Steven Cheshire's British Butterflies
British Butterflies: Species: Species Account - The Orange-tip:
Anthocharis cardamines (Linnaeus, 1758)

Orange-tip egg.
  Orange-tip caterpillar.
  Orange-tip chrysalis
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Insecta: Lepidoptera : Family Pieridae: Subfamily Pierinae : Genus Anthocharis: Species cardamines:
The Orange-tip is a distinctive spring butterfly. It is a medium sized butterfly which is often seen in gardens and along hedgerows and roadside verges especially in areas where water occurs. It is fairly Common throughout England Wales and Scotland but is absent from the far north of the British Isles.

Male Orange-tips have white wings with vivid orange wing tips with a dark spot where the white and orange areas of the forewing meet. The distinctive males are usually seen continuously patrolling backward and forward along hedgerows searching for newly emerged  females. They will often investigate anything white such as flower petals or pieces of paper.

Females are white with black wing tips and are less often encountered except when searching for flowers upon which to feed or larval food plants upon which to lay their eggs.

Both the male and female have mottled pattern of yellow and black scales on a white background on the underside of their wings. This provides excellent camouflage when the butterfly is at rest on foliage with its wings closed.

Adult Orange-tip butterflies are on the wing between mid-April and mid-June during which time, the females lay their eggs singly on a variety of foodplants in bright sunshine within damp meadows or road verges, disused railway lines and ditches. On hatching, the larvae immediately eat the egg shell before feeding on the host plant. The larvae eat the seeds, developing seed pods and flower-heads. By the fourth instar the larvae may eat upto 6 Garlic Mustard seed pods in a day pausing every so often to rest.

The caterpillars of the Orange-tip are know to be cannibalistic and it is thought that a single Cuckooflower plant can sustain only one larvae.

The pupae form in June/July and do not hatch until the following spring although is some areas in favorable conditions, a second brood may be possible where some pupae hatch in July.
This butterfly is usually seen in damp grassy habitats or river banks where Cuckooflower (also known as Lady's Smock) the primary larvae foodplant grows. It is also common along hedgerows where Garlic or Hedge Mustard is found.
Throughout the UK except parts of northern Scotland.
Where to see the Orange-tip in the British Isles
Throughout the UK except parts of northern Scotland.
Other notes
Taking photographs of the Orange-tip can often be very frustrating. The males (with the orange tips to their wings) rarely land or feed when its warm and sunny although an area of Wild Violets or Purple Ground Ivy is a good place to find feeding butterflies. Cloudy days are best… seek out individuals resting and await sunshine for the best photographic opportunities.
Lifecycle chart
Flight chart
The lifecycle and flight charts should be regarded as approximate guides to the Orange-tip in Britain. Specific lifecycle states, adult emergence and peak flight times vary from year to year due to variations in weather conditions.
IUCN category status 2010 5   IUCN category status 2007 34
--awaiting data-- --awaiting data--

5Fox, R., Warren, M., Brereton, T. M., Roy, D. B. & Robinson, A.
(2010) A new Red List of British Butterflies. Insect Conservation and Diversity.
Least Concern Least Concern

3Fox, R., Warren, M & Brereton, T.
(2007) New Red List of British Butterflies. Butterfly Conservation, Wareham.

4More information about IUCN categories.
UK status
Larval foodplants
A variety of plants are used including Cuckooflower or Lady's Smock (Cardamine pratensis) Garlic Mustard (Alliaria petiolata) Hedge Mustard (Sisymbrium officinale), Turnip (Brassica rapa), Charlock (Sinapis avensis), Hairy Rock-cress (Arabis hirsuta) and Winter-cress (Barbarea vulgaris).

The Orange-Tip also lays its eggs on Honesty (Lunaria annua) and Dame's-violet (Hesperis matronalis) in gardens although the larval survival on these plants is poor.
British subspecies
Anthocharis cardamines ssp. britannica (Verity, 1908)
Occurs in England (excluding Isle of Man), Wales and Scotland.
Anthocharis cardamines ssp. hibernica (Williams, 1915)
Occurs in Ireland and Isle of Man only.This subspecies is slightly smaller with minor colour differences.
Butterflies of Britain ID Chart
Your personal guide to British Butterflies. This 8-panel laminated chart is designed for speedy butterfly identification in the field. Ideal for anyone interested in identifying butterflies, perfect for children and adults and ideal for outdoor use, laminated, shower-proof and robust. Get your copy today.
Butterflies of Britain (Laminated ID Chart).
Online store
Visit our online store for many more butterfly related books and gifts.
Population trends 1
UK Population trend 1995-2004 down by -8%
UK Population trend 1976-2004 up by 22%

1Fox, R., Asher. J., Brereton. T., Roy, D & Warren, M. (2006) The State of Butterflies in Britain & Ireland, Pices, Oxford.
UK BAP status 2
UK BAP status not listed (link)

2For information about the UK Biodiversity Action Plan, visit the JNCC web site

National Biodiversity Network Gateway
National Biodiversity Network Gateway Distribution Map

Areas in and indicate a contraction in distribution of the Orange-tip except in Ireland where data is only available up until 1999.

* Records shown in outside the natural distribution may be the result of illegal or accidental releases by breeders or, depending upon the species, migrant individuals from mainland Europe.

Key to map*
= 2000 to 2010 inclusive (current distribution)
= records from 1950 to 1999 inclusive
= records from 1900 to 1949 inclusive
Records prior to 1st January 1900 are not shown.

The NBN Gateway records are shown on the map right. (See terms and conditions).

More data is available on the Orange-tip on the NBN Gateway web site.
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For full details of books and reports mentioned on this web site, view the references page.

Find out more online*
Orange-tip can be found on Peter Eeles excellent UK Butterflies web site.
Orange-tip can be found on Matt Rowlings excellent European Butterflies web site.

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Photographs of the Orange-tip
Image ID BB2101 - Orange-tip - © Steven Cheshire
Orange-tip male (imago)
BB2101 ©
Image ID BB2100 - Orange-tip - © Steven Cheshire
Orange-tip male (imago)
BB2100 ©
Image ID BB2099 - Orange-tip - © Steven Cheshire
Orange-tip male (imago)
BB2099 ©
Image ID BB2098 - Orange-tip - © Steven Cheshire
Orange-tip male (imago)
BB2098 ©
Image ID BB2097 - Orange-tip - © Steven Cheshire
Orange-tip male (imago)
BB2097 ©
Image ID BB1073 - Orange-tip - © Steven Cheshire
Orange-tip male (imago)
BB1073 ©
Image ID BB1072 - Orange-tip - © Steven Cheshire
Orange-tip male (imago)
BB1072 ©
Image ID BB1071 - Orange-tip - © Steven Cheshire
Orange-tip male (imago)
BB1071 ©
Image ID BB1070 - Orange-tip - © Steven Cheshire
Orange-tip female (imago)
BB1070 ©
Image ID BB319 - Orange-tip - © Steven Cheshire
Orange-tip male (imago)
BB319 ©
There are 15 photographs of the Orange-tip in our stock photo library.
View more photographs of the Orange-tip as a thumbnail gallery or as a slideshow.
Aberrations and forms
There are 15 named aberrant forms of the Orange-tip currently listed. Find out more about aberrants here.

ab. androgyna - Newnham 1900
ab. antiquincunx - Bryk 1923
ab. deaurata - Williams 1959
ab. lasthenia - Millière 1860
ab. lineata - Lempke 1953
ab. luteola - Stephan 1923
ab. macula-punctata - Frohawk 1938
ab. ochreacea - Sälzl 1936
ab. reducta - Masowicz 1923
ab. salmonea - Oberthür 1909
ab. sassafrana - Oberthür 1909
ab. saxonia - Hering 1912
ab. striata - Pionneau 1924
ab. turritis - Ochsenheimer 1816
ab. williamsi - Greer 1928