20th April: Orange Tip Butterflies

20th April: Orange Tip Butterflies
April 20, 2011 Adrian Walters

As temperatures continue to soar to unseasonal highs at almost double the seasonal average, many species of butterfly can be seen on wing. It is interesting to consider where they might all be on cooler cloudy days as although many are very colourful, at roost they can be surprisingly inconspicuous. On a close quarter inspection of a beautiful cuckoo flower (Cardamine pratensis) bloom, an orange tip butterfly (Anthocharis cardamines) was observed resting unobtrusively. On warm sunny days these small butterflies can be seen in good numbers flitting their way across the riverside pastures. The adults only live for about three weeks so mating and egg laying is the top priority and cool dull weather is not what they need to achieve this.

The orange eggs of the orange tip butterfly are laid singly and with diligent searching these can sometimes be found on the cuckoo flowers. This is one of a range of food plants for the caterpillars of this single brooded springtime butterfly.

It is only the male butterfly that has the orange tips to the wings. On close inspection the orange does not extend to the tips and the both male and female of the species in fact have black tips to the wings but it is the orange markings on the male that is so eye-catching on sunny days.