Orange-tip. Butterfly of Spring

I make no apologies for doing another post featuring this little butterfly.  Only two species have probably been aired more, the Purple Emperor  and Norfolk’s own the Swallowtail   Now those two are big, showy and in your face ( in the case of the Emperor quite literally).  No, the Orange-tip (Anthocharis cardamines) is small, dainty and goes about it’s business in a random and haphazard sort of way.  If it was to appear in summer it would probably be overlooked among the myriad of other butterflies.  However emerging as it does in April it is, for the butterfly lover, the harbinger of spring, the sign of good times ahead.

Sometimes you capture an image that you really like, even if it’s not perfect but then we are dealing with nature that doesn’t always like to pose! Orange-tip on lilac. Nikon D5300, Sigma 105 f2.8 macro + 1.4x converter, iso 250, f11, 1/400s, centre weighted metering

As I have mentioned the Orange-tip is small.  It has a wingspan of 1.5 – 2 inches (40 – 52mm).  The female lacks the orange but both are beautifully camouflaged on the under hindwing.  Although this looks green, when seen close up it is a mass of yellow dots on a black background.  The ability to blend in when roosting is excellent but if threatened by a predator a quick flash of that orange will give warning that it is not good to eat.  The caterpillars eat garlic mustard and lady’s smock.  Both these plants contain bitter oils which is passed through the butterfly’s life cycle.

Up close and you can see how the camouflage is made up Nikon D5300, Sigma 105 f2.8 macro + 1.4x converter, iso 200, f9, 1/2000s, spot metering

Across Europe this dainty spring sprite has names more befitting to it’s beauty.  The old English name was lady of the wood, in France ‘LAurore’ the rising sun and in Germany ‘Aurorafalter’ sunrise butterfly.  So this innocent creature can’t possibly have a dark side?  A few skeletons in the cupboard?  Well yes.  The eggs are laid singularly on the food plant and for good reason. When they hatch if the caterpillar happens upon a smaller brother or sister, well, they’re lunch!  They are cannibalistic!


This April has been the sunniest on record.  Though we have often had an easterly wind so it’s not always been warm.  The last two days we have had some much needed rain.  In a normal year I would see this butterfly in woodland rides, on riverbanks and along verges.  However this has not been a normal year and those places are more or less ‘out of bounds’ and I have had to be content with seeing the ‘OT’ in and around my garden.  As Countries start to ease restrictions be even more careful, stay safe!

64 thoughts on “Orange-tip. Butterfly of Spring

  1. This is a real beauty and beautifully photographed as always.
    Some restrictions were lifted from today but my missus is a bit paranoid and refused to let me go for my morning jog around our suburb.
    ”Run round the garden! The cats and dog do, so why can’t you?’ Sheesh! Wimmin!

    Liked by 2 people

    1. Thanks Ark. Hasn’t been as strict here as in SA but could be a few weeks before we see any relaxation of the lockdown but roads seem busier as more people get a bit fed up not going out.


  2. Beautiful captures of beautiful subjects in beautiful settings. The only butterfluff I’ve seen down here all season was just yer basic cabbage white. Only about three of those, all season.

    Liked by 1 person

      1. You are using the wrong wish words! No, there have been times I’ve dived into some nasty scrub after a shot and suffered. Butterflies may look innocent but they can be right little devils!

        Liked by 1 person

  3. Echoing others – gorgeous shots. We should have some here on the Mendocino coast, but I’ve never seen them. Cabbage and Margined whites, sulphurs, yes. We’re still in lockdown, although restrictions may ease the end of the month. We intend to act as though it were still on. Don’t think we’ll really be out of the darkness for a while. Be well.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Ah Tish I can not give away the magic formula! Seriously, as I tell others it’s timing. There is a period when all butterflies will settle, you just have to be patient and recognise that moment. Bit geeky but it keeps me sane during lockdown!

      Liked by 1 person

  4. Sehr schöne Fotos .Es ist nicht immer einfach, diese unruhigen Falter zu fotografieren. Man muß Glück oder sehr viel Geduld haben, sie dann zu erwischen wenn die sich mal absetzen. Häufig fliegen sie sofort wieder auf . 👍👍👍

    Liked by 1 person

  5. Superb, Brian!
    I don’t think we have anything similar here. Love that underwing camouflage.

    Hopefully, things will be improving to the point where we’ll soon be trying to capture a bit of spring before she leaves completely.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. There are a few species of Orange-tip in the US but I’m not sure of the distribution Wally.
      I think over here spring is written off as in visiting other areas. I also think summer is looking unlikely. We had so many plans and one by one they are being binned. Next week we were due to visit our daughter in Berlin, not sure when we will get another chance I doubt it will be this year. Difficult to keep cheerful at times.


      1. Looks like I will have to go north to see this beauty. A few sightings of Falcate Orange-tip (Anthocharis medea) have been reported in northwest Florida. Your photographs may motivate me to make a road-trip next spring!

        Liked by 1 person

  6. Absolutely amazing images Brian and very interesting to read and learn something new about these butterflies. Here on the island I’ve only spotted a very few so far, most probably I’m on the wrong place at the wrong time.
    Take care and have a lovely weekend. 🌞

    Liked by 1 person

  7. Brian- Sorry I didn’t get to this until today been busy in my garden and volunteer garden. These images are stunning!! All I have seen as far as butterflies here are the small white ones that seem to lay their eggs on my rose bush and lettuce. I hate to destroy the eggs but… there is always a butt… I need to eat the lettuce and they do look unsightly on the rose bush. Be safe restocking at work! Kill off all those who are stupid and don’t maintain distances as if they come across the channel I will have to do that myself and not really in the mood for killing these days. Thanks! 😊

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Hi CJ we’ve been out in the garden as well and it’s looking good after the rains
      I don’t know of any butterflies that lay eggs on roses, lettuce yes, so that’s got me stumped.
      50% of people keep clear for the others I step aside and give them an exasperated look. Seems the longer this lockdown goes on the more people are becoming complacent.
      Don’t think anyone will be coming across the channel anytime soon (except migrants heading this way). We should have been going to Berlin next week to see the Lemming, not sure when that will happen now. Sad times.


      1. How is the Lemming doing? I hear that lock down there is a bit stricter. This has got everyone’s travel plans messed up. I really don’t feel one onze if sadness for the grumpy old guy who lives next to us, his grandkids live here, his kid lives here. What does he have to be upset about? A neighbor that has chickens, who needs chickens to deal with my feelings about not seeing my children a ocean away in a country with crappy healthcare and the village idiot running the country. Nope… some people are just never happy and some can sing in a pile of poo.

        Liked by 1 person

      2. The kid’s been struggling a bit financially though we have helped out a little. She wants to be a big girl and live in a foreign land the least she and her boyfriend can do is learn the lingo so they can claim benefits!
        Very head strong like her mum and dad. Good news is the Ramones museum she works in is about to re-open so she will have a little income.
        Some people are born grumpy and can be right A* holes. Best approach is to just smile and be polite, keeps them on edge and confused!


      3. Yup! Kindness kills!!!

        I know all about stubbornness and it being inherited, seems our Gray/Watts/DeWolf/Houtilling is a stubborn mix of English/Irish/Scots/Dutch! So can totally relate to independent girl. Good to know she is doing well. Good parents never have to worry but do anyway.😊

        Liked by 1 person

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