At Mersehead the Warden lives on the reserve who is going to try and keep you updated on the wonderful wildlife they see at Mersehead during their daily walk.
The Orange-tip is found throughout the British Isles and as one of the first butterflies to emerge from a pupa after the long winter, the Orange-tip is a true herald of spring.
The male has the characteristic orange tips to the wings, whilst the white female can be slightly trickier to tell apart from other similar white butterflies such as the small white and green-veined white. A glimpse of the underwing however leaves no doubt as they display a unique mottled pattern.
Male Orange-tip. Photo credit: G.Chambers
Found across a wide range of habitats, look-out for this butterfly wandering in all directions as it searches for sources of nectar. Eggs are laid on Cuckooflower or Garlic Mustard, the foodplant of the larva. Fairly easy to find, eggs are usually laid on a flower stalk rather than a leaf and are white when first laid, gradually turning to orange.
Mottled underwing and egg on the flower stalk. Photo credit: G.Chambers
Cuckooflower. Photo credit: R.Flavelle
On hatching, the newly emerged larva, known as a 1st instar, will begin to feed on the plant. As a cannibal, it will also quickly devour any siblings or other larva. At the 1st instar stage, the larva is again orange. The larva will moult through 5 instars before building a pupa.
Orange-tip larva on cuckooflower. Photo credit: G.Chambers
Adult butterflies are on the wing during April, May and into June. Search amongst cuckooflower and garlic mustard during May and June to locate the delicate 1.2mm eggs. Larva may generally be found from mid-May through to mid-July. With 10-months spent in a pupa, the adult butterflies will emerge the following spring. I will definitely be found on hands and knees amongst the cuckooflower this year!
Rowena Flavelle, Warden
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