Sunday 18th April 2021
This week saw our first sighting of an Orange Tip butterfly fluttering along the side of the river. They are one of my favourite butterflies as it indicates the warmer, longer days are here and summer is not far off. Our damp boggy fields are an ideal habitat and support a large colony.
They fly from late March to June depending on weather conditions. This butterfly lives in damp meadows, ditches, woodlands and hedgerows as this is where the caterpillars food plants grow, cuckoo-flower, garlic mustard and many other plants in the mustard family.
Orange Tips are a very common butterfly, the male has the distinctive orange tipped wings which the females lack so they are not so easily recognised and can be mistaken for Small Whites.
The under wings of both sexes have dappled dark green patterns with black scaling this gives excellent camouflage when the butterfly is at rest.
The females lay single barrel-shaped, grooved eggs on the underside of leaves and flowers of the food plant. The eggs take around 14 days to hatch and change from yellow/white when first laid to orange and then grey just before they hatch. The caterpillars are blue-green with small black dots and broad white stripe. It takes about 5 weeks for them to become fully grown when they change into a narrow, curved, green or brownish chrysalis attached by a girdle to a plant stem. Here it hibernates over winter emerging as an adult the following spring.