Nature Table: Orange Tip Butterfly

Orange tips are on the wing at present. Male butterflies are unmistakable, with the vivid orange tips of the fore-wings contrasting with the white of the rest of the wings.

Females take a bit more experience to identify and can be mistaken for small whites. They are slightly larger than the males and have no orange tips; instead they are white with black tips and a black spot on each wing. Irish specimens are regarded as a separate sub-species, as the females usually also show a dusting of yellow.

The underwings of both sexes are mottled. Although they quite often turn up in gardens and parks, this is really a butterfly of wet meadows because this is where its main larval food plant grows. It’s lady’s smock (also known as cuckoo flower) and it’s also used for nectaring by winged adults. The caterpillars are also found on garlic mustard, a wild plant, and dame’s violet, a garden plant, but normally only one to a plant as they are cannibalistic.


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