Species in Focus

Call for sightings.

  • Female Orange-tip
  • Female Orange-tip
  • Male Orange-tip

Common nameOrange-tip
Scientific nameAnthocharis cardamines (Linnaeus, 1758)
Irish nameBarr Buí

The Orange-tip is the one of 34 species of butterfly found in Ireland. One formal conservation assessment has been done for the species (Ireland’s Red List No. 4: Butterflies (Regan, E.C. et al., 2010)) and this concluded that the species is least concern in Ireland.

The adult male Orange-tip is one of Ireland’s most distinctive butterflies. The vivid orange patch on the white wings makes the males of this species unmistakable. The adult females, however, lack the orange patch and can be confused with the Green-veined White and Small White butterflies. The distinctive characteristic is the green marbling on the under wing which is present in both sexes.

The eggs are orange, 0.5mm wide and 1.2mm high with prominent longitudinal ribs. Eggs are easily found on the food plants and are visible at a distance of a metre. The caterpillar is 29-32mm in length with a bright bluish-green body and can be found from late May to early July, spending the winter as a pupa (Nash et al. 2012).

The main food plants of the caterpillar are Cuckooflower, Water-cress and Garlic Mustard. Other crucifers such as Hairy Bitter-cress and Dame’s violets are also used. The adults fly in April, May and June and are common and widespread throughout Ireland, preferring habitats of hedgerows, wet pastures, roadsides and gardens.

The UK population trend for this species is classed as stable although it was been spreading throughout Scotland (Botham et al. 2013). In Ireland, the species has been assessed as least concern (Regan, et al., 2010), however loss of habitat (including wet grassland) and nectar resources would undoubtedly affect this species.

A widespread species, occurring from the Iberian Peninsula through nearly all Europe and across temperate Asia to China (Kudrna et al., 2011). 64,307 records of this species are mapped on the Global Biodiversity Information Facility data portal. The distribution map is particularly incomplete for this species as the Russian Federation is not a member of GBIF.

As of beginning of April 2013, there were 4,179 records of the Orange-tip on Biodiversity Maps. The records are from April, May, June and a small number from July, coinciding with its adult flight period. Records are available for 665 10km squares. The earliest record in the database is from 1976.

The National Biodiversity Data Centre is trying to improve our knowledge on the distribution of the Orange-tip in Ireland. Should you observe an Orange-tip please submit your sighting to the database. Detailed observations will assist us gaining a better insight into where Orange-tip are most abundant in Ireland. Please submit any sightings and photographs. All records submitted on line can be viewed on Google Maps below – once checked and validated these will be added to the Butteflies of Ireland Database and made available for conservation and research.

Please submit any sightings by clicking on the "Submit" button.

The following map is interactive. If you would prefer to view it full screen then click here.

For further information on the Orange-tip see:

  • Botham, M.S., Brereton, T. M., Middlebrook, I., Randle, Z. & Roy, D.B. (2013) United Kingdom Butterfly Monitoring Scheme report for 2011. Centre for Ecology & Hydrology, United Kingdom.
  • Kudrna, O., Harpke, A., Lux, K., Pennersoft, J., Schweiger, O., Settele, J. & Wiemers, M. (2011) Distribution atlas of butterflies in Europe. Gesellschaft für Schmetterlingsschutz, Halle, Germany.
  • Nash, D., Boyd, T. & Hardiman, D. (2012) Ireland’s Butterflies: A Review. The Dublin Naturalists’ Field Club, Dublin, Ireland.
  • Regan, E.C., Nelson, B., Aldwell, B., Bertrand, C., Bond, K., Harding, J., Nash, D., Nixon, D. & Wilson, C.J. (2010) Ireland Red List No. 4: Butterflies. National Parks and Wildlife Service, Dublin, Ireland.

For further information contact Dr. Liam Lysaght (llysaght@biodiversityireland.ie).