speckled wood butterfly


Exciting news for gardeners looking to minimise effort: letting the grass grow long could significantly boost butterfly populations in your garden, nearly doubling their numbers, as per a recent scientific investigation.

In recent times, advocates of naturalistic gardening have championed the virtues of relaxed lawn maintenance, a sentiment echoed by the rising popularity of initiatives like the #NoMowMay campaign.

Now, an analysis spanning six years of butterfly observations in 600 British gardens has furnished compelling scientific evidence affirming that untamed lawns indeed foster higher butterfly counts.

This phenomenon was particularly pronounced in gardens situated amidst intensively farmed landscapes, where butterfly abundance soared by up to 93%, accompanied by a wider diversity of species. Even in urban settings, gardens with long grass experienced an 18% uptick in butterfly numbers.

“We wanted to be able to give tried and tested gardening advice that will benefit butterflies, as we know lots of people want to help,” said Dr Richard Fox, the head of science at Butterfly Conservation and a co-author of the study, published in the journal Science of the Total Environment. “This study proves, for the first time, that allowing a patch of grass to grow long will attract more butterflies into your garden.”

The study also spotlighted another boon for butterfly enthusiasts: flowering ivy, thriving on urban walls, attracted species like the holly blue, red admiral, and comma, providing essential sustenance for caterpillars and nectar sources for adults, particularly in autumn.

Long grass in gardens enticed a variety of butterfly species whose caterpillars feed on grasses, including meadow browns, gatekeepers, speckled woods, ringlets, and small skippers. This suggests that the surge in butterfly populations isn’t solely due to increased nectar availability from wildflowers like dandelions or knapweed but also because butterflies are drawn to, or even breeding within, rewilded lawns.

“It’s a really positive sign,” said Fox. “What people are doing with long grass in gardens is creating potential or actual breeding habitat. In order to make an impact on the biodiversity crisis we need to be creating places where butterflies and other wildlife can breed. This is simple, doesn’t cost anything and saves you time and effort.

“If you have a patch of long grass you may have grasshoppers, beetles and ant hills as well – there will be all these spinoffs.”

Britain’s privately owned outdoor spaces span a whopping 7,280 sq km, a landmass surpassing the combined area of Derbyshire, Leicestershire, and Nottinghamshire. Approximately 62% of this comprises vegetated gardens, presenting potentially crucial wildlife habitats.

Butterfly Conservation underscores that the benefits of long grass extend beyond private gardens, likely benefiting butterflies and other invertebrates in various public grassy areas such as parks, school grounds, allotments, and road verges. Through initiatives like its Wild Spaces program, the organisation aims to revamp 100,000 areas across the UK to bolster butterfly populations.

To optimise habitat for butterfly caterpillars, it’s crucial to leave long grass undisturbed until late September or October, with some species like small skippers requiring year-round habitat in long grass.

“If you take part in #NoMowMay our message is, don’t just mow your grass in June,” said Fox.



At Natural World Fund, we are passionate about stopping the decline in our wildlife.

The decline in our wildlife is shocking and frightening. Without much more support, many of the animals we know and love will continue in their decline towards extinction.

When you help to restore a patch of degraded land through rewilding to forests, meadows, or wetlands, you have a massive impact on the biodiversity at a local level. You give animals a home and food that they otherwise would not have had, and it has a positive snowball effect on the food chain.

We are convinced that this is much better for the UK than growing lots of fast-growing coniferous trees, solely to remove carbon, that don’t actually help our animals to thrive.

This is why we stand for restoring nature in the UK through responsible rewilding. For us, it is the right thing to do. Let’s do what’s right for nature!

Donate today at https://naturalworldfund.com/ and join in the solution!


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