Where to look
The orange tip is found throughout the UK, apart from the north of Scotland. It is found in a wide variety of habitats and is a commonly seen butterfly. It is often found in damp locations such as along riverbanks and damp grassland, but is also seen along road verges, hedgerows, woodland margins and woodland rides. It is also often seen in gardens. The most commonly used larval foodplants are cuckooflower (also known as lady’s-smock) and garlic mustard. Less commonly used are charlock, hairy rock-cress, hedge mustard, large bitter-cress, turnip and winter-cress.
When to look
The orange tip has one generation per year. They are one of the first butterflies to emerge in the year, being recorded around beginning of April and so often considered a sign of the arrival of spring. Adults are on the wing until the middle of June. Caterpillars grow quickly and develop into pupae in late summer which over winter and emerge as adults the following April.
What to look for
Males and females differ in appearance. Both are medium-sized white butterflies with a green mottling on the underside of their wings which provides excellent camouflage when they are at rest with their wings closed amongst vegetation. Females have small black wing tips whereas males have large bright orange wing tips, perhaps a deterrent to potential predators. This makes males very easily recognizable but means females are easily confused with other white species. We are, therefore, only asking you to record males in this survey. Although this may reduce the number of records we receive slightly, it is likely to result in data we can be more confident in as males are very unlikely to be misidentified.
What the data will tell us
Information about where the species have been seen will tell us whether the distribution of these species changes over time. This is why giving an accurate location of your sighting is important.
Information about the date these butterflies were seen will also tell us whether the timing of events is changing in response to climate change. There is evidence that the emergence times of all of these species are getting earlier as temperatures increase.
Illustration (c) Chris Shields