Orange-tip

Anthocharis cardamines (an-thoh-KAR-iss kar-da-MY-neez)

Orange Tip male - Castle Hills Solihull 19.04.2014
Photo © Neil Freeman
 

Wingspan
40 - 52mm

Checklist Number
58.003

Family:PieridaeDuponchel, 1835
Subfamily:PierinaeDuponchel, 1835
Tribe:AnthochariniTutt, 1894
Genus:AnthocharisBoisduval, Rambur & Graslin, [1833]
Subgenus:  
Species:cardamines(Linnaeus, 1758)
Subspecies:britannica (Verity, 1908)
 hibernica (Williams, 1916)

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Introduction

The Orange-tip is a true sign of spring, being 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 more-conspicuous 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. This butterfly is found throughout England, Wales and Ireland, but is somewhat-local further north and especially in Scotland. In most regions this butterfly does not form discrete colonies and wanders in every direction as it flies along hedgerows and woodland margins looking for a mate, nectar sources or foodplants. More northerly colonies are more compact and also more restricted in their movements.

Anthocharis cardamines ssp. cardamines

The species was first defined in Linnaeus (1758) as shown here (type locality: Sweden). The nominate subspecies has not been recorded in the British Isles.

Anthocharis cardamines ssp. britannica

This subspecies was first defined in Verity (1908) (type locality: England).

This subspecies is found throughout the British Isles, with the exception of Ireland and the Isle of Man. Williams (1916) disagrees with a particular aspect of the definition: "The extension of the black apical markings to the anal angle, however, is surely not so common in British specimens as to justify its use as a character differentiating British from continental specimens. I have only two specimens agreeing exactly with the description".

Anthocharis cardamines ssp. britannica (Verity, 1908)

Original (French)

Dans les îles Britanniques cardamines tend à prendre une forme assez particulière (fig.8) qui se distingue par la coupe assez allongée et étroite des antérieures, par le peu d'étendue de la tache aurore, surtout vers l'angle interne, et par l'étendue de la tache noire apicale, qui s'étend jusqu'à l'angle interne et dont le contour est très diffus. Quoiqu'on rencontre des individus semblables à ceux du continent cette race locale mérite le nom de britannica.

Translation

In the British Isles, cardamines tends to take a rather particular form (fig.8), distinguished by the somewhat long and narrow shape of the forewings, by the limited extent of the golden spot, especially towards the anal angle, and by the extent of the black apical spot, which reaches to the anal angle and is ill-defined. Although one finds individuals similar to those on the continent this local race merits the name Britannica.

Orange Tip male - Five Oaks, Sussex 8-April-2014

Male
Photo © Neil Hulme

Orange-tip male -  Five Oaks, Sussex 30-Mar-2014

Male Underside
Photo © Neil Hulme

Orange-tip female - Solihull West Midlands 28.04.2014

Female
Photo © Neil Freeman

Orange-tip female - Solihull West Midlands 23.05.2015

Female Underside
Photo © Neil Freeman

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Anthocharis cardamines ssp. hibernica

This subspecies was first defined in Williams (1916).

This subspecies was first defined in Williams (1916). This subspecies is common throughout Ireland. Chalmers-Hunt (1970) extends the distribution of this subspecies to the Isle of Man, acknowledging that "The earliest reference to cardamines as Manx is to be found in Newman (1871), most probably on Birchall's authority". This subspecies differs from the subspecies britannica as follows:

  • 1. It is slightly smaller although, according to Dennis (1977), Huggins (pers. comm.) contests this.
  • 2. The black markings on the upperside fringes are more strongly marked.
  • 3. The underside forewing of the male is frequently tinged yellow although this is also, according to Dennis (1977), contested by Huggins (pers. comm.) on the grounds that this feature is no less common in England.
  • 4. The upperside hindwing of the female is strongly tinged yellow. According to Ford (1945a) "This condition is rare but not unknown in Britain" and Dennis (1977) states that "this character is only more or less common to the normal white form".
  • Anthocharis cardamines ssp. hibernica (Williams, 1916)

    Slightly smaller on the average than the type, the black spots at the ends of the nervures more strongly marked. The ♂ frequently suffused with yellow on the underside of the forewing, the ♀ usually with the hindwing strongly suffused with yellow.

    This form appears to occur throughout Ireland. It is figured in South (Butts. Brit. Isles, pl. 17).

    Orange-tip ssp. hibernica - male - Craigavon Lakes - 18-Apr-14-8

    Male
    Photo © Pete Eeles

    Orange-tip ssp. hibernica - male - Craigavon Lakes - 18-Apr-14-9

    Male Underside
    Photo © Pete Eeles

    Orange-tip ssp. hibernica - female - Craigavon Lakes - 21-Apr-14-18

    Female
    Photo © Pete Eeles

    Orange-tip ssp. hibernica - female - Craigavon Lakes - 21-Apr-14-10

    Female Underside
    Photo © Pete Eeles

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Conservation Status

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

UK BAP StatusDistribution Trend (%)Population Trend (%)
Not Listed
Stable0
Insufficient Data

The table above shows the distribution and population trends of species regularly found in the British Isles. The distribution trend represents a comparison between data for the periods 1995-1999 and 2005-2009. The information provided is taken from the Butterfly Conservation report The State of the UK's Butterflies 2011. The UK BAP status is taken from the UK Biodiversity Action Plan (UK BAP) (2007 review).

Habitat

The species has a wide range of habitats which include country lanes, hedgerows, riverbanks, woodland margins and rides, and damp meadows. The species will also turn up in gardens.

Distribution

 

Click here to see the distribution of this species or here to see the distribution of this species together with specific site information overlaid. Alternatively, select one of the sites listed below.

Sites
Airhouse Quarry, Allan Water Hillhead SSSI, Allt Mhuic Nature Reserve, Arlington Reservoir, Arnside Knott, Arthur's Seat, Attenborough Nature Reserve, Banstead Downs, Barkbooth Lot, Bedfont Lakes Country Park LNR, Bentley Wood, Bingham Linear Park, Borthwood, Breney Common, Broadstone Local Nature Reserve, Bryncelyn Hall, Cathkin Marsh, Coldingham Bay, Conon Bridge, Crannach Fieldwork Trust, Devil's Ditch, Dundas Castle, Dunhog Moss SSSI, Eyarth Rocks, Fermyn Wood, Fleam Dyke, Gait Barrows, Glenarm, Glenkinnon Burn SSSI, Hartwoodmyres, Higher Hyde, Horsenden Hill, Hounslow Heath LNR, Howardian Local Nature Reserve, Hyde, Jersey Farm, Keswick Rail Line, Kinghorn Loch Path, Latterbarrow, Latton Woods, Laughton Common Wood, Leighton Moss, Lindean Reservoir SSSI, Llanymynech Rocks, Mansmead wood, Mayford Pond, Meanwood Park, Midgham Lakes, Mill Hill, Millenium Arboretum, Moors Valley Country Park, Moss Field, Mynydd Marian, Old Down, Basingstoke, Pamber Forest, Pulborough Brooks (RSPB), Redscar and Tunbrook Woods, Rookery, Roudsea Wood NNR, Shapwick Heath NNR, Smardale Gill, Staines Moor, Stanwick Lakes, Strumpshaw Fen, Sutton Bingham Reservoir, Uffmoor Wood, Viking Field/LesleySears, Whitlaw Mosses NNR, Winsdon Hill

Life Cycle

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.

Anthocharis cardamines ssp. britannica

Anthocharis cardamines ssp. hibernica

The chart(s) above have been correlated with the phenology plot below, taken from the UK Butterfly Monitoring Scheme. The blue line gives average counts over the full data set from 1976 to date, and the red line gives the average for the last year.

Imago

Males are more-often noticed 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. 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.

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.

When searching out suitable plants on which to lay, the female will initially locate a plant by sight before alighting on the plant and tasting it with her feet. If the plant is suitable, a single egg is laid on a flower stalk. Eggs are laid singly for good reason - the larvae are cannibalistic. As a result, it is uncommon to find more than one egg per plant and it is believed that the female is able to detect eggs that have already been laid.

Adults feed primarily on Bluebell (Hyacinthoides non-scriptus), Bramble (Rubus fruticosus), Bugle (Ajuga reptans), Cuckooflower (Cardamine pratensis), Dandelion (Taraxacum agg.), Greater Stitchwort (Stellaria holostea), Hawkweeds (Hieracium/Hypochoeris), Ragged Robin (Lychnis flos-cuculi), Red Campion (Silene dioica) and Vetches (Vicia spp.).

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Ovum

Eggs are a greenish-white when first laid, but gradually turn orange and are one of the easiest eggs of all species to find, tucked away on a flower stalk of the foodplant.

Eggs are sometimes found on the same plants as those used by the Green-veined White. However, the two species are not in competition since the Green-veined White eats the leaves of the plant, whereas the Orange-tip primarily feeds on the developing seed pods. The larva emerges after 1 or 2 weeks.

Orange Tip Ovum - About to Hatch - Somerset - 03/05/14

Photo © William
04-May-2014

Orange Tip Ovum - About To Hatch - Somerset - 05/06/13

Photo © William
05-Jun-2013

Orange-tip ovum - Surrey - 4th - May - 2014

Photo © Maximus
05-May-2014

Orange-tip - ovum - Craigavon Lakes, Northern Ireland - 29-May-13-2

Photo © Pete Eeles

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Larva

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 caterpillar is superbly camouflaged in all instars, especially when resting lengthwise along a developing seed pod.

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.

The primary larval foodplants are Cuckooflower (Cardamine pratensis) and Garlic Mustard (Alliaria petiolata). Charlock (Sinapis arvensis), Hairy Rock-cress (Arabis hirsuta), Hedge Mustard (Sisymbrium officinale), Large Bitter-cress (Cardamine amara), Turnip (Brassica rapa) and Winter-cress (Barbarea vulgaris) are also used.

Orange-Tip - larva - Thatcham - 02-Jun-07 (2)

Photo © Pete Eeles
02-Jun-2007

Orange-tip larvae - 5th instar - Surrey - 24.5.2014

Photo © Maximus
24-May-2014

Orange-tip - larva - Thatcham - 24-May-15

Photo © Pete Eeles
24-May-2015

Orange Tip Larva - 1 hour before pupation (Reared) Caterham, Surrey 31-May-11

Photo © Vince Massimo
31-May-2011

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Pupa

The pupa is formed upright on a plant stem or some other vertical surface that provides a suitable overwintering site, attached by a silk girdle and the cremaster. The pupa is green when first formed, with the majority eventually turning light brown to more-closely match its surroundings. This species overwinters in this stage.

Orange Tip Pupa (hatching process) Caterham, Surrey 25-April-12

Photo © Vince Massimo
25-Apr-2012

Orange Tip Pupa (4 days before hatching) Caterham, Surrey 13-April-12

Photo © Vince Massimo
13-Apr-2012

Orange Tip Pupa (14 days before hatching) Caterham, Surrey 3-April-12

Photo © Vince Massimo
03-Apr-2012

Orange Tip Pupa (Brown Form) - Caterham, Surrey (Reared) 10-August-10

Photo © Vince Massimo
10-Aug-2010

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Aberrations

Description to be completed.

This section shows those aberrations for which there is a corresponding image. Click here to see the descriptions of other aberrations for this species.

Unclassified Aberrations

Orange-tip male - aberrant - Salisbury, Wiltshire 07-04-2012

Photo © Wurzel
Much darker and longer black wing tip markings.

Orange-tip - imago - Midgham Lakes - 15-Apr-10 (2)

Photo © Pete Eeles
15-Apr-2010

Orange Tip (Black ab.) - reared Sussex 16-April-2011 [Dave Harris & Steven Teale]

Photo © Dave Harris & Steven Teale
16-Apr-2011

Orange-Tip - imago - Midgham Lakes - 14-Apr-09 (2)

Photo © Pete Eeles
14-Apr-2009

Photo Album ...


Similar Species

Bath White

Description to be completed.

Green-veined White

Description to be completed.

Videos


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The following links provide additional information on this butterfly.

References

The species description provided here references the following publications:

ReferenceDetails
Boisduval, Rambur & Graslin (1833) Boisduval, J.A., Rambur, P. & Graslin, A. (1833) Collection iconographique et historique des chenilles; ou, Description et figures des chenilles d'Europe, avec l'histoire de leurs métamorphoses, et des applications à l'agriculture.
Chalmers-Hunt (1970) Chalmers-Hunt, J.M. (1970) The Butterflies and Moths of the Isle of Man. Transactions of the Society for British Entomology.
Dennis (1977) Dennis, R.L.H. (1977) The British Butterflies - Their Origin and Establishment.
Duponchel (1835) Duponchel, P.A.J. (1835) Histoire naturelle des lépidoptères ou papillons de France, par M. J.-B. Godart. Continuée par P.-A.-J. Duponchel. Diurnes. Supplément aux tomes premier et deuxième.
Ford (1945a) Ford, E.B. (1945) Butterflies.
Linnaeus (1758) Linnaeus, C. (1758) Systema Naturae. Edition 10.
Newman (1871) Newman, E. (1871) An Illustrated Natural History of British Butterflies.
Tutt (1894) Tutt, J.W. (1894) The Genera Pieris, Schrk., and Euchloe. The Canadian Entomologist.
Verity (1908) Verity, R. (1908) Rhopalocera Palaearctica, Iconographie et Description des Papillons diurnes de la région paléarctique. Papilionidae et Pieridae.
Williams (1916) Williams, H.B. (1916) Notes on the life-history and variation of Euchloë cardamines L.. Transactions of City of London Natural History Society.