So I said goodbye last weekend to the Jersey Tiger moth but today he's back, where the sweet peas were (I've taken them down now) but with a damaged end to his right top wing as you can see in the photo. I sort of assume it's the same moth - I don't know if they all look exactly the same or have subtley different markings.

I wonder what has happened to him? I had supposed they had few predators because they feed during the day and are badly camouflaged but clearly his wing has been torn by something. A fight? A rose bush? Who knows.

Apparently butterfly and moth wings don't mend naturally. I've just watched an amazing video on how to mend a butterfly wing. You can see it here. It is really worth watching as the guy mends wings on live monarch butterflies.

It suggests that if the damage is minor, you clip the corresponding wing to the same shape so flight is not affected. If the wing is broken but still existing, it shows you how to add a tiny cardboard splint to repair it. And, if much of the wing is gone it shows how to mend it - but assumes you have spare butterfly or moth wings around with which to do this. I am very proud of my well stocked tool box. My first aid kit is pretty extensive too. But spare animal and insect limbs and wings are not something I have handy, so I am now feeling wholly inadequate as a Moth mender.

However, I watched the JTM fly about 3m in my garden in what I think is a fairly normal way but I've only had three days' introduction to him so I am no expert. So now I am worrying about whether I should try to catch him and clip his other wing too to make him equal - or not.

The chances are I shan't see him again but, if I do, he will be easy to catch. So what to do for the best?

Later note: He was around the garden for over a week. My last sighting was at my front door. He was inside when I got back from work. I tried to catch him to put him back into the garden but he flew out the front into the road. Oh I hope he found wild Buddleja or another garden and not someone's car windscreen.

Even later note: And on 27 August a new one, with perfect wings, arrived so now I am not sure whether I have had two or three visiting. There must be a little colony around here - or even hiding somewhere in my garden. It was preceded that day by a Speckled Wood butterfly which I've not seen here before either.

This time last year I was wondering whether to get rid of the Leonotis leonorus and Buddleja or keep them both because the former turned out to be a manky nettle with few flowers and the latter was covered in butterflies and I thought these two facts might be related. The Buddleja survived, the Leonotis didn’t.

This year I have so far seen Comma, Red Admiral, large and small white, and small blue butterflies but no Peacocks yet.

However, on Friday 9th August there was a large, colourful flutter just by the kitchen garden doors. I watched this creature in flight, all orange and black and pale yellow and couldn’t think what it was but assumed it was a butterfly of some sort because it was midday and bright sunshine. Thankfully it settled on a new Buddleja (yes I’ve got a new one – well three – ie tricoloured in a big pot near the herbs).

It was something I had never seen before and I have now identified it as a Jersey Tiger moth, Euplagia quadripunctaria. And wow it’s beautiful - as you’ll see in the video. It stayed on the Buddleja for about 30 minutes allowing me to change lenses to a macro lens, make a cup of coffee and search through my butterflies and moths book to try and identify it, while it happily fed on the nectar and I filmed it. Identification finally happened online as ever.

When it is feeding all you can see from above are the black and pale yellow markings ie none of the wonderful orange it flashes when it’s in flight. But, if you watch the video, you’ll see that all this orange is hidden in the underwings and undercarriage.

According to Wikipedia and various Moth sites, the Jersey Tiger Moth is widely distributed in Europe from Estonia to Latvia in the North and to the Mediterranean coast in the South. Aside from being frequent in the Channel Islands (whence its common name), this species was rarely seen in the British Isles in Victorian times. Since then, however, it has spread more widely in Devon and Cornwall, and has recently been seen more frequently in southern England, especially in the Isle of Wight, northern Kent, and south London. They have been seen regularly and in numbers every year in London since 2004, so it is probable that they have established a breeding colony - hence it popping in here to feed in SW12.

And it flies during the day which is why we can see it on my Buddleja - filming at night is not my speciality!

Anyway, it was a very welcome visitor to the garden. At one point it made a silly decision to fly into the kitchen so I had to open both doors and hope it would leave. About 20 minutes later an orange and black flutter came past me on the terrace so I presume it had sensibly decided to find nectar outside. There’s none in the kitchen. Indoor plants are not something I’m good at. Basil for cooking and Aloe for cooking burns is basically all there is.

So I said farewell and assumed I would never see one again because they are pretty rare around here. Then at about mid-day on the next day it arrived again and stayed until about 6.00pm in various places. I therefore have hours of footage but have boiled them down to two and a half minutes for you! A couple of times when I disturbed it, it flew at me and even landed on me twice and came into the kitchen on my trouser leg but mostly it sucked at Buddleja and rested. I feel enormously privileged to have been witness and host to it. It was all very exciting and I hope you enjoy the video. It's an amazing creature.




I feed the birds and don’t own a cat, so the garden is usually full of them.

The major residents and visitors are just what you would expect ie robins, blue and great tits, sparrows of various sorts and blackbirds. Through regular feeding of nyjer seed I also have large families of goldfinches and greenfinches. Collar doves and pigeons of course also try to eat from the feeders.

Irregular annual visitors include families of long tailed tits and starlings, lone jays and magpies and of course our new South London regular, the parakeet. Finding bright green/yellow feathers on the ground still shocks me.

Sadly I’ve only seen thrushes thrice in all my years here and around the same number of chaffinches and bullfinches.

The only bird that is not welcome in my garden is the heron (see Daphne blog).

And this is a video compilation of birds washing and feeding in the garden.



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Though not strictly wildlife, the pond is a fish pond and the fish play an important role in my garden. Big Yellow is a large carp I have had for seven years now and he has a smaller friend, Silver Rocket. They both seem to be too large now for the heron. However, most of the other fish are still up for grabs. When I first stocked the pond with goldfish, shubunkins and others, they were obviously very happy because they bred like crazy and I had to take about 30 small ones out and transfer them covertly to somewhere nameless they could start a new life. As I drive past a fishing pond on a certain common nearby I often wonder how they did.

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Frogs and toads



Vast numbers of frogs and toads inhabit the pond especially in February and March for breeding. They also hibernate in the gaps between the stones in the raised stream structure, under the shed and around the beds. Some days I can count 30 at a time in the pond and that’s just the ones I can see.

What I love most is their singing. Many evenings I can sit outside to a choir of frogs and toads. It honestly sounds musical not croaky! See blog re singing.

What I find most difficult is the frog and toad “balls”. See frog balls blog.

Obviously I get lots of spawn of both types in the pond but I am not sure how many make it past tadpole stage because the fish seem to get hungry again at exactly the same time as the water begins to warm up in spring. In the early years I had to be very careful not to tread on mini frogs the size of the smallest piece of gravel but nowadays it doesn’t seem to be a problem sadly.

One year I had to deal with almost daily beheadings of frogs. I would find a headless body on the gravel and a head somewhere else. I suppose it was cats or foxes. It doesn’t happen now which might be thanks to my dogs. Phew!

Despite their tough life, the numbers of both each spring don’t seem to be diminishing so obviously they are doing something right.

To see them in action, watch the videos in the various blogs on their singing and mating practices.

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I love worms. They are the sign of a living bed and I take great care not to kill them. When I dug up the ancient front privet hedge recently there was not a sign of life down there, so I emptied the entire bed and started again. Soil and compost one can add easily. Worms are a different matter and I can often be seen now carefully carrying worms in a gloved hand from the back garden to the front bed in the hope of introducing them. My neighbours think I’m nuts and I suppose it does look pretty odd.

The garden robins also watch me very carefully, from a close distance as I dig because they know I am likely to bury any that come to the surface or take them to the front garden before they can get them. Before you think I’m being mean, they get fed so they’re fine - all large, fat and healthy even in winter and there lots of little things like millipedes for them eat instead once I’ve dug.

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Slugs and snails



Well what to say? I have lots of them of course. In high season I do snail hunts after rain, often at night by torchlight and randomly when moving pots around. I’m afraid they are despatched into a plastic bag with salt at the bottom which kills them.

In the early years I treated the main beds with nematodes to eat the slugs underground and this seemed to work and has kept the slug problem under control since then - though I think I might do it again this year.

I also take care when buying plants in pots from nurseries to remove any slugs from the bottom of the pot before I leave the nursery and check the underside of the root ball before I plant it.

And of course I have frogs, toads and blackbirds to help me in my endeavours with this lot. They could work harder though!

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When I first bought the house I was besieged by foxes. They became so brave they would face up to me in the garden and I had to get a stick to chase them out. Two male cubs also tried to dig a den in my hot bed. They dug up plants the moment I had planted them (I’ve not used bonemeal or dried blood and bone when planting since that first year), they ate my water lily flowers and then they even ate the plastic ones I put on the pond to replace the real ones! They ate the wiring (luckily low voltage) and even tried to catch the fish. Then to add insult to injury, they poo-ed everything all over my garden. They generally made my life a misery.

I tried everything – Lion poo, a high pitched cat detractor and a black, foul-smelling tar on sticks and rags but nothing deterred them for long. Eventually, with the support of my neighbours who were also being terrorised, I called in a professional. We caught one a night for eight nights in an humane trap and then four more in a neighbour’s garden. We must have cleared the population in the gardens because they were no more trouble for years.

There are a few around now but my dogs keep them well away during the day. I occasionally spy one looking over the back fence from the roof of a neighbour’s shed but generally they don’t give me trouble now.

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I have one (or more?) very pretty mouse that I sometimes see dashing around behind the pots on the terrace. I think he lives outside (most of the year) and he helps himself to what the birds drop from the feeders in the Rowan tree – if the blackbirds, robins and sparrows don’t get there before him. He is small, brown and furry – and quite fat!

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September is spider month and they are everywhere – in the beds, the greenhouse, the shed etc.. They seem to be able to spin a line across any width in minutes. I like spiders because they catch less pleasant insects such as flies.

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Nice insects

Butterflies and moths


In 2012 we had peacock, red admiral and even comma butterflies as well as large and small white, and large and small blue as regular visitors to the Buddleja and Verbena bonariensis. See the video above and related Blogs.

I also found a newly hatched Elm hawk moth in a pot and the hard brown case it had germinated from. Mint moths appear regularly, as do many other unknown ones.

By August 2013 we had had all the same butterflies except a peacock and then, suddenly, an unusual visitor arrived - a Jersey Tiger moth. See the video below and blogs.

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Luckily I am blessed with a large population of many different sorts (though not Harlequin I think). They and their larvae munch through my aphids with relish. I have a ladybird/bug house too but I don’t think it's ever been let.

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Bees and the like



The bees love this garden especially the pineapple tree, Buddleja and Verbena bonariensis. They come in many sorts and sizes from huge bumblebees to small worker honey bees from a nearby neighbour’s hives. I look forward to their arrival each year with eager anticipation – just as important as the first snowdrop. I also have the flies that look and behave like a cross between a bee and a mini Hummingbird as they push their proboscis into flower heads while they hover.

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A few lace wings appear at the right time each year. I have a lacewing house box above the greenhouse door but I suspect they have never used it.

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Crane flies


This a very beautiful crane fly I spotted this year on the raised bed wall.

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Pond insects



The pond often has blue and red damsel flies visiting. Sadly I haven’t ever seen a proper large dragonfly there. It also has skaters, waders, paddlers and many others including midges!

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Less nice insects and pests


Aphids and others

I have stopped growing Lilies for the moment so red Lily beetles are no longer around but I still get my share of Capsid bugs, swarms of aphids in quantities too large for the tits and ladybirds. I have to intervene and I squish them by hand (usually but not always gloved) and smear their residue on the plant stems which seems to deter others. This is a fairly unpleasant thing to do and even worse when they are being farmed and milked by armies of ants as well – which is frequently – but it has to be done.

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I don’t like ants. I admire them but they are very destructive and they bite! I hate it when they build a nest in the flowers beds or pots and kill the plants – which are prone to doing when it’s dry. I also hate those flying, storm ants that suddenly arrive in swarms. Luckily they never seem to be around for more than a week.

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Dung beetle

The first I was aware of these was when the large wooden stump supporting my black ‘Family’ sculpture started to crumble and became dangerous enough for us to have to remove it. Inside the dead trunk were enormous larvae which turned out to be dung beetle larvae. They looked like something “I’m a celeb” contestants would have to eat. Despite treating the whole area and the new stump I bought in to perform the same task, it lasted only two years before falling foul to the same fate.


This year I saw the adult beetle for the first time (it’s in the welcome video). I don’t plan to try to stop them doing whatever they are doing so I have removed the stump and put the sculpture in the ground for fear of it falling through the fence and killing a neighbour. So the humble dung beetle has had a real design impact on my garden!

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