Butterfly Activity in a Residential Garden

by Christopher Young

School of Applied Sciences, University of Wolverhampton, Wulfruna Street, Wolverhampton, WV1 1SB, United Kingdom


Butterflies are a highly visible, well-loved, and well-studied part of Britain's native fauna, yet there is still very little known about how butterflies use one of the country's most commonly available habitats, the residential garden. Studies in a Wolverhampton (UK) garden demonstrate that the majority of individuals use these spaces as movement routes through the urban matrix. Of 516 observed individual visits by butterflies over three recording seasons (2000–2002), only 13.8% involved a stop for some purpose. The duration of these visits was characteristically short, with a mean visit time of nine seconds. Individuals tended to fly through the study garden using distinct entry and exit points largely dictated by variations in structure within the study garden and in the immediately surrounding gardens. Individual garden use by butterflies would therefore seem to be defined as much by structural imperatives as by availability of nectar- or food-plant species. When considered as systems of interconnected green spaces on the level of the housing block (defined as a continuous area of residential land use bounded by infrastructure or contrasting land uses) and of the urban area as a whole, residential gardens represent an extraordinarily valuable and dynamic component of the urban habitat.

Keywords: residential garden, housing block, butterfly, flight paths, vegetation structure, corridor, urban green space