Alabama Butterfly Atlas

Butterfly: Wingspan 1 1/4 to 1 3/4 inches (3.2-4.4 cm).  A small white butterfly that is heavily marbled with a gray-green pattern on the underside of the hindwing while the upper surface of the forewing is white with a black border.  Only males have an orange forewing “tip.”

ID Tip: Look for falcate (“hooked”) forewing tips.

Egg: Bright orange, spindle-shaped egg. Laid singly on virtually any part of the host plant, but typically only one egg is laid on each plant.

Caterpillar: Green to blue/green with a yellow/orange stripe and a white lateral stripe

Chrysalis: Looks like a sharp, brown thorn.  The overwintering stage.

Falcate Orangetips are among the earliest spring fliers and punctuate the woodlands with tiny flashes of color.  When these butterflies emerge, they retain some of their host plants’ distasteful mustard oils, and are at least partially protected from predators as they flicker across the woodland floor.

Male Falcate Orangetips are often seen patrolling for females, flying just above the ground and often repeating the same route.  Females search for crucifers (mustard-family members) and typically deposit only one egg per plant.  These butterflies are univoltine (flying only one time each year).  Larvae must finish their development quickly because their host plants are spring ephemerals and quickly complete their seasonal growth.

Falcate Orangetips are not often found in Alabama's Coastal Region, but may be quite common in northern county woodlands.

Distribution and Abundance

A dot on the county map indicates that there is at least one documented record of the species within that county. In some cases, a species may be common throughout the county, in others it may be found in only a specific habitat.

The sightings bar graphs depict the timing of flight(s) within each of three geographic regions. Place your cursor on a bar within the graph to see the number of individuals recorded during that period.

The abundance calendar displays the total number of individuals recorded within each week of the month. Both the graphs and the calendar are on based data collection that began in 2000.

The records analyzed here are only a beginning. As more data is collected, these maps and graphs will paint a more accurate picture of distribution and abundance in Alabama. Submit your sightings to albutterflyatlas@gmail.com.

Sightings in the following counties: Bibb, Blount, Calhoun, Chilton, Clarke, Clay, Colbert, Dallas, DeKalb, Jackson, Jefferson, Lawrence, Madison, Marshall, Morgan, Perry, Shelby, Tuscaloosa

  • Sightings in the past 5 years
  • Sightings in the past 5 - 10 years
  • Sightings more than 10 years ago
Jan Feb Mar Apr May Jun Jul Aug Sep Oct Nov Dec
27 13 64 133 126 132 159 29 1

Habitat

Woodlands including bottomlands, especially along borders and openings. Trees are almost always present, although these butterflies are not usually found in deeply shaded areas.

Host and Nectar Plants

Members of the Mustard family (Brassiceae), espcially toothworts (Cardamine spp.), are reported.

These host plants have been verified in Alabama: Two Leaf Toothwort/Crinkleroot (Cardamine diphylla), Hairy Bittercress (Cardamine hirsuta), Smooth Rockcress (Boechera laevigata)

Falcate Orangetips often nectar from their host plants' flowers.  They also frequent small spring-bloomers such as Yellow False Garlic.

For more information about the documented host plants and/or nectar plants, please visit the Alabama Plant Atlas using the following links:

Landscaping Ideas

If Falcate Orangetips are in the area, planting toothworts in a woodland garden may entice them to your landscape.