The earlier pictures were taken on my wee compact Canon ixus 970IS, which involved sneaking up on the butterflies. This can be very frustrating when they fly off, but very rewarding when they don't!

Since 2012 I have been using a Panasonic Lumix FZ150, which allows me to zoom in to the butterflies from a couple of metres away.

Tuesday, 12 June 2018

Orange Tip - Anthocharis cardamines

Following on from my posts about caterpillars that I had observed through to being butterflies last year, here is the story of some Orange Tips from this year.

Last July I was working on an old railway that is now a walkway and cycle path. I noticed a number of dried up Garlic Mustard seed heads along the edge of the path. I checked the seed heads and managed to spot two Orange Tip chrysalises.

The chrysalises are beautifully camouflaged and look just like a thorn, or part of the seed head.

I realised later that the plants along the edge of the path are cut back each year, so the next time I was there I found three chrysalises on the plants which would have been cut and took them away with me.

The seed heads with the chrysalises attached lived in my garage over the winter, next to the window. 

Every couple of weeks I would spray them with water to stop them drying out. I wasn't sure if this was necessary, but my reasoning was that if they were outside they would have been rained on, so I thought it was necessary.

Towards the end of April, I noticed that one of the chrysalises had started to change colour, showing the wing pattern of the butterfly. The other two chrysalises also changed shortly afterwards, revealing that they were all going to be boys!

On 29th April the first butterfly emerged, over nine months since I collected the chrysalis. The next butterfly emerged on 30th April and the third one emerged on 1st May. Although, yet again, I didn't see the butterflies emerge, two of them were waiting for me when I arrived home from work. The top of the container was left unzipped for them, but they appeared to be quite happy just sitting on the side of it.

It was good to know that I had helped three butterflies to survive, that would otherwise have been mashed up by a mower!

I planted a Garlic Mustard plant in a pot in the garden this year and I was delighted to see an egg on it on 19th May. I can't say when it was laid, but it was orange meaning that it was at least a day old.

On the 1st June I noticed a small caterpillar on the plant, which had probably hatched the previous day and today when I was searching for it, I noticed that there are two caterpillars on the plant, each on different flower stems.

And so the cycle continues!!


  1. Well done Nick for increasing your local population of this delightful species. Whilst we get an occasional visitor to our garden it is a rarity on my transect with only one female seen earlier this year.

    1. Thanks Frank. I think they need all the help they can get, particularly with the amount of chemicals the farmers around here spray around the place! I am so pleased that we had a decent number of Orange Tips around this year. If not, I would have seen hardly anything on my transect

  2. Wow you are so successful with your metamorphosis. You are very patient, i can't imagine the 9 moths caring and observing! Those are lovely butterflies and i am glad you have helped them through their cycle assuring the continuity of the species, at least for now.
    In my yard i always see Scarlet Mormon larvae which i always observe on weekends. Out of 3 larvae from 3 citrus trees only one became close to pupation, even got pictures. Then the next weekend i can't find it anymore, i guess those birds got it. The other 2 larvae got parasitized, and i saw 2 abnormal structures with holes at the back. Maybe that is the area where the wasp parasite emerged! I am sad for our Scarlet Mormon.

    1. Hi Andrea, I have been very lucky the last few times. I have a couple of mesh cages that I keep the caterpillars in, usually, which protect them from predators. I did notice last night that my Orange Tip caterpillars have disappeared. I am not sure if they have formed chrysalises or become bird food. I will need to have a good look for them at the weekend.
      It is always disappointing when caterpillars or chrysalises are parasitized. I have had that happen several times in the past.

  3. I can't believe how well the chrysalises is camouflaged. It's also so different the inside from the outside of the butterfly. It's a whole different wing pattern on each side.

    1. Hi Maria,
      Yes, the chrysalis is a marvel of evolution. I spent years looking for them. Once I found my first one I have been able to spot a few more, but it is certainly not easy. The camouflage on the underside of the Orange Tip's wings is also fantastic. When it perches on Garlic Mustard plants it looks just like a little bunch of white flowers. And I love the markings on the top side of the wings - so bright and cheerful.