The Orange-tip is one of the few species of butterfly which seems to be doing well in recent times. While the 2015 ‘State of UK Butterflies’ report found that almost three quarters of UK species had declined in the past 40 years, the Orange-tip has bucked the trend and has increased in numbers, as well as colonising new areas.
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.
Record your sightings at www.butterfly-conservation.org/scottishorangetip