In Spain, the South of France and parts of Italy, spring is
marked not just by orange tips but by this equally lovely butterfly,
the Provence Orange tip. At sea level and in the far south it flies
from as early as February - it was one of the species I saw on my
first, memorable walk around Gibraltar when I moved there the beginning
of February 1983. In the Pyrenees, on the other hand, it is still
roding the upland tracks at the end of July. Some books treat the
Provence orange tip as a subspecies of the Moroccan orange tip, Anthocharis belia, which flies in
North Africa. It is generally now considered to be a distinct species.
It is a truly delightful butterfly - the male a delicate lemon yellow,
the female white with black and rusted orange wingtips. The underside
of both sexes has rather limited green marbling on a yellowish ground.
The similar eastern orange tip, from eastern Europe and Southern Italy,
has more complete marbling on the underside. Gruner's orange tip, from
the Balkans, also has more complete marbling and less yellow on both
surfaces. There is no real possibility of confusion with either, as
their ranges do not overlap with that of the Provence orange tip.
The eggs are laid on various Biscutella
species, where the caterpillar feeds first on the flowers then the seed
heads. They pupate on dead stems of the plant and spend the winter in