As the weather gets colder and days get shorter, you may be wondering what happens to all the butterflies?
Do they migrate somewhere warm? Do they just disappear until springtime? Do they all die off?
Contrary to popular belief, most butterflies don’t migrate during the winter. In fact, many of them actually take a form of hibernation. The majority of butterflies and moths survive the winter as larvae, with pupae coming second, eggs third, and adults last.
Do butterflies survive the winter?
If you get a warmer day during the winter with some sunshine then you may see the odd butterfly flying around which shows that some can survive the winter weather.
These adult butterflies will spend most of their time sheltering in places such as logs, hollows in trees, beneath the loose bark on trees or even in your shed or compost bin.
They will only come outside when the weather is warm enough.
Not all species of butterflies take these steps to survive the cold weather and, if you see a butterfly fluttering around during the winter then it is likely that it is a Tortoiseshell or an Anglewing butterfly as these are the two that are most likely to overwinter as adults.
What do the other butterfly species do in winter?
The butterflies that do not overwinter as adults will spend the winter as caterpillars or pupae and will begin to pupate in late summer or early autumn.
The caterpillars will find a sheltered spot to pupate and will attach themselves to a surface using silk.
They will then go into a state of suspended animation called diapause where they will not develop until the following spring when they will emerge as adults.
What do you need to do to help the butterflies?
If you want to help the overwintering butterflies then you can provide them with some shelter in your garden.
You could create a butterfly hibernation house out of a log, or you could simply hang a butterfly net over a sheltered spot in your garden.
The best place for the butterfly hibernation house is in a sunny spot where the temperature does not drop below freezing.
You can also help the caterpillars and pupae by providing them with a sheltered spot in your garden where they will not be disturbed.
What can you do to help the butterflies in spring?
In the spring, the butterflies will start to emerge from their pupae and you will see them flying around your garden.
You can help these butterflies by providing them with some flowers to feed on.
Many types of butterflies feed on nectar so planting lots of different flowers in your garden will provide them with a food source.
You can also buy some butterfly feeders and put them in your garden to attract the butterflies.
Some good flowers to plant to attract butterflies are:
What to do if you see a butterfly in winter
If you see a butterfly in winter, it is likely that it is a Tortoiseshell or an Anglewing butterfly.
You can help these butterflies by providing them with some shelter and food.
If you want to provide them with food, you can buy some butterfly feeders and put them in your garden.
Butterflies are beautiful creatures and it is amazing to see them flying around in the garden during the spring and summer.
They need places to overwinter whether this is as adults, caterpillars or pupae so it is important to provide them with some shelter in your garden.
You can also help the butterflies by planting flowers that they can feed on in the spring as this is when they will be emerging from their pupae and need this food to survive.