Have you seen an Orange-tip?

Orange-tip Anthocharis cardamines. Picture: Iain H. Leach
Orange-tip Anthocharis cardamines. Picture: Iain H. Leach

People in the south west are being asked to help a wildlife charity track one of Scotland’s most distinctive springtime butterflies – the Orange-tip.

Butterfly Conservation Scotland is marking the 20th anniversary of the first nationwide survey of this species and this year they want anyone who sees an Orange-tip to let them know by visiting www.butterfly-conservation.org/scottishorangetip

The Orange-tip is one of the few species of butterfly which seems to be doing well in recent times.

Much of this increase has been due to its spread in Scotland, as it has recently moved into more areas of the Highlands and other rural locations.

A recent study found that butterflies in urban areas are declining more rapidly than those in the countryside, so sightings from towns and cities are especially useful.

The male butterfly is very distinctive and has white wings with bright orange tips, which give the species its name. Females don’t have the orange tips, but the underside of the wings in both sexes has a mottled green appearance.

Urban Butterfly Project Officer, Anthony McCluskey, said: ‘It’s a real joy to see Orange-tips flying in so many places in the springtime. They’re only on the wing for about six weeks in May and June, so we are asking the public to keep an eye out for them now and to let us know if they see any.’

In Scotland, Orange-tips lay most of their eggs on two wildflowers. In damper places this is mainly Cuckoo-flower, also known as Lady’s Smock, but in dry places the caterpillars will feed upon Garlic Mustard.

Cuckoo-flower is a common sight along roadsides, where its pale-lilac blooms can form a mass of colour.

This survey is part of the Urban Butterfly Project, a three-year project funded by the Heritage Lottery Fund and Scottish Natural Heritage.