Pieridae Butterfly Family

Small Cabbage White Butterfly | Orange Tip Butterfly | Southern Dogface Butterfly

The members of the Pieridae family are large butterflies and are characterised by their white or yellow colouring. There are around 700 species mostly native to tropical Africa and Asia.

Some species have black spots and male and female differ often by their patterns and number of black markings.

The larvae (caterpillars) of some of these species feed on brassicas, and are agricultural pests. Males of many species involve in gregarious mud-puddling. The family Pieridae has four subfamilies, of which the Whites and the Yellows are well represented:

Pierinae or the Whites
Coliadinae or the Yellows
Dismorphiinae (6 genera of Neotropical butterflies and one genus Leptidea in the Palearctic region)
Pseudopontiinae (A single species in tropical West Africa)

Small Cabbage White Butterflies

Cabbage White Butterfly

The Small Cabbage White Butterfly (Pieris rapae) is a small to medium sized butterfly in the family Pieridae. The Small Cabbage White Butterfly is widespread across Europe, North Africa and Asia and has also been accidentally introduced to North America, Australia and New Zealand where it has become a pest to cabbage crops.

In appearance it looks like a smaller version of the Large White Butterfly. The Small Cabbage White Butterfly has a wing span of 45 millimetres. The upperside is creamy white with black tips to the forewings. Females also have two black spots in the centre of the forewings, males have only one. Its underwings are yellowish with black speckles. It is sometimes mistaken for a moth due to its plain looking appearance. The Small Cabbage White Butterfly is distinguished from the Large White by its smaller and less pronounced black markings. They inhabit gardens, meadows and fields.

In Britain, the Small Cabbage White Butterfly has two flight periods, April - May and July - August, but is continuously-brooded in North America, being one of the first butterflies to emerge from the chrysalis in spring, flying until it gets very cold.

The caterpillar of this butterfly can be a pest on cultivated cabbages, kale and radish, but it will readily lay eggs on wild members of the cabbage family such as Charlock Sinapis arvensis and Hedge mustard Sisybrium officinale. The eggs are laid singularly on foodplant leaves. This butterfly can have up to three generations in a single year but normally has only two. In autumn the final generation pupates and over winters in chrysalis form, emerging as the first generation of butterflies in July of the following year.

The caterpillars are green and well camouflaged. Caterpillars rest on the undersides of the leaves, making them less visible to predators. Unlike the Large White, they do not store the mustard oils from their foodplants and so are not distasteful to predators like birds. Like many other White butterflies, it hibernates as a pupae. It is also one of the most cold-hardy of the non-hibernating butterflies, occasionally seen emerging during mid-winter mild spells in cities as far north as Washington D.C.

Like its close relative the Large White, the Small Cabbage White Butterfly is a strong flyer and the British population is increased by continental immigrants in most years. Adults are diurnal and fly almost exclusively during midday, though it appears as if there is some activity in the later part of the night too, ceasing as dawn breaks.

Orange Tip Butterflies

Orange Tip  Butterfly

The Orange Tip Butterfly (Anthocharis cardamines) is named because of the males bright orange tips to his forewings. The males are a common sight in spring flying along hedgerows and damp meadows in search of the more reclusive female which lacks the orange and is often mistaken for one of the other 'White' butterflies.

The undersides are mottled green and white and create a superb camouflage when settled on flower heads such as Cow Parsley and Garlic Mustard Alliaria petiolata. The male is able to hide his orange tips by tucking the forewings behind the hindwings at rest. Its mottled undersides are in fact made up of a mixture of black and yellow scales.

The Orange Tip Butterfly is found across Europe and eastwards into temperate Asia as far as Japan. The past 30 years has seen a rapid increase in the range of the Orange Tip in the United Kingdom particularly in Scotland and Ireland, probably in response to climate change.

The female Orange Tip Butterfly lays eggs singly on the flower heads of Cuckooflower (Cardimine pratensis) and Garlic Mustard and many other species of wild Crucifers. Females are attracted to larger flowers, such as Dames violet, otherwise known as sweet rocket (Hesperis matronalis), even though some such species are poor larval hosts. Selection of foodplants is triggered by the presence of mustard oils, which are detected by chemosensory hairs on the forelegs.

Reproductive rate of females appears to be limited by difficulties in finding suitable hosts. As a consequence, the species has evolved to use a wide range of crucifers. The eggs are white to begin with but change to a bright orange after a few days before darkening just before hatching. Because the larvae feed almost exclusively on the flowers and developing seedpods there is rarely enough food to support more than one larvae per plant. If two larvae meet, one will often be eaten by the other to eliminate its competitor.

Newly hatched larvae will also eat unhatched eggs for the same reason. To stop eggs from being laid on plants already laid on the female leaves a pheromone to deter future females from laying. There are five larval instars. The green and white caterpillar is attacked by several natural enemies (notably Tachinid flies and Braconid wasps). Pupation occurs in early summer in scrubby vegetation near the foodplant, where they stay to emerge the following spring.

Southern Dogface Butterfly

Southern Dogface Butterfly

The Southern Dogface Butterfly (Colias cesonia), is a yellow butterfly that is also known as the Dogs Head Butterfly. The Southern Dogface Butterflys wings are mostly yellow and there are small dark circles in the centre of the forewing. The margins of the wings are brown.

These markings resemble a dogs face from which it is aptly named. Males are more brightly coloured than the females. The wingspan is 9 - 16.5 centimetres (3.5 - 6.5 inches). The caterpillar is green with black and yellow stripes.

The Southern Dogface Butterfly lives in open, dry areas such as thorn scrub and agricultural areas throughout the southwest of the USA. The larval host plant is the false indigo bush (Amorpha fruticosa).

Sulphur butterflies rarely open their wings, except in flight or when mating.

Although individuals and seasonal broods exhibit much variation, the Southern Dogface Butterfly is unique - only the California Dogface resembles it.

The California Dogface Butterfly (Colias eurydice or Zerene eurydice Boisduval) has been the state insect of the U.S. state of California since 1972. Its range is limited to that state. California was the first state to choose a state insect and to choose a butterfly.

The name comes from a wing pattern resembling a dogs face which is found on the male of the species. Its wings are an iridescent bluish-black, orange and sulphur yellow in colour. The female has a small black dot on each of its yellow forewings. The typical forewing length is between 22 to 31 millimetres.

Larvae feed on False Indigo (Amorpha californica) and adults feed on flower nectar. They are said to be especially fond of purple flowers.

These butterflies are particularly difficult to get close to and are hard to catch unless collecting nectar at flowers. It is quite difficult to photograph them with their wings open as they fly very fast.

Other popular species of the Pieridae Family are:

Barred Yellow (Eurema daira)
Boisduval's Yellow (Eurema boisduvaliana)
Brimstone Butterfly (Gonepteryx rhamni)
California Dogface (Zerene eurydice)
Checkered White (Pontia protodice)
Clouded Yellow (Colias croceus)
Catalina Orangetip (Anthocharis cethura)
Clouded Sulphur (Colias philodice)
Clouded Yellow (Colias croceus)
Dainty Sulphur (Nathalis iole)
Dina Yellow (Eurema dina)
Pine White (Neophasia menapia)
Falcate Orangetip (Anthocharis midea)
Florida White (Appias drusilla)
Great Southern White (Ascia monuste)
Large Marble (Euchloe ausonides)
Large Orange Sulphur (Phoebis agarithe)
Little Yellow (Eurema lisa)
Lyside Sulphur (Kricogonia lyside)
Margined White (Pieris marginalis)
Mexican Yellow (Eurema mexicana)
Mimosa Yellow (Eurema nise)
Orange-barred Sulphur (Phoebis philea)
Orange Sulpur (Colias eurytheme)
Pink-edged Sulphur (Colias interior)
Queen Alexandra's Sulphur (Colias alexandra)
Sleepy Orange (Eurema nicippe)
Southern Dogface (Zerene cesonia)
Statira Sulphur (Phoebis statira)
Stella Orangetip (Anthocharis stella)
Tailed Orange (Eurema proterpa)
Western White (Pontia occidentalis)
Veined White (Pieris oleracea)

 

Family Papilionidae | Family Pieridae | Family Lycaenidae | Family Riodinidae | Family Nymphalidae

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Scientific classification:

Kingdom: Animalia
Phylum: Arthropoda
Class: Insecta
Order: Lepidoptera
Suborder: Ditrysia
Superfamily: Papilionoidea
Family: Pieridae

Diversity: 76 genera, 1,051 species

Subfamilies: Dismorphiinae, Pseudopontiinae, Pierinae, Coliadinae

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