By Patrick Barkham

Patrick Barkham on how the late flowering of food species can spell disaster for butterflies emerging after winter

For me, spring truly begins when the first male orange tip passes on its ceaseless jinking search for females. It was late this year, and this small white butterfly with unmistakable orange tips to its wings only materialised in my garden last week.

What worried me was not its tardiness but its food plant’s. The garlic mustard on which superbly-camouflaged (and occasionally cannibalistic) orange tip caterpillars feed (they also devour that lovely spring flower, lady’s smock, in damper spots) had barely sprouted any leaves last week.