I know I already posted about seeing my first Orange-tip butterfly of the year (The ostentatious Orange-tip, 15 April) but, for those not familiar with this lovely springtime butterfly, I thought it might be useful to see a bit more detail. So, here is a typical male Orange-tip, from the top and the side. The speckling on the lower wings looks green but that’s an optical illusion – the colours are actually yellow and black.
And here’s a female from both angles. If you only see her from the top, you might confuse her with one of the other white butterflies, though the dark patches are different in all the whites, and the Orange-tip also has a distinctive wing shape.
I managed to find several eggs during a recent walk – the newly laid eggs are white but turn orange very quickly. You’ll find them on the caterpillar food plants: Cuckooflower, Garlic mustard and Honesty are three wildflowers this butterfly favours. And, for the first time ever, I found a caterpillar. This is a 2nd instar (i.e. stage) – the larvae proceed through 5 instars, progressively growing larger, until they are ready to pupate.
You might be wondering why I gave this post the title of ‘the Lady of the Woods’. Well, according to Peter Eeles’s superb publication Life Cycles of British & Irish Butterflies (every home should have one!), this is the name given to the Orange-tip by Benjamin Wilkes in his Twelve New Designs of English Butterflies, published in 1742.