Orangetip: All You Need to Know for Butterfly Enthusiasts

The Falcate Orangetip is a small, captivating butterfly that can be found fluttering in woodlands and meadows across the eastern United States. Known for its distinctive coloration and markings, observing this butterfly can truly be a delightful experience. Males of this species are particularly striking, boasting white wings with a hint of orange at the tip, giving them their name Falcate Orangetip.

These tiny creatures have a wingspan ranging from 1¼ to 1¾ inches, making them easy to spot but challenging to follow as they weave through their environment. The underside of their wings is heavily marbled with a gray-green pattern, while the upper surface of the forewing is white with a black border Falcate Orangetip – Alabama Butterfly Atlas. Though these butterflies may appear delicate, their presence can provide valuable insight into ecosystem health and serve as an essential part of their habitat’s natural balance.

Orangetip Butterflies: Overview and Identification

Orangetip butterflies are a group of small and colorful butterflies known for their distinctive orange-tipped wings. They can be found in various regions, including the UK, where some species are resident.

Male vs Female Characteristics

Males and females of Orangetip butterflies display certain differences in appearance:

  • Males: Typically have the prominent orange tips on the forewings
  • Females: Usually lack the orange tips, and instead have white or grayish wingtips

One common example is the Falcate Orangetip, where only males have an orange forewing “tip.”

Wingspan and Coloration

Orangetip butterflies typically have a wingspan of 1¼ – 1¾ inches (3.2 – 4.4 cm). Their color patterns can vary between species and individuals. Common features include:

  • White upper surface on the forewings, oftentimes accompanied by a black border
  • Gray-green marbled pattern on the underside of the hindwings
  • Orange, white, or grayish tips on the forewings, depending on the sex and species

Distribution and Local Sightings

Many Orangetip species can be found across different habitats, such as woodlands, grasslands, and wetlands. They are known to be active during spring and summer seasons. Some species, like the Sara Orange-Tip, are common in foothill and lower montane habitats but rarely encountered in central valleys.

To identify and report local sightings, enthusiasts can often consult regional butterfly atlases or join local butterfly monitoring projects.

Life Cycle and Biology

Egg Stage

Orangetip butterflies lay their eggs on host plants. The eggs are:

  • Typically round or oval-shaped
  • White or pale green in color

After a week or so, the eggs hatch, and the larvae emerge.

Larvae and Caterpillars

The larvae of Orangetip butterflies are caterpillars. They have:

  • A green or grayish body
  • A distinctive pattern of stripes

These caterpillars feed on the host plants, eventually growing and molting several times.

Pupa and Chrysalis

When fully grown, Orangetip caterpillars enter the pupa stage by transforming into a chrysalis. Features include:

  • Brown or green coloration
  • Well-camouflaged on plants

During this stage, they undergo metamorphosis and emerge as adult butterflies.

Predators and Survival

Orangetip butterflies face various predators such as:

  • Birds
  • Spiders
  • Parasitic wasps

To survive, they rely on their camouflaged appearance and rapid flight.

Stage Predators
Egg Insects, birds
Larvae & Caterpillars Insects, birds, spiders
Pupa & Chrysalis Insects, birds, spiders, parasitic wasps
Adult Butterfly Birds, spiders

Habitat and Food Sources

Spring Woodlands and Meadows

Orangetip butterflies are often found in spring woodlands and meadows. These habitats offer an abundance of their preferred food and host plants. Examples of such environments include:

  • Open forests
  • Grassy fields
  • Early spring gardens

Host Plants and Nectar Sources

Orangetip butterflies rely on specific host plants for laying their eggs and feeding their larvae. Some common host plants include:

  • Cuckooflower (Cardamine pratensis)
  • Garlic Mustard (Alliaria petiolata)

These butterflies also seek nectar sources to fuel their flight and reproduction. They often feed on:

  • Flowers from the Brassicaceae family
  • Spring-blooming wildflowers

Common Crucifers and Mustards

Orangetip butterflies mainly feed on common crucifers (Brassicaceae family) and mustards. Crucifers offer essential nutrition for their larvae, while mustards provide nectar for adults. Examples of these plants:

  • Arabidopsis thaliana
  • Sinapis alba

Comparison Table

Habitat Host Plants Nectar Sources
Spring Woodland Cuckooflower (Cardamine pratensis) Brassicaceae family flowers
Meadow Garlic Mustard (Alliaria petiolata) Spring-blooming wildflowers

In conclusion, understanding the habitat and food sources of the Orangetip butterfly is essential for their conservation and appreciation. A healthy environment with a diverse range of host plants and nectar sources ensures the survival and prosperity of these beautiful creatures.

Plants and Flowers Associated with Orangetips

Garlic Mustard and Cuckooflower

Orangetip butterflies can often be found in areas where plants like Garlic Mustard (Alliaria petiolata) and Cuckooflower (Cardamine pratensis) grow. These plants provide:

  • Essential nectar sources for adult butterflies
  • Ideal locations for laying eggs
  • Rich food source for caterpillars

Hedge Mustard and Toothwort

Hedge Mustard (Sisymbrium officinale) and Toothwort (Cardamine concatenata) are other vital plants for Orangetips. These plants offer:

  • Suitable egg-laying grounds
  • Nutrients for the growth and development of caterpillars

Smooth Rockcress and Rock Cresses

Rock Cresses, including Smooth Rockcress (Arabis laevigata), provide an excellent habitat for Orangetips because:

  • They are often found in areas with ample sunshine
  • Attractive nectar sources for adult Orangetips
  • Support the growth of larvae

Comparison of plant features:

Plant Features
Garlic Mustard – Biennial herb
– White flowers
Cuckooflower – Perennial herb
– Pale purple flowers
Hedge Mustard – Annual herb
– Yellow flowers
Toothwort – Perennial herb
– White to pale pink flowers
Smooth Rockcress – Biennial or perennial herb
– White to pink flowers
Other Rock Cresses – Perennial herbs
– Various colored flowers

By considering these vital plant species and their characteristics, understanding the relationship between Orangetips and their preferred plants becomes clearer, contributing to the conservation of these unique butterflies.

Species of Orangetips

Anthocharis Cardamines

The Anthocharis Cardamines, also known as the Orange-tip butterfly, belongs to the Pieridae family. It is mainly found in:

  • Europe
  • North Africa
  • Asia

Notable features include:

  • Males have white wings with orange tips
  • Females have white wings with black tips
  • Both have patterned undersides

Anthocharis Midea

Anthocharis Midea, or the Falcate Orangetip, is part of the Pieridae family. It is predominantly observed in eastern North America.

Characteristic features:

  • Wingspan: 1¼ – 1¾ inches (3.2 – 4.4 cm)
  • Heavily marbled gray-green pattern on hindwing undersides
  • Males have orange forewing tips

Falcate Orangetips

Falcate Orangetips are small, white butterflies with distinct orange wingtips in males. The size of the orange patch can vary.

Key characteristics:

  • Hooked (falcate) forewings
  • Black spots along wing margins and forewing centers
  • Green marbling on ventral hindwing and forewing tips
Feature Anthocharis Cardamines Anthocharis Midea
Family Pieridae Pieridae
Wingspan Varies, smaller than Midea 1¼ – 1¾ inches (3.2 – 4.4 cm)
Colors Males: white with orange tips; Females: white with black tips White with gray-green marbling and orange tips in males

Conservation and Citizen Science Efforts

Orangetip butterflies are eye-catching insects that many nature enthusiasts enjoy observing. The importance of their conservation has led to various efforts.

Citizen science plays a crucial role in understanding and protecting these butterflies. By engaging in citizen science projects, the public can contribute to Orangetip research.

One way to support conservation is through sightings. Local observation and recording of Orangetip butterflies help scientists track population changes and distribution.

Efforts such as these are essential for the survival of Orangetip butterflies. As a result, both scientists and local communities can work together to protect and conserve these fascinating creatures.

Pros of engaging in citizen science efforts for Orangetip conservation:

  • Boosts scientific research on local populations
  • Raises awareness about the importance of Orangetip butterflies

Cons:

  • Requires time and resources to participate in the projects
  • Observations may not always be accurate

Reader Emails

Over the years, our website, whatsthatbug.com has received hundreds of letters and some interesting images asking us about these insects. Scroll down to have a look at some of them.

Letter 1 – Courting Orange Tips

 

Spring in Full Swing!
Hello Daniel and Lisa,
04-21-11    At first I thought these butterflies were Spring Azures, then maybe Cabbage Whites, but neither of those have scallop-edged wings. Can you help me?
04-22-11    The moths were plentiful this morning on the wall under the safety light, and…watched a bird, think it was an Eastern Phoebe, having a snack or two as it flapped up and down the wall. (no photo available)
04-23-11    This morning, I was told by a couple of very early risers, a raccoon was climbing on that wall, holding on with three paws while scooping the moths into its mouth with the fourth! (again, no photo available :'( )
04-27-11    I believe this is a Bent-line Gray Moth, Iridopsis larvaria…
Hoping your Easter, holiday adventure was safe and happy,
R.G. Marion
Sevier County, TN
Great Smoky Mountains

Courting Orange Tips

Dear R.G.,
We absolutely love your photograph of the positively salacious behavior of the courting OrangeTips.  The female has her abdomen raised and she is quite possibly releasing pheromones into the air which have attracted the fluttering male with the sexually dimorphic namesake orange tips.  We are uncertain of the species, but an excellent candidate is the Falcate Orangetip,
Anthocharis midea, which ranges all around Tennessee and is profiled on bugGuide.  It is the only Eastern species profiled on BugGuide.  We love this photo so much we are going to feature it.

Wow! Thanx!  I’m so pleased that you liked the photo of the “Courting” Orange Tips.  I do get lucky once in a while.
Since there hasn’t been a sighting reported in Tennessee according to the link that you included, I was wondering if it is possible that they were blown this way by all the storms we’ve been having here in the Southeast this month?  Do things like that happen in the fragile-bug world?  Or did I really get lucky?  Just curious…
R.G. Marion

Hi Again R.G.,
Since the OrangeTips were reported from all surrounding states, it is fair to assume that they are also found in Tennessee, but that there have just not been any submissions to bugGuide.

Letter 2 – Falcate Orangetip

 

Need help identifying this butterfly
Wed, Mar 25, 2009 at 6:08 PM I was out in the yard this evening here in Brackettville, Texas (southwest Texas) when this butterfly landed on the fence. I didn’t see it with its wings open. It seemed fairly small to me, not much bigger than an American Snout. I thought it must be some type of Sulphur because of the coloring but I’ve been looking around online for two hours and haven’t seen anything that looks like it. Thank you!
Genie
Brackettville, Tx

Falcate Orangetip
Falcate Orangetip

Dear Genie,
We quickly identified your Falcate Orangetip, Anthocheris midea, in our Butterflies Through Binoculars:  The West book by Jeffrey Glassberg.  The hooked forewing apex is quite unique.  We then tried to find images online to link to.  Jeff’s Nature Page has gorgeous images of this lovely butterfly, but only one showed the closed wing pose of your individual.  The Lens Flare website has a lovely image of a mated pair.  BugGuide indicates that the adults take nectar from spring flowers like Spring Beauty, and the caterpillars feed on plants in the mustard family.

Letter 3 – Great Orange Tip Butterfly: Photographed at the Krohn Conservatory

 

pic for your website
March 1, 2010
just thought i would send a pic that i took of a cool hebomoia glaucippe aturia or orange tip butterfly for you to post on your site. been usin the site since i was 5 and im 16 now and it hasn’t let me down yet.
josh “scorpion” smith
cincinnati ohio

Great Orange Tip

Hi again Josh,
We are still gushing about your initial comment, and it is positively making our night.  We have maintained from the very beginning that everybody wants to know “What’s That Bug?” when they encounter a strange creature, and we have always tried to maintain a very family oriented website that parents and teachers would allow children to browse.  We are also very thrilled to post your great photo because Orange Tips are not commonly submitted to our site.  The Angelfire website indicates that this species is Asian.  Did you take this photo in the vicinity of Malaysia, or was it photographed at a butterfly pavilion?

i took that pic at the krohn conservatory butterfly show that they show every year. i will send some more great pics if i go this year.

Letter 4 – Orange Tip and Peacock

 

Hello from Scotland
Dear Bugman,
Wow, what a fun website. I’m an Kentuckian living in Scotland. I thought I’d send you pictures of two of the most lovely and most plentiful butterflies from over here, The Orange Tip (Anthocharis cardamines) and the Peacock (Inachis io). It is easy to tell which is which. Here’s my question: Is there a new world type of Orange Tip? I feel like I’ve seen very similar looking butterflies in Central Kentucky.
Thanks a million!
-Drew Hammond

Hi Drew,
Thanks for sending your photos. Yes, there are several species of Orange Tips, also in the genus Anthocharis, in the new world.

Letter 5 – Orangetip

 

Butterfly
Greetings
While walking a trail at Lake Hodges in Escondido, Ca. I observed this small butterfly, about 3/4 of an inch wing span. I have walked this trail many times and never seen this butterfly before. Hopefully you will be able to identify it for me. Thanks.
Harold

Hi Harold,
This pretty little butterfly is an Orangetip, most probably a Sara Orangetip, Anthocharis sara.

Letter 6 – Orangetip

 

large and beautiful butterfly
Location: Yakima, WA
April 28, 2011 9:00 am
I am unfamiliar with this striking butterfly but because it is so large and beautiful, it must be easy to track down. My friends seem to think I know this stuff. They’re calling it a moth, but it holds it’s wings at rest like a butterfly. Hope you can follow this link:
http://www.facebook.com/#!/photo.php?fbid=1726393562934&set=a.1726331241376.2088000.1331261297&type=1&theater
Signature: Paul Huffman

Orangetip

Hi Paul,
What a beautiful Orangetip in the genus
Anthocharis.  We are uncertain what species it is, but there are some nice photos on BugGuide.

Letter 7 – OrangeTip from Ireland

 

Butterfly
April 26, 2010
Found this butterfly on a Magnolia leaf on 24 April 2010 . Can’t seem to find a photo of anything that looks like it apart from a green veined Butterfly?
Bugsie
Eastcoast (Wicklow) Ireland.

Orangetip

Hi Bugsie,
We haven’t the time to research the exact species at this moment, but this is an Orangetip, possibly genus Anthocharis, from the family Pieridae, the Whites and Sulphurs.

Update
Immediately upon returning from work today, we did the necessary research, and quickly identified the Orangetip as Anthocharis cardamines on the UK Butterflies website.

Authors

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  • Bugman

    Bugman aka Daniel Marlos has been identifying bugs since 1999. whatsthatbug.com is his passion project and it has helped millions of readers identify the bug that has been bugging them for over two decades. You can reach out to him through our Contact Page.

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  • Piyushi Dhir

    Piyushi is a nature lover, blogger and traveler at heart. She lives in beautiful Canada with her family. Piyushi is an animal lover and loves to write about all creatures.

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1 thought on “Orangetip: All You Need to Know for Butterfly Enthusiasts”

  1. Thank you so much for your help! I’d never have been able to identify this. The links are awesome.

    Now I wish the light had been different (it was sunset) when I shot this. You can’t see just how remarkable the coloring is. Oh well. I’m delighted to have been introduced to a new butterfly.

    Thanks again!

    Reply

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