Orange tip

This pretty spring species is fairly common and widespread in the New Forest. It is also common in the rest of Hampshire and throughout the UK.

Orange tips wander widely, but are more often seen in woods and shady areas. The females will only lay eggs on flowering lady’s smock or garlic mustard.  Suitable food plants are recognised first by sight and then by chemically sensitive cells on her feet. She can even detect if a different female has already laid an egg on that plant and will move on.

Seeing the adults is quite easy: just choose a sunny day in April or May and wander about in one of the New Forest’s deciduous woodlands. Keen observers may also be able to find the eggs of this species by searching isolated plants of lady’s smock in sunny positions within about a metre of a hedge or woodland edge. If you look among the flower buds in April or May you will often find a bright orange, spindle-shaped egg.

ID tip – Male orange tips are unmistakable, being white with a bright orange tip to the wing. Females lack the orange, but can be separated from other white butterflies by the green marbling on the underside of the hindwing. This is easily visible if the butterfly sits still for a few seconds.

How you can help: Landowners can help orange tips by leaving meadows with lady’s smock uncut until mid-July, by which time the caterpillars have left the food plants to pupate in nearby scrub.

Photo credit: Pete Eeles
  1. Butterflies
  2. Brimstone
  3. Brown butterflies: meadow brown, gatekeeper & ringlet
  4. Grayling
  5. Orange tip (you are here)
  6. Pearl-bordered & small pearl-bordered fritillary
  7. Silver-studded blue
  8. Silver-washed fritillary
  9. Speckled wood
  10. White admiral


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