Wednesday, April 6, 2011

Falcate Orangetip

(Photo by: Steve Scott)

This delicate-looking little butterfly is the Falcate Orangetip (Anthocharis midea) and they are found throughout the Eastern United States in open wet woodlands, near waterways, open swampy areas, and sometimes near dry wooded areas and ridge tops. They are in the family Pieridae with sulphurs and whites.This butterfly is often considered the harbinger of spring because they are one of the first butterflies to be seen early in the spring. They typically fly low to the ground in their woodland habitats.
This butterfly was first described in 1809 by Jacob Hubner. They are found only in North America and are most common in Texas and Oklahoma. This butterfly was first described in 1809 by Jacob Hubner. They are found only in North America and are most common in Texas and Oklahoma.

Orangetips are easy to identify with their distinctive orange tips (males) on their all white wings; females lack the orange tips (typically). They are small with a wingspan up to 1 3/4 inches. The underside of their wings is heavily marbled with a greenish tint.

Males will patrol for receptive females, and once mated the female will lay her eggs singly on the leaves of plants  in the mustard family. These include winter cress, and rock cress. Females, like many butterfly species have the ability to detect if other eggs are present on a particular plant, and she will lay her eggs elsewhere. The caterpillars feed mostly at night on the seed pods, flower buds and flowers of the host plants.

(Photo by: Dave Wagner--taken from Discover Life website)

The adults of this species nectar at a wide variety of flowers and tend to be very easy to approach and will tolerate humans more so than most butterflies. A good friend of mine wrote this verse about Falcate Orangetips and I thought I would share it with you.

Falcate Orangetip

The caterpillars stay out of sight
Feeding at night aids obscurity
Adults look for mates while the time is right.
Neither gets social security.

                                             By: Richard Lewin

Each year I am on the lookout for this species and I have yet to find it.        

                                       Maybe this will be my year!


  1. You need to come see me. Falcate orangetips are everywhere right now. I saw twelve within a space of about 15 feet yesterday when I was walking one of our trails.

  2. I would LOVE to come see you....or your butterflies...LOL I am envious that you have so many of these little beauties.

  3. Lovely speciman. I have seen two Pearl Cresents today and a Mourning Cloak yesterday.

  4. Thanks Steve, but I can't take credit for the photos. I have seen two little blue butterflies today but couldn't get anywhere near them for a photo

  5. Hello there!

    We just moved to Kansas City from Idaho last November, and we are enjoying so much all of the variety of bugs and critters here! I'll be sure to bookmark your blog and use it for our nature studies in homeschool.

    Thanks for providing such a great resource.



  6. Welcome to Missouri Marqueta. Springtime in Missouri is so beautiful, and living in KC you have so many wonderful parks, conservation areas, lakes and other natural places to visit. Be sure to visit Burr Oak Woods in Blue Springs, if you haven't already. They do wonderful nature related programs for children and offer themed programs for homeschool children. If you have any questions be sure to email me.

  7. Shelly,
    I know NOTHING about lepidoptera (and very little about odonates and coleopterans, which I prefer). HOWEVER, while sitting in my front yard on April 12, at 1345 (Douglas County, MO, 37.02795N, 92.50904W, elevation 1036'), busily and happily supporting the Missouri beer industry, I managed to catch one of these lovely little guys.

    Come on down, and you can have all you want, but YOU must furnish the beer. I have an extra lawn chair.

  8. Hope you've found one of those beauties since you wrote this. We live in the Missouri Ozarks and we've seen them for the first time this year. I posted about it on my blog. Thanks for your information, and please tell your friend I love the poem!