Record Centre News

Cutting the Mustard

Orange-tip Anthocharis cardamines
The Orange-tip, one of our earliest non-overwintering butterflies and a sure sign Spring has arrived. Picture by PAUL MARTEN / Sussex Wildlife Trust.

One of the first signs of spring is glimpsing the unmistakable bright orange flashes of the male Orange-tip Anthocharis cardamines as it patrols along country lane verges and hedgerows looking for a female. Emerging in April they are one of our earliest non-overwintering butterflies to see, and a sure sign that blissful sunny spring days are here and butterfly recording can start in earnest.

The male butterfly is easy to spot when it is on the wing, with its vibrant orange wing tips; a wonderful sight for us but this bright colouration is thought to be a warning sign to repel predators. This bold butterfly wouldn’t make a very tasty snack due to the mustard oils which will have built up in the body when it was a caterpillar feasting on its foodplants, such as Garlic Mustard Alliaria petiolata and Cuckooflower Cardamine pratensis.

We’re looking to collect as many Orange-tip records as we can in order to fill the map of Sussex for the forthcoming Butterfly Conservation Sussex Butterfly Atlas and we’d like you to send in your records.

Drop us a line when you spot a male Orange-tip, whether it’s in your garden or in the countryside we’ll be grateful to hear from you. We’ll need your name, the date you saw it, and where you saw it, preferably an OS grid reference, and a road name and town — the more detail the better.

Please send your Orange-tip records to Penny Green pennygreen@sussexwt.org.uk or 01273 497521.