Butterflies of temperate Asia
Orange tip
Anthocharis cardamines  LINNAEUS, 1758
subfamily - PIERINAE
Anthocharis cardamines male, Adrian Hoskins
The genus Anthocharis comprises of 17 known species, popularly known as Orange-tips. Most of the species are white but a few including belia, damone and gruneri are pale yellow. Only males have orange tipped wings. The undersides of all species are mottled with green - although the colour is actually an illusion created by a fine peppering of yellow and black scales.
Anthocharis cardamines is the most widespread and abundant member of the genus, being found throughout most of Europe and across temperate Asia to Amurland and Japan.
This species is found in damp habitats including riverbanks, ditches, alpine meadows and pastures, marshes, moorlands, farmland and woodland glades, at altitudes up to about 2000m.

Alliaria and Cardamine are the primary larval foodplants but females occasionally oviposit on other Brassicaceae including Thlaspi, Barbarea, Brassica, Rorippa, Capsella, Cardaminopsis, Sisymbrium, Turritis and Isatis. The eggs are always laid singly on the flower stalks. Sometimes more than one egg can be found per plant, but this is unusual, as the butterflies seem able to detect the presence of eggs that have already been laid. The eggs are skittle-shaped and greenish-white in colour when first laid, but turn to orange after a day or two, and then finally to grey.

The larvae hatch after about a week and feed at first on the flowers of the foodplants. When older they move on to feed on the leaves, flower stalks and seedpods. Fully grown larvae are pale bluish green with a white lateral line, below which the colour changes to dark green. They habitually rest on the upper surface of the seedpods where they are superbly camouflaged. Despite their disguise however many are eaten by spiders and birds. They are also parasitised by the Tachinid fly Phryxe vulgaris, which also attacks the larvae of several other butterflies.
Orange tip larvae are noted for their cannibalistic tendencies. This may have evolved because some of the larval foodplants ( e.g. cuckoo flower ) only produce enough seed pods and foliage to sustain a single larva through to full development.
Caterpillars which have been feeding on cuckoo flower leave the plants when ready to pupate, and attach themselves with a silken girdle to a nearby woody stem. Larvae on garlic mustard however often pupate on the stems of the plant. The distinctive boomerang-shaped pupa cannot be mistaken for any other species. It occurs in two colour forms - pale green, or brownish.
Adult behaviour

Orange tips visit a wide variety of wild flowers including bluebell, bugle, wood anemone, blackthorn, primrose, ground ivy, celandine, hawthorn, garlic mustard, early purple orchid, common vetch, dog violet, colt's foot, dandelion and cuckoo flower.

When nectaring or settling for short periods, they normally keep their wings half open. This has the effect of trapping a tiny pocket of warm air over the thorax, which aids rapid body warming. In hazy weather or late evening sunshine however Orange tips often bask for long periods with the wings fully outspread.

On sunny days males patrol incessantly in search of females. When the sexes meet copulation takes place almost immediately, and without any prenuptial ritual. If a female that has previously mated is intercepted by a male, she signals her disinterest by settling on a leaf, then outspreading her wings and raising her abdomen as illustrated below. This tells the male that she is unreceptive, and makes it physically impossible for him to copulate.

Orange tips roost openly, even in wet or windy weather, and can be found at dusk and dawn settled on the flower heads of cuckoo flower, garlic mustard, bluebells or umbellifers, or on hazel or nettle leaves, in sheltered and lightly wooded situations.

Anthocharis cardamines, female at roost   Adrian Hoskins


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