There are approximately 60 varieties of butterfly that can be found in the UK. The majority are born and raised here, while a few migrate to the UK in the summer to lay, including the painted lady butterfly from southern Europe / North Africa and the monarch butterfly travelling from North America.
The British butterfly population is in decline, and with the exception of the large and small white, they do little harm in the garden; in fact most of them are good pollinators.
The ideal conditions for butterflies are a warm, dry spring / early summer. The weather is out of our control, but growing plants rich in nectar to feed adult butterflies will encourage them to lay their eggs.
Plants to encourage butterflies:
One of the best food plants is stinging nettle. Other plants include: alyssum, aubretia, bramble, buddleia, candytuft, catmint, choisya, clover, columbine, cornflower, echinops, fleabane, foxglove, honeysuckle, honesty, sedum/ice plant, knapweeds, lady's smock, larkspur, lavender (in particular 'Munstead' and 'Hidcote'), lilac, marigold, marjoram, Michaelmas daisies, nicotiana, petunia, privet, red hot poker, scabious, Scotch thistle, sweet william, teasel, thyme, hebe, wild primrose and yarrow.
If you've got a problem with large or small white butterflies eating your brassicas, encourage blue tits to your garden with a nesting box. They'll clear all the caterpillars from your cabbages. Else look at the underside of the leaves and rub off the eggs, or later in the year pick off the caterpillars. Alternatively, cover with fruit netting to prevent the adult female butterflies from laying.
Top ten most frequently seen butterflies in the UK:
Large white (most common)
Two of the rarest are the large blue and black hairstreak.
Interesting facts about butterflies:
Butterflies can smell and taste through their feet.
The peacock and small tortoiseshell butterflies hibernate as adults over winter. On a warm day in spring you'll see them fluttering around, gathering nectar from spring flowers.
Butterflies are a favorite food of wasps.