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butterfly Orange Tip Butterflies

Identify It >   Butterfly Section >   Orange Tip Butterflies >

Scientific name:  Anthocharis cardamines

Size:  Wingspan approximately 45mm

Distribution:  Found throughout the U.K.

Months seen:  April to July

Life span:  Up to four weeks

Habitat:  Meadows, hedgerows, woodland edges and gardens

Food:  Nectar.  The caterpillars eat ladies smock and garlic mustard

Special features:  Both male and female orange tip butterflies have white wings.  Only the males have the bright orange colouring on the wing tips.  The females have grey wing tips.  The females look very similar to small white butterflies, but the small whites lack the mottled markings on the undersides of the hind wings.

Although they are well camouflaged at rest, the males are highly conspicuous in flight, and can easily be spotted by predatory birds.  The orange colouring acts as a warning to birds that these butterflies taste bad.  In fact their bodies contain large amounts of mustard oil, and once a bird has tasted this, it is unlikely to eat another orange tip.

The females can often be seen fluttering around cuckoo flowers in early spring.  These are the foodplants of the caterpillars and they lay a single egg on each plant.

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