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Orange Tip Butterfly , Anthocharis cardamines

The Orange-tip , a regular visitor to the wildflower meadow is a true sign of the arrival of spring and is one of the first species to emerge that has not overwintered as an adult. The male and female of this species are very different in appearance. The male has orange tips to the forewings, that give this butterfly its name. These orange tips are absent in the female and the female is often mistaken for one of the other whites, especially the Green-veined White or Small White. 

Orange tips are common throughout lowland England and Wales, but are rarer in Scotland.

This butterfly is found throughout England, Wales and Ireland and sometimes as far north as Scotland. It normally forms small colonies along woodland edges and can be seen flying backwards and forwards along hedgerows. Males are more noticeable than females, largely due to the highly-visible orange splashes seen as the male butterfly flits along. It is believed that the orange tips of the male are an example of warning colouration, indicating that the butterfly is not particularly palatable to predators – a result of mustard oils that have accumulated in the body from the larval foodplant. 

Orange-tip butterflies have short lifespans of just a few weeks in their adult form .

The male is also the more-active of the two sexes as it searches out a mate and can be seen flying for long periods without ever stopping to rest or nectar. Both sexes have an amazing underside pattern of green blotches formed by a combination of yellow and black scales. When at rest on a flower head of the foodplant this butterfly so well camouflaged that an adult resting just a few feet  away is easily missed.

Adults feed on brambles , cuckoo flower , greater stick wart , dandelion and other woodland flowers

Eggs are a greenish-white when first laid, but gradually turn orange and are one of the easiest eggs of all species to find. The larva emerges after 1 or 2 weeks. The larva eats its eggshell on hatching and, given its cannibalistic tendencies, will also eat any other Orange-tip eggs it encounters. The main source of food is developing seed pods, although the larva will also eat flowers and leaves on occasion. The larva will travel extensively in search of a suitable pupation site. There are 4 moults in total and the larval stage lasts between 3 and 4 weeks. There is a single brood each year, with adults flying from the beginning of April, through May and into June. In exceptionally early years a small second brood may appear.

This is one of the few butterflies whose population and distribution are both increasing and, as such, is not a species of conservation concern.


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