Orange Tip

The Orange Tip, Anthocaris cardamines

The males with their bright orange wing tips are such a welcome sign of spring!


This is a male Orange Tip – with its clear orange wing tips, not found in the female. Other features to be seen from above include the dark edging to the orange tips, and the relatively blackish body.

Photographed in a garden in Maltings Close, Hadlow, the 10th of May, 2011

This is the same male, but this time you can see the fantastical green (in fact black and yellow) mossy patterning on the underside of both pairs of wings.

Photographed in a garden in Maltings Close, Hadlow, on the 10th of May, 2011.


Orange Tips can be found all over Hadlow, along paths, field edges and in gardens.

On a UK scale they can be found throughout England, Wales and Ireland but become progressively rare as you move North, and are very local beyond southern Scotland.

The British subspecies ‘britannis‘ is confined to the UK, but other subspecies of this common butterfly exist widely.

Life cycle

The females often search carefully for suitable caterpillar host-plants such as hedge garlic or cuckoo-flower on which to lay. Other members of the cabbage family are occasionally used. The single eggs are off-white at first, gradually turning orange, and because the siting of the eggs is so predictable, on the flower stalks that will develop into long thin fruits, they are quite easy to find.

The egg lasts about a week, and then the first stage of the caterpillar has grown enough to bite its way out.  The caterpillar stage lasts about a month, passing through four successive moults. It appears to be cannabilistic, leading normally to only one caterpillar per fruiting head – a wise precaution to ensure sufficient food perhaps. The caterpillars are a mid-green, and are well camouflaged as they lie along the small “twig-like” fruits.

Once the caterpillar is fully grown, and in its last moult stage, it neatly secures itself to the stem with a few strands of silk and a basal pad, in preparation for pupation.

Photographed in a garden in Maltings Close, Hadlow, on the 1st of May, 2011

Then the caterpillar forms its pupa and prepares for its complete metamorphosis to an adult Butterfly:

Photographed in a garden in Maltings Close, Hadlow, on the 1st of May, 2011 ??


Predators and parasites