Thursday 2 May 2024

Mr and Mrs Orange-tip.

 Orange-tip butterflies have always seemed much more numerous in West Sussex, than East Sussex. This is probably down to the mowing culture of the different councils, as well as the West being more wooded. Certainly, when Lisa and I visited Ebernoe Common, it was very evident how many more Orange-tips were flying there, so with me visiting West Sussex more this year, I was hoping to actually get more photos than usual of them.

Strangely though, all of my better shots this year of Orange-tips have come from East Sussex. I have always wanted to get shots of the male and female together, and that opportunity came a couple of weeks ago on a cold breezy day. Not ideal for photographing butterflies, accept that when they are asleep they do at least keep still. With the light being so poor I did take quite a few shots to make sure I had some without wind shake and hopefully good focus. In the end I managed around 6 acceptable images that I was really pleased with. Just before the 2nd shot below, the sun almost came out, and that was enough to wake the male up enough for him to show a hint of orange.

Orange-tip pair. (female on left).

A few days later, and I was meeting Nigel in Abbotts Wood. It was only a few days earlier that we had been chatting about how unusual it was to see some types of butterflies mating, and how good it would be to see Orange-tips mating. I can only remember seeing it once, and that was in France!! Nigel too, had only seen it once, several years ago. Anyway, there I was walking to the area where we were meeting, I had already stopped and listened, and seen Nightingales, so I was feeling good about life. I then spotted 2 'white' butterflies about 50 metres ahead of me around a patch of Bluebells. They then descended together and I wondered if it was a pair of Green-veined White or Orange-tip possibly going to mate. By the time I had got to them and seen that they were indeed Orange-tips, they were already attached, sitting in a very nice position on top of a Bluebell. I now just hoped Nigel would hurry up and arrive. Moments later, my phone rang, and it was Nigel saying he was on his way. When I explained what I was looking at, he told me he had just had a mating pair near where he had parked his car!! Anyway, he was then able to see my pair as well, so he had seen 2 mating pairs in around 10 minutes!!

We both took many photos of my pair, and also from both sides. I actually prefer the ones looking into the sun as it really shows off the orange tips to the males' wings.

Mating Orange-tips on Bluebell.

The same pair looking into the light.

Another male Orange-tip hoping to get into the action.

A few more days later and I get lucky again with another male Orange-tip. This time on my local patch, and this time on Garlic Mustard, that this year has been growing in enormous quantities. It was a dullish day, but warm and muggy. The butterfly was awake, but with only a little bit of occasional sun, it wasn't too active. I had taken a few images, when it suddenly showed some of its forewing and a lovely flash of orange.

Male Orange-tip on Garlic Mustard.


  1. My favourite British butterfly. After a really dreadful spring Orange Tips have only just started to appear up here. I have a few chrysalises I found when gardening and I have kept them in a mesh cage under the roof outside. I had two males emerge yesterday and a female today. It flew off at lunchtime, only for it to start raining heavily five minutes later. I noticed she landed on some grass near the pond and after the thunder storm had passed I found she hadn't moved. Because of the forecast tomorrow, I put her back in the cage under cover and will open it up as soon as the sun returns!!

  2. My favourite too ! Fab pics !

  3. It's difficult not to love an Orange-tip!! Thanks both.