Munching Caterpillar News

What Happens to Butterflies Over Winter?!

November 17, 2014

Winter can be a tough time for butterflies – cold temperatures, rain, and wind make it hard for them to fly, and the frosts and snow make sure that there are very few flowers left for them to find their favourite food, nectar.

So what do they do in winter?!

Well, the majority of butterfly species in the UK actually spend winter as a different life stage. Some will be an egg tucked away under branches or on stems of their food plant. Some will be caterpillars tucked up in leaves and some will be pupae an inch or so under the ground where it may be slightly warmer.

There are, however, some butterflies that hibernate as an adult. Butterflies such as the Red Admiral, Small Tortoiseshell, Peacock, Comma, and Brimstone all find a nice dark sheltered spot to sleep in throughout the colder months. This could be a hollow in a tree, a log pile, a garage, or maybe even your house.

A Hibernating Peacock Butterfly

A Hibernating Peacock Butterfly


It may sound cosy, but there are still some dangers!¬†Other animals need to eat during the winter too, and hibernating butterflies would make a tasty snack for spiders, mice, and birds. Butterflies try to avoid this by hanging upside down and keeping their wings firmly shut exposing only their darker, more camouflaged under wing. The Peacock butterfly has another trick up it’s sleeve too, it can rub it’s wings together and make a hissing noise to try and scare the predators away!

Butterflies that decide to take up roost in your house are most at risk though. The heating in our houses over winter can confuse and wake a sleepy butterfly when there are still no nectar sources (flowers) for them to feed on. The best thing to do if you do find a butterfly in your house is to put it outside in a dark sheltered place such as a shed or log pile where it will hopefully continue to hibernate and emerge again on a sunny day in Spring.

We would love to hear from you if you see any butterflies over the winter or if you have rescued any from your home! Just follow the ‘Contact Us’ link.