Small White

Pieris rapae

Small White (Pieris rapae) male

Also called the ‘Small Cabbage White’, the upperside ground colour is creamy white with greyish wingtips, the male having the single greyish spot near the centre of the forewing, the female sporting two. Wingspan 50mm. Similar to Large White (Pieris brassicae).

Small White (Pieris rapae) male

The caterpillar feeds on cultivated brassicas, nasturtiums, and assorted wild crucifers and Wild Mignonette. The Small White can be even more of a pest than the Large White, yet it is affected by the same predators and parasites which helps to keep their numbers down.

Small White (Pieris rapae) female

The adults fly March to October in two or more broods. Found in flowery places of all kinds, especially gardens,  allotments, and other cultivated land. Common and widespread. One of the world’s commonest butterflies and a strong migrant.

Small White (Pieris rapae) male

All photographs taken various times and places in Staffordshire. © Pete Hillman.

Large White

Pieris brassicae

Large White (Pieris brassicae) male

Also known as the “Cabbage White”, this is Britain’s largest white butterfly. The male upper side is mainly white with dark-tipped forewings. The female is similar except it has two large black dots in the centre of the forewing and black streaks on the rear edge, and they are somewhat smaller in size. Wingspan 65mm. Similar to the Small White (Pieris rapae).

Large White (Pieris brassicae) male

Large White (Pieris brassicae) male

The caterpillar feeds mainly on cultivated brassicas, Nasturtiums, wild crucifers, and wild Mignonette. It can cause serious damage to cabbages and other brassica crops. They are distasteful to predators such as birds, yet the braconid wasp Apanteles glomeratus lays eggs within the caterpillar and the resulting grubs eat their way through it. The Large White was introduced to Australia in the 1930s and soon became a serious pest, but the introduction of Apanteles quickly eliminated the butterfly. The pupae are also attacked by the tiny chalcid wasp Pteromalus puparum.

Large White (Pieris brassicae) female

The adult flies April to October in two to three broods. Found in all types of flowery places, especially gardens and cultivated land. Common and resident Many migrants from continental Europe reinforce our numbers.

Large White (Pieris brassicae) female

Photographs taken August 2006, rear garden, Staffordshire. © Pete Hillman 2006. Camera Sony Cyber-shot DSC-W1.

Cabbage Butterfly

Small White (Pieris rapae) male

Photograph of Small White (Pieris rapae), taken May 2015, local woodland margin, Staffordshire. © Pete Hillman 2015. Camera used Nikon D3200, with Sigma 105mm macro lens.


Anthocharis cardamines

The male is the star attraction of this species of butterfly with its bright orange wing tips. The female, in contrast, is completely white with no orange but with distinctive black tips, in which it may be confused with other Pieridae (whites). The undersides of both  sexes are mottled green and white which offers excellent camouflage when the butterfly is at rest. Wingspan up to 45mm (1 3/4in).

The caterpillars feed on Cuckooflower, Garlic Mustard, and Hedge Mustard. They are cannibalistic when young.

It flies March-July, and it is found in flower-rich habitats, especially woodland rides and clearings, hedgerows and damp meadows. Common and widespread throughout, except western Scotland where it is absent.

Photographs of male Orange-tip (Anthocharis cardamines), taken April and May 2012, during a walk along a local woodland margin, Staffordshire. © Pete Hillman 2012. Camera used Panasonic Lumix DMC-FZ38.

Green-veined White

Pieris napi

Yesterday morning on a walk near a local pond looking for dragonflies, I found these beautiful white butterflies drinking on the pond margin. The upper sides are creamy white with dark-tipped forewings and the veins dusted with dark scales. The male usually has a single dark spot towards the centre of each forewing, whilst the female usually has two. The underside distinguishes the Green-veined White (Pieris napi) from the Small White (Pieris rapae) with its distinctive pale yellow colouration and its black scaled veins giving them a greenish tint, hence its common name.

The caterpillars feed on a wide range of Crucifers, such as Charlock, Garlic Mustard, Cuckooflower and Watercress. It does not feed on cultivated crucifers like the Small White, and is not considered a pest.

It flies March to November in two to four broods. Found in flowery places of all types, including wild meadows, hedgerows, and woodland clearings. Also found in parks and gardens, but much less frequent than other whites. Resident and common throughout Britain.

Photographs taken May 2009, and July 2016, local field and pond, Staffordshire.

Just Pretending

Brimstone (Gonepteryx rhamni)

When I first photographed this butterfly some years ago now, I couldn’t believe how it just lay down on its side, playing dead. See bottom photo.

The males have bright yellow upper wings with a red spot on each wing, whilst the females are paler in colour. Both remarkably resemble a leaf. This beautiful butterfly always keeps its wings folded at rest. Wingspan 60mm.

This is one of the earliest butterflies signaling the arrival of spring. As a long-lived species they can be seen in almost every month, but mainly June to September, and again in the spring. Found in fields, woodland rides, and gardens. A widespread and resident species, except for in the far north.

The caterpillars feed on various buckhorns.

Photographs taken May 2011, rear garden, Staffordshire, and June 2013, Wyre Forest, Worcestershire.