Orange Tip (Anthocharis cardamines)
Orange-tips are seen commonly in early summer along hedgerows, road verges, and woodland edges.
Males have vivid orange wing tips, whereas females have no orange coloration and are predominantly white on the uppersides. The mottled pattern of yellow and black scales on the underside hindwings provides excellent camouflage when they roost on flower heads such as those of Cow Parsley.
The butterfly is widespread in Ireland and southern Britain and has spread north rapidly over the past 25 years, especially in Scotland.
Wingspan, 40-50 mm.
Males are coloured white on the upper side of their forewings with the outer half a bright orange. Additionally, the tips of the forewings are dark grey and there is a dark spot in the centre of each forewing. The upper surface of the hind wings is very faintly mottled pale grey and there are a series of small dark grey botches around the outer edge of each hind wing. The underside of the forewings has the same, but paler, colour-pattering to the upper surface with the exception that the wing tips are not grey but are mottled grey-green. The entire lower surface of the hind wings is mottled grey-green on white.
Females are similarly patterned to the males but lack the orange tip to the wings.
Behaviour and life history
The males are to be found almost everywhere as they search for females, which tend to be more restricted in their range and to congregate around areas rich in their foodplants. However, like the Green-veined White, Pieris napi, they only form loose colonies. The butterfly hibernates over-winter as a chrysalis above ground, attached low down in dense vegetation. The first adults emerge during the first half of April with eggs being laid from mid May onwards. The life cycle is completed by late July when the caterpillars pupate. There is usually only a single brood each year. Larvae feed on a range of plants in the cabbage family (Brassicaceae) but Ladys Smock (Cardamine pratensis) and Garlic Mustard (Alliaria petiolata) are their preferred choices.
Where to look for it
Whilst male Orange tips may be seen almost anywhere, they are most likely to be found in the vicinity of their food plants. They are most frequent in damp meadowlands, hedgerows, and around glades, rides and woodland margins. They are commonly to be seen in all the citys Local Nature Reserves.
Distribution and status
Common and widespread although males, in particular, may often be seen in gardens and parks.
When to look for it
From early April to mid July.
Males are unmistakeable but females can be easily confused with the smaller whites (Pieris spp). However, the mottled under surfaces of the hind wings is diagnostic, when visible.