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Orange-Tip Butterfly

Anthocharis cardamines

Orange-Tip Butterfly, Orange-Tip

A close up photo of an Orange-tip Butterfly Anthocharis cardamines perched on a nettle flower
Anthocharis cardamines Weinsberg 20080424 by Rosenzweig (CC BY-SA 3.0)
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Anthocharis cardamines or the Orange-Tip is a pretty insect, emerging early in the year in the UK and Europe. It belongs to the Pieridae butterfly family, holding the whites and yellows. They thrive in damp and unimproved grassland habitats, such as hedgerows, meadows, woodland and riverbanks, and sometimes gardens, too! These butterflies were historically known as the lady of the woods, the prince of orange and the white marbled butterfly. They aren't common garden pests but are known to occasionally feed on Sweet Rocket and Honesty, on which the caterpillars are less successful.
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Traits

Anthocharis cardamines numbers are on the rise in Scotland, where they were once rare.
Their superb camouflage makes them difficult to find!

Appearance

Adult: The adults are easily recognised once you're able to spot them resting on the lush vegetation. It's only the males which boast vivid orange wing-tips. The females are white with black-tips. The wing undersides of both sexes demonstrate irregular patching of mossy-green, making them blend in with the environment. Wingspans measure between 4-5cm. Larvae: When small, caterpillars are orange, but with each moult, they grow larger, turning a blue-green colour with a white stripe down each side of the body. Pupae: Also blue-green and angular in shape, these cocoons are attached to the stems of the food plant. Eggs: They are ovular and elongated, bright orange and laid singly on the food plant by female butterflies.

Symptoms

Small orange/ blue-green caterpillars may be found on Sweet Rocket or Honesty.

Activity

Diurnal

Personality

Order

Lepidoptera

Family

Pieridae

Metamorphosis

Complete

Distribution

Widespread across the UK with sightings scarcer in northern Scotland. Common across Europe.

Biological treatment

These butterflies are the perfect pollinators when in gardens, so it's advised to tolerate caterpillars wherever possible. If you believe there are too many for your plant to support, place them in a plastic container and relocate to a nearby park or meadow. Alternatively, place them somewhere in the garden and let nature take care of them! These caterpillars are foul-tasting to birds, due to their choice of food as caterpillars. However, they're heavily predated by ground beetles, wasps and spiders!

Attracts

Caterpillars feed on the seed pods of cuckooflower and garlic mustard; they'll then eat each other when food runs low! The butterflies are fantastic pollinators of tubular spring flowers, such as bluebells and lily of the valley.

Garlic Mustard

Alliaria spp.

Lady's Smock

Cardamine pratensis

Dame's Rocket

Hesperis matronalis

Honesty

Lunaria spp.

Some blue Hyacinthoides hispanica flowers

Spanish Bluebell

Hyacinthoides hispanica

Common bluebell

English Bluebell

Hyacinthoides non-scripta

Lily Of The Valley

Convallaria majalis

Forget-Me-Not 'Mon Amie'

Myosotis sylvatica 'Mon Amie'

A close up of some purple Viola reichenbachiana flowers

Early Dog Violet

Viola reichenbachiana

Gorse

Ulex europaeus

A pink Geranium robertianum flower and green leaves

Herb Robert

Geranium robertianum

A close up of some purple Orchis mascula flowers

Early Purple Orchid

Orchis mascula

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