The Butterfly Year

WHEN to watch for butterflies

The butterfly season facts

My records from the last 5 years show the butterfly season running from March to November.

Butterflies are seen on sunny days; not on overcast ones generally.

The peak month is August when I can expect a number of butterflies in my garden every day provided that it's sunny.

Butterfly visits are not predictable outside of the 'British school summer holidays'.



The earliest date in the calendar that I've seen live butterflies is March 7.

I expect 2-3 sightings of butterflies in my garden during March. These have always been the butterfly species that have been in hibernation over the winter.


The first broods of species belonging to the Pieridae family emerge. This is the time of year to see the Orange Tip butterfly.

If lucky, I will see Speckled Wood and Holly Blue butterflies in my garden.


Your chances of watching butterflies are better in the English countryside than in a town garden during June; the Meadow Brown butterfly is reputed to be the commonest in the countryside.

In my garden, I will be watching for a Large Skipper butterfly.


I will be hoping to see a Small or Essex Skipper in my garden during July. I'll also be watching for the arrival of the first Gatekeeper butterfly.

Even in July, when quite a number of species are in flight, I have noted sunny days in the garden and zero butterflies. Sightings are still sporadic until the last week of the month usually.

This is the month for Marbled White and Ringlet butterflies from the Satyridae family: these species are best seen in the countryside but they may occasionally venture into the garden.


As the school summer holidays begin at the end of July, the butterflies arrive in quantity in my garden on sunny days.

The beginning of August is when I have recorded the greatest number of species. The Buddleias will attract members of the Nymphalidae family: Small Tortoiseshell, Peacock, Painted Lady, Red Admiral and Comma.

I expect to have a few sightings of Brimstone butterflies, usually visiting Buddleia, during August.

Gatekeepers are more interested in Field Scabious, Marjoram and Hyssop than Buddleia.


Towards the end of August or at the start of September, will be the day when the garden contains the greatest number of butterflies; most of them will be Small Tortoiseshells. The peak day in 2003 was Sunday 24 August when there were approximately 20 butterflies in both back and front gardens (a total of 40).

23 Small Tortoiseshell and 3 Small White butterflies were the maximum number on any one plant in 2003 - a blue Hyssop.

I expect to see a Speckled Wood in my garden sometime in September and to find Comma & Red Admiral feeding on the blackberries beside the path leading to town.


Sightings are rare in October or November and are mainly Red Admiral, Small Tortoiseshell and Comma.

My final recorded sighting was on November 15.


Theoretically it is possible to see any of the hibernating species during the winter: Red Admiral, Small Tortoiseshell, Comma, Peacock and Brimstone.

Over the winter of 2003 to 2004, I received several emails about hibernating butterflies found in homes and offices. A Painted Lady was reported in Hampshire.

This page last updated December 13, 2005