Butterflies and Nettles

Butterflies and moths are attracted to a variety of wildflowers, especially those growing in warm, sunny sheltered places. A flower-rich hay meadow or roadside verge may be home to up to 20 species of butterfly and dozens of moths.

While a ready supply of nectar-rich wildflowers is important, equally so is the availability of suitable caterpillar food plants. Without these, the next generation of insects could not happen.  Some of our common garden butterflies are reliant on stinging nettles for their caterpillars to feed on.



While nettles may not always be tolerated in the garden, their appearance along roadside verges, field corners or other flowery places is imperative for the survival of some of our most striking garden visitors. Without nettles the peacock, red admiral, and comma butterflies would only be occasional visitors in our gardens.

Take a look at a patch of nettles in the summertime to see the different types of caterpillar; some living communally, some singly, others in silken tents or folded over leaves. Nettles growing in an open sunny position are more likely to have butterfly caterpillars on them than those growing in shady corners.


It’s not only butterflies that need nettles, several moths rely on them for their larvae too. The small magpie, burnished brass, mother-of-pearl and the curious looking spectacle moths are just some of the ‘night flying shift’ that will live where these much maligned plants grow. So if you want these and many more species of day and night-time flying pollinators in your garden…..spare those nettles!