We spotted this little beauty this morning – hanging around H’s plot near the damask. The big guy took a photo so we could do some identification back at home. It took a little trawling as this one doesn’t tend to make the top 10 list for UK butterflies (whereas comma butterflies and peacock butterflies do feature in such lists). Nevertheless, I finally found a great web resource that lists all known UK butterflies (called – surprise surprise:UK Butterflies), and after a little more scanning through photo bank pages found him!
He’s an Orange Tip Butterfly. (Anthocharis cardamines – first defined in Linneaus 1758, in the Pieridae family.) And in case you’re wondering, the females tend to be more white and not as distinctively coloured as the males, so it’s definitely a ‘he’.
Some facts about this little fella..
- Orange Tip butterflies emerge and start to fly in April, May and June.
- They are common throughout England, Scotland and Ireland and are in fact one of the few species of butterfly not to be in decline – with increased numbers spotted in recent years.
- They thrive in a range of habitats from wet meadows, woodland margins, hedgerows and gardens.
- 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.
- Sex differences are the stuff of stereotypes: “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. The female, on the other hand, is usually more concerned with egg-laying and, as a consequence, is often found in the vicinity of foodplants. Her more-secretive behaviour may also explain why she does not exhibit the warning colouration present in the male.” (UK Butterflies, Orange Tip Butterfly Imago (adult).
- “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 can easily be missed, even by an experienced observer.” (UK Butterflies)
- The female lays a single egg on each suitable plant. (Suitable means edible by her emergent offspring). They only lay a single egg as the larvae are cannibalistic.
Adult Orange Tip butterfly feed primarily on
- Bluebell (Hyacinthoides non-scripta),
- Brambles (Rubus spp.),
- Bugle (Ajuga reptans),
- Cuckooflower (Cardamine pratensis),
- Dandelions (Taraxacum spp.),
- Garlic Mustard (Alliaria petiolata),
- Greater Stitchwort (Stellaria holostea),
- Ground-ivy (Glechoma hederacea), h
- Hawkweeds (Hieracium spp.),
- Ragged-Robin (Silene flos-cuculi), R
- Red Campion (Silene dioica)
- and vetches (Vicia spp.).