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Orange tip butterfly

Orange tip butterfly

Anthocharis cardamines

This butterfly has white uppersides to its wings. It is only the males that have orange-tipped forewings; females have small black tips. In both sexes the undersides of the hindwings are mottled with moss-green. The orange tips warn predators that this butterfly is highly distasteful.


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Orange-tips are common throughout lowland England and Wales, but are rarer in Scotland. Females lay single, pale, spindle-shaped eggs on the underside of flower buds. These eggs turn deep orange after a few days.

The caterpillars hatch and feed on the developing seed pod. They are green and extremely hard to spot. Orange-tip caterpillars are cannibalistic, liable to eat another of their own species should they meet. Each caterpillar leaves its foodplant to overwinter as a chrysalis, probably in bushes and tall vegetation. Adults emerge in April.

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What does it eat?

Adults drink nectar from flowers. Caterpillars eat garlic mustard and lady's smock, sometimes also sweet rocket and honesty in gardens.

When will I see it?

Adults between April and June. Caterpillars from May to July.

Where will I see it?

Flying along hedges and across the garden. Caterpillars on lady's smock/cuckoo flower, garlic mustard, sweet rocket and honesty. Also in meadows, hedgerows, woodland edges.


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