How to be a Butterfly Detective

Butterflies are beautiful and almost magically appear in the first warmth of the spring sunshine. Spotting their colourful fluttering wings always makes me smile but where have they been all winter?

Butterflies are insects and unlike mammals and birds need to warm their bodies enough so they can move about and fly – this is why butterflies are more likely to be seen on sunny days. There are 59 different types of British butterflies. Some survive the cold winter as eggs, some as caterpillars or a chrysalis and others as adult butterflies either hibernating or flying to warmer countries.

Butterflies that you see now are usually the adults that spent the winter in your garden shed or hidden amongst ivy.

Try out these activity ideas to learn more and get arty.

I-spy: What butterflies visit your garden?

Have a go at recording the butterflies that visit your garden by their different colours. How many (what proportion) are white, yellow, blue, orange, red or brown? What colour flowers do they visit? Do they have a favourite flower? Different butterfly species will visit you in the spring and summer – so keep recording your sightings. You’ll then be ready to take part in the Big Butterfly Count – click here to find out more.


I look for butterflies on warm but cloudy days because they are less active and stay still longer!


Fluttering butterfly wings

Butterflies have two pairs of wings – two fore and two hind wings. Wings are covered in tiny scales to give them their colour. When resting, their wings fold together – the underside pattern is often camouflaged with a brighter display colour on the upper side.

Make your own beautiful butterfly to learn about different shapes, colours, patterns and symmetry:

  1. Check out Butterfly Conservation to help choose your favourite butterfly to copy and draw on paper – click here. I drew mine the size of my hands.
  2. Using tracing paper (or baking parchment) to draw over your butterfly shape using a felt tip pen. Then carefully add wing patterns and colour. Remember each side is identical – this is symmetry. You do not need to colour in the body.
  3. Now carefully cut out your tracing paper butterfly – the translucent paper allows the light to shine through to create delicate colourful fluttering wings.
  4. Slide the wings between two large lolly pop sticks, held together with small elastic bands, to make the body; or slide the body onto a short stick with a slot – bind top with twine and add stick antenna. Pipe cleaners work well too.

Now you’re ready to have a fluttering adventure around your garden!

I would love to see your creations.

Mrs Mitchell

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