Steve Cotterell

 Orange Tip (Anthocharis cardamines)

About me


Orange Tips may be found alongside lane hedgerows and at the edges of woodland. In larger gardens which haven't been over-cultivated they may be found on the wild foodplants and some of the cultivated ones. It is generally distributed throughout England and Wales, and in Scotland as far north as Ross. It is on the wing at the end of May and in June.


The two main foodplants are garlic mustard (Alliaria petiolata), commonly known as Jack-by-the-Hedge, and cuckoo-flower (Cardamine pratensis). The caterpillars eat horse radish, cresses and garden honesty, but the garden plant they like best is sweet rocket (Hesperis matronalis). This is a useful plant on which to induce egg-laying when breeding Orange Tips in captivity.

Life Cycle

There is only one brood in the year. The butterflies emerge in May and can be seen until July. Hibernation is in the pupal stage.


The female has no orange colouring on her wings, but otherwise has similar markings to the male. When this butterfly is resting on the flowerhead of garlic mustard, with wings closed , the green mottling on white gives one of the best examples of camouflage seen in butterflies. The green effect is an optical illusion caused by the mingling of black and yellow scales. The eggs are laid singly near the calyx of a floret of the foodplant. At first they are white and difficult to see, but soon turn bright orange. Often a clump of garlic mustard won't yield any eggs, but if you look on plants that are isolated or in small clumps, you may possibly discover some. They are often found in marshy fields where cuckoo flower (lady's smock) grows dotted about. The young caterpillars are cannibals and usually only one survives per flowerhead. The mature larva is very slender, pale green, with white shading along the sides resembling the foodplant's stems and seed pods. The chrysalis prefers to overwinter on substantial twigs of plants other than the foodplant, which is surprising, given that it closely resembles the foodplant's withered seed pods. However, in captivity, the chrysalis may be formed on the foodplant.

Butterfly menu

Male                                            Female