I make no apologies for doing another post featuring this little butterfly. Only two species have probably been aired more, the Purple Emperor https://blhphotoblog.wordpress.com/portfolio/purple-emperor-fermyn-roberts-field/ and Norfolk’s own the Swallowtail https://blhphotoblog.wordpress.com/portfolio/swallowtail-encounter/ 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.
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.
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!