Butterflies and moths are insects that form the insect order known as the Lepidoptera. There is no consistent way of telling butterflies and moths apart. Butterflies are all day-flying and belong to eight families of the Lepidoptera, most moths fly at night however there are several, often colourful, species that fly by day. Many species of moths can also be found in gardens they too can be useful pollinators and are vital parts of the food chain, although a handful can be plant pests. They have larvae known as caterpillars that feed on the foliage and flowers of their host plants. When fully fed, they crawl away to sheltered places where they pupate and later emerge as adult butterflies or moths.
There are 59 butterfly species resident in Britain, plus up to 30 others that come here as occasional or regular migrants from elsewhere in Europe.
Some species require specialised habitats, such as chalk downland or coppiced woodland and so are unlikely to be seen in gardens. The species most likely to be seen in gardens are Red Admiral, Peacock, Brimstone, Painted Lady, Comma, Green-veined White, Small Tortoiseshell, Small Cabbage White and Large Cabbage White.
Only the last two are potential garden pests as they have caterpillars that feed on cabbages, other brassicas and nasturtiums.
Less frequent garden visitors are Orange-tip, Speckled Wood, Meadow Brown, Small Copper and Holly and Common Blues.