Butterflies of Mexico, USA & Canada
Falcate Orange-tip
Anthocharis midea  HÜBNER, 1809
subfamily - PIERINAE
Anthocharis midea, Tennessee, USA © Ken Childs
The genus Anthocharis comprises of 17 known species, popularly known as Orange-tips. The most common and widely distributed species is Anthocharis cardamines, which is found across the whole of temperate Europe, in Asia north of the Himalayas, and eastward to China and Japan.
There are 4 other species found in Europe, plus 5 which are confined to the Far East, and 7 species that are restricted to various parts of North America. There is also another species - A. belia, which is found in north Africa ( and is only very distantly related to the Arabian and sub-Saharan Orange tips which are members of a different genus - Colotis ).
Only the males of Anthocharis have the orange apex. Most of the species have rounded forewings, but in midea ( and in the Chinese A. scolymus ) the apex is falcate. The underside hindwings of all Anthocharis species are cryptically patterned with greenish blotches or stripes on a white ground colour, providing superb camouflage when the butterflies are at rest on umbellifer flowers or on foliage. The green colour is an optical illusion caused by a mixture of black and yellow wing scales.
Anthocharis midea is widespread in the USA, east of the Great Plains.
This species is found in forest glades, woodland edge habitats, and sheltered damp meadows, at altitudes between sea level and about 1000m.
The egg is skittle-shaped, and laid singly on the flower stalks of the larval foodplants. When first laid it is yellowish-green, but soon changes to a dull orange colour, then becomes greyish a day or two prior to hatching.
The caterpillar when fully grown is olive green, dotted with tiny black points. It has a broad creamy white lateral stripe, and a blue-edged orange mid-dorsal stripe. The caterpillars feed on the seed pods, stems and leaves of various Cruciferae including Arabidopsis, Arabis, Barbarea, Cardamine, Sisymbrium, Dentaria and Lepidium. According to Scott females also sometimes oviposit on Draba and Capsella, but the resulting larvae die soon after hatching. The caterpillars of all Anthocharis species turn cannibalistic if they encounter others of their own or any other species - a practice that probably evolved because a single specimen of the foodplant is only sufficient to support a single caterpillar to maturity.
The pupa is boomerang-shaped, with a long pointed head-capsule, and is straw-coloured, with tiny black dots on the abdomen and wing cases. It is vertically attached by the tip of the abdomen to a twig or stem, and secured by a silk girdle around the waist. The pupa hibernates overwinter.
Adult behaviour
Males patrol relentlessly back and forth across their habitat in search of virgin females, pausing here and there for a few seconds to take nectar from their larval foodplants and other spring flowers. Females also commonly nectar at the same species of flowers, between egg-laying bouts. Both sexes roost overnight on flowerheads, or on the upper surface of the leaves of bushes, always choosing sheltered locations.


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