Butterfly larvae protection

Question ...

I have a lovely patch of nettles next to a buddleja provided for butterflies so that they can have an easy first flight. When is the best time to cut the nettle tops (for liquid manure) to ensure that no butterflies or caterpillars are upset?

Answer ...

The best time to cut nettles for a liquid plant fertiliser is early spring, as this is when the nitrogen content is at its highest. To ensure that the butterfly larvae are not disturbed it is best to cut in March and again (if you want to) in October.

Frequent visitors to nettle patches are the Red Admiral, Small Tortoiseshell, Peacock and Comma butterflies. The eggs and larvae of these butterfly species are present on nettles between April and June, with adults emerging between May and October. Adults either hibernate in sheds, attics or shrubs and hedgerows through the winter.

Garden Organic members can see our factsheet about Nettles for more information. This factsheet includes information on nettle liquid plant food, applying nettles to your compost heap and attracting beneficial insects.

Garden Organic members can see our expert factsheets for further advice on organic gardening. Access to factsheets requires a members' password.
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