Autumn has officially arrived! Crispy fading leaves begin to rustle earthwards in a stiff breeze and robins are already singing their rather wistful song.

With most wild flowers over, I always look forward to welcoming Michaelmas daisies, not only for their beauty but as a vital late nectar source for butterflies hoverflies and bees. (painted lady pictured) So familiar are the daisies that it is difficult to believe they are not native but introduced centuries ago from North America and their dozen or so varieties are now naturalised across Britain.

We always associate butterflies with wild flowers and rightly so, but they also feed not only on nectar but need vital salts and minerals which they obtain from a variety of sources.

For example, I watched painted lady butterflies alight on damp seaweed on the beach this summer to imbibe salts and I also saw two of the butterflies momentarily land on a calm sea close to the beach and take in a proboscis full of salt water before taking off again. Quite a risky business I would think!

Many butterfly species, especially the males land on muddy puddles to drink while some seek out fox and dog droppings, again to take in minerals to help in breeding processes.

There is even a butterfly in a tropical rain forest that feeds exclusively on leopard dung! An unsavoury thought perhaps but perfectly normal butterfly behaviour.