25 species of butterfly have been recorded here at Waltham, with 22 of those species regularly sighted year after year. In 2020 we began a weekly butterfly transect in the gardens, run by two volunteers, Martin and Lesley. So successful was this transect, we have now added two further transect routes to survey the butterfly populations in the fields to the east and west of the farm.
Spring at Waltham is characterized by brimstone, peacock and small tortoiseshell butterflies, all of whom overwinter as adults. A good supply of early flowering plants is essential if these early flying species are to survive. Orange-tip butterflies also abound, having overwintered as a chrysalis. As the season progresses the emergence of other species continues with the Long Borders proving the best place to view butterflies in 2020. Meadow brown, gatekeeper, small white, peacock and large white are the most common species, interspersed with others such as skippers, commas and red admirals. The plentiful marjoram and the good mix of umbellifers is certainly a draw for them. On occasion the rarely seen silver-washed fritillary will leave the woodland edge to visit the Long Borders for a few minutes before returning to the shade of the nearby trees. Other butterfly hot spots include the Square Garden, New Garden and Potager. The New Garden is particularly good for those who enjoy the subtle colouration of the woodland edge species. Speckled wood and ringlet butterflies can often be found here, resting on the broad grasses. The superbly patterned marbled white butterfly can also be found here, exercising its preference for purple hued flowers as it feeds first on betony and then, towards the end of the season, on devil’s bit scabious. The Bulb Meadow and New Garden offer a good place to sit and observe the butterflies. Day flying moths, such as the cryptic Mother Shipton and the dramatic red and black six-spot burnet moth, can prove a little confusing to the butterfly beginner as they fly in the meadows alongside the butterflies. The gardeners maintain one eye on the butterflies pollinating our plants whilst also taking note of the larval food plants they require, ensuring that the butterflies are able to complete their full lifecycle here at Waltham Place.