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Pacific Orangetip
Anthocharis sara Lucas, 1852

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Diagnosis: This is one of two species of orangetip butterflies found in Canada. The Pacific Orangetip has a white ground colour in males and a white or whitish-yellow ground colour in females (more yellowish on the hindwing), with a large orange-red patch near the tip to the forewing. The orange tip has a solid black inner margin in males and a diffuse black border in females. The underside of the hindwing has a dark grey-green marbled pattern. Wingspan: 31 to 44 mm.

Subspecies: Two subspecies occur in Canada. Subspecies flora, found in coastal southern British Columbia, has more yellow shading in females than typical sara and more black shading at the base of the wings. Subspecies alaskensis, with predominantly white females, occurs in southern Yukon, northwestern British Columbia, and adjacent Alaska.

Range: The Pacific Orangetip is found along the west coast from southern California to Alaska and southwestern Yukon. In Canada it occurs in coastal British Columbia north as far as Carcross in southern Yukon.

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Similar Species: The Stella Orangetip (A. stella) is paler mossy green rather than darker grey green on the hindwing below; males of stella have a slight yellow cast on the wings, especially the hindwing, and females are bright yellow; the dark band separating the orange "tip" from the centre of the wing is more diffuse in stella than in sara and is absent in females. [compare images]

butterfly image
Pacific Orangetip (Anthocharis sara flora), larva. J.B. Tatum

Early Stages: The green larva has a wide creamy lateral stripe extending onto the green head. Like most other members of its family, it feeds on the flowers of a wide variety of plants of the mustard family, and hibernates as a pupa.

Abundance: This is a local and uncommon species.

Flight Season: One of the earliest flying butterflies throughout its range, the Pacific Orangetip is on the wing from late March to mid-May in southern British Columbia and from late May to late June in Yukon.

Habits: The Pacific Orangetip is a resident of dry, open habitats, such as roadsides and grass- and sage-covered hillsides. Subspecies alaskensis occurs in dunes. Adults are slow flying and distinctive with their bright orange wing tips.

Remarks: Until recently the Pacific and Stella Orangetips were considered to be a single species called the Sara Orangetip.

© 2002. This material is reproduced with permission from The Butterflies of Canada by Ross A. Layberry, Peter W. Hall, and J. Donald Lafontaine. University of Toronto Press; 1998. Specimen photos courtesy of John T. Fowler.

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Date Modified: 2010-05-31