Gardens are important places for moths, especially as intensive agriculture is limiting the number of suitable habitats in the countryside. There are likely to be over a hundred species in just an ordinary urban back garden! So the way you manage your garden can really help moth conservation.
There are many ways that you can make your garden more suitable for moths and encourage beautiful garden species. Firstly, remember that moths (and other wildlife) cannot live on bare surfaces like concrete, decking or gravel. So limiting the amount of hard landscaping and increasing the area given to plants will immediately make your garden more moth-friendly.
One of the easiest ways to make your garden better for moths is simply to stop working so hard! Moths and their caterpillars need fallen leaves, old stems and other plant debris to help them hide from predators, and especially to provide suitable places to spend the winter. It's very helpful to delay cutting back old plants until the spring, rather than doing it in the autumn, and just generally be less tidy. If you want your garden to look tidy in the summer, try leaving some old plant material behind the back of borders or in other places out of sight. Many moth caterpillars feed on the native plants we consider weeds, so tolerating some weeds and long grass in your garden can also be very beneficial to moths.
Pesticides and herbicides can be harmful to moths or the plants on which their caterpillars feed. Organic gardening is very beneficial for moths and all other wildlife, but if you can't go completely organic just cutting down on the use of chemicals as much as possible will be helpful. This can also benefit your garden by increasing the 'good' insects that help to control pests.
Having a wide variety of plants in the garden will also make it suitable for a wider range of moth species. Try to have a mixture of large and small flowering plants plus a few shrubs, and a small tree if you have room. Your choice of plant species can also make a big difference. Flowers with plenty of nectar will provide a good source of food for adult moths, while certain plants can provide the necessary food for caterpillars.
Moths in your garden
Your garden is home to many beautiful moths which have important roles in the garden ecosystem. Even a small garden can easily support over a hundred species of moths, and you may find many more if yours adjoins other suitable gardens or has trees nearby. Our downloadable leaflet shows a selection of the moths that could be in your garden.
To make your garden a good habitat for moths it is important to try and provide food for the caterpillars, as well as nectar-bearing flowers for the adult moths. Some moth caterpillars will eat the leaves of a fairly wide range of plants, but most are restricted to a few types of plant or even just one plant species. A garden with a greater variety of plants is likely to provide a home for more types of caterpillars. The native plants which are most likely to attract caterpillars are those which already occur in the locality, so it is worth noting what plants grow in nearby fields, hedgerows and verges, or on local urban brown-field sites
Nectar plants for moths
Most moths need to refuel with nectar to give them the energy they need for flying. Some flowers have more available nectar than others, so by choosing the best plants you can make your garden a better feeding station. You should aim to have plenty of nectar-bearing flowers out in as many months as possible, including early spring and late summer and autumn. Night-scented plants are particularly good for moths, and actually evolved their night-time perfume to attract moths to pollinate their flowers. Download our list of nectar plants for moths and take it to your local garden centre for inspiration.