few minutes specifically looking for butterflies.  

The only thing we ask is that you try not count the same individual butterfly more than once – note the highest number of each type that you can see at any one time (same as you would do for birds in the Big Garden Birdwatch). For example, if while you are gardening you see a Red Admiral and then, 20 minutes later you see a Red Admiral again, then you would log this on the website as 1 Red Admiral (the maximum number you saw at any one time). If, on the other hand, you can see three Red Admirals on your Buddleia bush and another one basking on a wall on the other side of the garden, then you would record 4 Red Admirals on the website. 

That’s all there is to it. The new Garden Butterfly Survey website not only enables you to log and manage all your garden butterfly sightings, but also provides real-time summaries of your data and the overall results from all other participants. At the end of each year, your sightings will be used to understand more about butterflies in gardens across the UK, but also automatically forwarded on to your local Butterfly Conservation Branch and County Recorder so that your efforts will also contribute to better knowledge and conservation of butterflies locally. 

Visit the Garden Butterfly Survey website to get started. 

Richard Fox

Surveys Manager

Follow me on Twitter: @RichardFoxBC