Family - PIERIDAE
subfamily - PIERINAE
tribe - ANTHOCHARIDINI
Anthocharis cardamines male,
© Adrian Hoskins
Anthocharis comprises of 17 known
species, popularly known as Orange-tips. Most of the species are
white but a few including belia,
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.
species is found in damp habitats including
ditches, alpine meadows and pastures, marshes, moorlands, farmland
and woodland glades,
up to about 2000m.
are the primary larval foodplants but females occasionally oviposit on
other Brassicaceae including Thlaspi,
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
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.
tips visit a wide variety of
flowers including bluebell, bugle, wood anemone, blackthorn, primrose,
ground ivy, celandine, hawthorn, garlic mustard, early purple orchid,
vetch, dog violet, colt's foot, dandelion
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,
aids rapid body warming. In hazy weather or late evening sunshine
however Orange tips often
bask for long periods with the wings
On sunny days males
in search of females.
the sexes meet copulation takes place
without any prenuptial ritual. If a female that has
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.
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