The taxonomy of Sara orangetip butterflies (Anthocaris sara) is in flux. There are several subspecies of A sara and some taxonomists have elevated these subspecies (stella and julia, in particular) to full species status. This butterfly, which occurs along the Pacific Coast from Alaska to Baja and to the east of the Rockies, appears to be undergoing evolutionary radiation (divergence of morphology or genetic and ecological characteristics over time resulting in speciation). For now, I am ignoring this debate and continue to consider these very early spring fliers Sara orangetips or Anthocaris sara.
Male and female Sara orangetips have slightly different coloration. In the male the forewings are white with a variable black barring framing a red-orange spot on the tip
The female Sara orangetip also has a white forewing. However, her red-orange spot is smaller with a black bar on the inner side and a white wedge between the spot and the marginal black-brown markings.
The forewing coloration continues on the underside in both sexes. The hindwings of males and females are white with variable brownish black markings along the margin. The hindwing undersides are marbled with dark green or yellow green.
Adult Sara orangetip butterflies feed on the nectar of mustards, fiddlenecks, thistles and brodiaeas, among other wildflowers. They are found in open places such as meadows, fields, ridge tops, canyons, open forests and deserts. They are one of the earliest spring fliers.
More information about Sara orangetips may be found in an earlier post: “Sara Orangetip” on 03-21-2016.
The male specimen was photographed on the spillway between Baum and Crystal Lakes (Shasta County CA). The female was searching for nectar on Big Valley Mountain beyond Day CA (Modoc County).