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Butterfly taxonomy (classification) The skippers The swallowtails The whites The hairstreaks, coppers and blues. Includes the Duke of Burgundy. The nymphalids, fritillaries and browns. Includes the Monarch.
Large White female - Caterham, Surrey 29-April-2014
Wingspan
Male: 58mm
Female: 63mm
Photo © Vince Massimo
Large White

Pieris brassicae
PEE-err-iss
BRA-si-ky
Number: 58.006
B&F No.: 1549
Family:Pieridae (Duponchel, 1835)
Subfamily:Pierinae (Duponchel, 1835)
Tribe:Pierini (Duponchel, 1835)
Genus:Pieris (Schrank, 1801)
Subgenus: 
Species:brassicae (Linnaeus, 1758)
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  Introduction  

The Large White is one of two species (the other being the Small White) that can claim the title of "Cabbage White" that is the bane of allotment holders all over the British Isles. The larva of this species can reach pest proportions, and decimate cabbages to the point that they become mere skeletons of their former selves. The female is distinguished from the male by the presence of 2 black spots, together with a black dash, on the forewing upperside. This is one of the most widespread species found in the British Isles and can be found almost anywhere, including Orkney and Shetland. This species is also known to migrate to the British Isles from the continent, augmenting the resident population in the process.

Taxonomy Notes

Stephens (1828) is responsible for the naming of f. chariclea to describe the spring brood, although it was originally a name attributed to a new species, closely related to P. brassicae. According to Goodson & Read (1969), the name is, without question, given to a description of the spring generation of P. brassicae. f. brassicae, the nominate form, is then used to describe the summer generation.

In describing P. chariclea, Stephens makes comparisons with P. brassicae: "The chief points of discrimination between this species [P. chariclea] and the preceding insect [P. brassicae] consist in its inferior size, the dissimilar colour of the apical spot on the anterior wings above, and the integrity of its inner edge, the pale cilia with which it is fringed, and the deeper colour, and more thickly irrorated under surface of the posterior wings: which characters, taken collectively, appear fully sufficient to warrant its separation as a species, exclusively of its period of flight".

Stephens goes on to make some misinformed hypotheses of how P. chariclea could simply represent the spring brood of P. brassicae: "Now, if it be a vernal [spring] brood of Po. Brassicae alone, by what process do the colour and the shape of the markings become changed? and whence its inferior size? The first question has been answered, at least so far as regards the colour, upon the supposition that the solar rays are not sufficiently powerful at the period when the insect is produced, to produce the intense hue so conspicuous in the supposed aestival [summer] brood ... With respect to the other question — the inferiority of size — that has been answered upon the presumption that the animal diminishes in bulk from the increased period that it is supposed to continue in the pupa; that is, from September to April: whereas the aestival brood remains in that state a few days only".

Pieris brassicae

This species was first defined in Linnaeus (1758) as shown here (type locality: Sweden). Males of the spring brood have greyer wingtips than those of the summer brood. Similarly, females of the spring brood are lighter in colour than those of the summer brood, which have very pronounced black markings.

Spring Brood


Large White (m) (spring brood) Harmondsworth Moor Middlesex 2nd June 2013
Male
Photo © millerd
Large White Male - First Brood, Crawley, Sussex 21-April-06
Male Underside
Photo © Vince Massimo
Large White female - Caterham, Surrey 28-April-2014
Female
Photo © Vince Massimo
Large White female - Chaldon, Surrey 6-June-2010
Female Underside
Photo © Vince Massimo

Summer Brood


Large White Male - Caterham, Surrey 22-Sept-12
Male
Photo © Vince Massimo
Large White - Martin Down - 8 Aug 2010
Male Underside
Photo © Clive
Large White Female (Second Brood) - Crawley, Sussex 17-Sept-08
Female
Photo © Vince Massimo
Large White (female), Ebernoe (29 July 2011)
Female Underside
Photo © Mark Colvin

  Phenology  

This butterfly normally has 2 broods each year, and there is often a 3rd brood. The first brood emerges in April, with a peak in May. In typical years, their offspring emerge in July and fly through August and into early September.


The chart(s) above have been correlated with the phenology plot below, taken from the UK Butterfly Monitoring Scheme. The blue line gives average counts over the full data set from 1976 to date, and the red line gives the average for the last year.


  Habitat  

This species is found in a wide variety of habitats and can turn up almost anywhere, including gardens, allotments, parks, meadows, open grassland, and hedgerows.

  Larval Foodplants  

The primary larval foodplant is Crucifers (various) (Cruciferae family (various)). Nasturtium (Tropaeolum majus) and Wild Mignonette (Reseda lutea) are also used.

  Nectar Sources  

Adults feed primarily on Thistles (Cirsium spp. and Carduus spp.). Bluebell (Hyacinthoides non-scriptus), Bugle (Ajuga reptans), Carline Thistle (Carlina vulgaris), Dandelion (Taraxacum agg.), Devil's-bit Scabious (Succisa pratensis), Field Scabious (Knautia arvensis), Fleabane (Pulicaria dysenterica), Greater Stitchwort (Stellaria holostea), Knapweeds (Centaurea spp.), Ragged Robin (Lychnis flos-cuculi), Ragwort (Senecio jacobaea), Sanfoin (Onobrychis viciifolia) and Teasel (Dipsacus fullonum) are also used.

  Imago  

The Large White has a powerful flight and is able to migrate over large distances. It is one of our most widespread species, and a common sight in gardens throughout the British Isles.

Spring Brood


Large White Male - First Brood, Crawley, Sussex 21-April-06
Photo © Vince Massimo
21-Apr-2006
Large White - imago - Strumpshaw Fen - 07-Jun-05
Photo © Pete Eeles
07-Jun-2005
Large White female and male (reared and released) - Caterham, Surrey 8-May-12
Photo © Vince Massimo
08-May-2012
Large White - 18/05/13 - Somerset
Photo © William
18-May-2013
Large White female (reared) - Caterham, Surrey 11-May-2012
Photo © Vince Massimo
11-May-2012
Large White female - Chaldon, Surrey 6-June-2010
Photo © Vince Massimo
06-Jun-2010
Large White female, Kilvey Hill, Swansea, 4th May 2013
Photo © David M
04-May-2013
Large White (m) (spring brood) Stanwell Moor Middlesex 13th May 2013
Photo © millerd
12-May-2013
Large White (m)(u)(spring brood) Stanwell Moor Middlesex 26th May 2013
Photo © millerd
26-May-2013
Large White (m) (spring brood) Harmondsworth Moor Middlesex 2nd June 2013
Photo © millerd
02-Jun-2013
Large White (f) (spring brood) Harmondsworth Moor Middlesex 2nd June 2013
Photo © millerd
02-Jun-2013
Large White (f) (u) Harmondsworth Moor Middlesex 2nd June 2013
Photo © millerd
02-Jun-2013
Large White - Solihull West Midlands 12.06.2013
Photo © nfreem
12-Jun-2013
Large White - imago - Thatcham - 13-May-13
Photo © Pete Eeles
Large White ovipositing (5 eggs), Shoreham, West Sussex, 8 June 2013
Photo © Colin Knight
08-Jun-2013
Large White female - Caterham, Surrey 28-April-2014
Photo © Vince Massimo
28-Apr-2014
Large White female - Caterham, Surrey 29-April-2014
Photo © Vince Massimo
29-Apr-2014
Large White (f) - Surrey - 30th - April - 2014
Photo © Maximus
30-Apr-2014

Summer Brood


Large White female - Dorset 6-Aug-2009
Photo © Zonda
06-Aug-2009
Large White pair (male on right) - Caterham, Surrey 10-Aug-2013
Photo © Vince Massimo
10-Aug-2013
Large White - imago - Ballard Down - 17-Jul-06 (0475)
Photo © Pete Eeles
21-Jul-2006
Large White - imago - Thatcham - 31-Jul-05
Photo © Pete Eeles
28-Jul-2005
Large White - imago - Noar Hill - 25-Jul-09 (1)
Photo © Pete Eeles
25-Jul-2009
Large White
Photo © Charlotte Brett
Large White - Martin Down - 8 Aug 2010
Photo © Clive
08-Aug-2010
Large White Male - Crawley, Sussex 20-Sept-08
Photo © Vince Massimo
20-Sep-2008
Large White ovipositing on pea plant - 4th - August - 2013
Photo © Maximus
04-Aug-2013
Large White Female (Second Brood) - Crawley, Sussex 17-Sept-08
Photo © Vince Massimo
17-Sep-2008
Large White female,Hatfield Forest, Essex.24 July 2013
Photo © essexbuzzard
24-Jul-2013
Large White (female), Ebernoe (29 July 2011)
Photo © Mark Colvin
Large White Male - Caterham, Surrey 22-Sept-12
Photo © Vince Massimo
22-Sep-2012
Large White Male - Caterham, Surrey 22-Sept-12
Photo © Vince Massimo
22-Sep-2012
Large White female - Steyning, Sussex 22-Sept-2012
Photo © Neil Hulme
22-Sep-2012
Large White - Bentley Wood - 21-07-2013
Photo © Wurzel
21-Jul-2013
Large White - Warton Crag 08.08.2013
Photo © nfreem
08-Aug-2013
Large White Laying Eggs, Shropshire 24-July-2013
Photo © ChrissyM
24-Jul-2013
Large White female  27-July-2013
Photo © ChrisC
27-Jul-2013
Large Whites, Oxenbourne Down, 27/07/2013
Photo © Pauline
27-Jul-2013
Large White (f)  Stanwell Moor Middlesex 27th July 2013
Photo © millerd
27-Jul-2013
Large White - female - Stockbridge Down - 06-Aug-13
Photo © Pete Eeles
06-Aug-2013
Large White egglaying, Shropshire 13-Aug-2013
Photo © Debbie
The leaf had twisted so that the underside was uppermost. The female adopted this position to lay.
Large White ovipositing on nasturtium - Caterham, Surrey 23-Aug-2013
Photo © Vince Massimo
23-Aug-2013
Large White - Kingston Lacey - 22-09-2013
Photo © Wurzel
22-Sep-2013
Large White - Solihull West Midlands 24.07.2013
Photo © nfreem
24-Jul-2013
Large White - Solihull West Midlands 30.07.2013
Photo © nfreem
30-Jul-2013
Large White - Female - Ovipositing - Somerset - 30/08/13
Photo © William
30-Aug-2013
Large Whites - Males Pursuing a Female - Somerset - 06/08/13
Photo © William
06-Aug-2013
Large White - Oxfordshire - 23rd - July - 2014
Photo © Maximus
23-Jul-2014

  Aberrations  

Description to be completed.

  Ovum  

The yellow skittle-shaped eggs are laid on both surfaces of a leaf, in groups of 40 or so, and often up to 100 – laid at a rate of 4 per minute. Each egg is laid directly on the foodplant (rather than on top of other eggs) and also abuts other eggs, resulting in an organised egg mass. An individual female may lay up to 600 eggs in total. The eggs hatch in a week or two, depending on temperature.


Large White - ovum - Thatcham - 14-May-07 (1) {REARED}
Photo © Pete Eeles
14-May-2007
Large White - ovum - Thatcham - 14-May-07 (4) {REARED}
Photo © Pete Eeles
14-May-2007
Large White ova on Pea - just laid - 4th - August - 2013
Photo © Maximus
04-Aug-2013
Large White Ova - Dunwich, Suffolk 5-Sept-11
Photo © Vince Massimo
05-Sep-2011
Large White Ova (hours from hatching) - Dunwich, Suffolk 8-Sept-11
Photo © Vince Massimo
08-Sep-2011
Large White Ova (with larvae) - Dunwich, Suffolk 5-Sept-11
Photo © Vince Massimo
A Small White egg is also visible (left of centre)
05-Sep-2011
Large White Ova (with larvae) - Dunwich, Suffolk 8-Sept-11
Photo © Vince Massimo
08-Sep-2011
Large White ova with freshly hatched larva on Black Kale - Somerset 27-Aug-2012
Photo © William
Large White eggs about 7 days old, Liphook, 26/07/2013
Photo © Pauline
26-Jul-2013
Large White, Liphook, 27/07/2013
Photo © Pauline
27-Jul-2013
Large White - ovum - Thatcham - 24-Jul-14
Photo © Pete Eeles
23-Jul-2014

  Larva  

The larva eats its eggshell on hatching and is gregarious, feeding alongside its siblings until fully-grown. The larvae accumulate poisonous oils in their bodies as they feed, which explains why would-be predators are deterred from feeding on such visible larvae. Unlike our other “cabbage white”, the Small White, the larvae of the Large White prefer to feed on the outer leaves of the foodplant, whereas the larvae of the Small White prefer to feed on leaves closer to the heart of the foodplant. The larva has 4 moults in total.

This species is particularly vulnerable to a parasitic ichneumon fly, Apanteles glomeratus, which deposits its eggs inside young larvae. The fly larvae feed on the insides of their host, avoiding vital organs, and, when their host is full-grown, break through the skin and pupate within yellow cocoons on or near their host.


Latge White Caterpillars - Mountstewart, Co Down, Northern Ireland 7-Sept-2009
Photo © Dave McCormick
07-Sep-2009
Large White Caterpillars - Durham
Photo © Mandie
Large White - larva - Thatcham - 09-Jun-07 (2)
Photo © Pete Eeles
09-Jun-2007
Large White - larva - Thatcham - 18-May-07 (1) {REARED}
Photo © Pete Eeles
18-May-2007
Large White - larva - Thatcham - 18-May-07 (4) {REARED}
Photo © Pete Eeles
18-May-2007
Large White - larva - Fleet - 16-Jun-06 (2) [Colin Baker]
Photo © Colin Baker
Large White - larva - Forton, Somerset - 3 July 09 [Adrian Dexter]
Photo © Adrian Dexter
03-Jul-2009
Large White - First Instar Larvae on Black Kale - Somerset 26-Aug-2012
Photo © William
Large and Small White Larvae on Garlic Mustard - Somerset - 25/08/13
Photo © William
25-Aug-2013
Large White larvae and Small White larva, Hog Wood (9 October 2011)
Photo © Mark Colvin
09-Oct-2011
Large White Larvae hatching - Dunwich, Suffolk 8-Sept-11
Photo © Vince Massimo
08-Sep-2011
Large White Larvae hatching - Dunwich, Suffolk 7-Sept-11
Photo © Vince Massimo
07-Sep-2011
Large White larvae (6 days old) - Caterham, Surrey 21-Sept-11
Photo © Vince Massimo
21-Sep-2011
Large White Larvae - Dunwich, Suffolk 5-Sept-11
Photo © Vince Massimo
05-Sep-2011
Large White larvae (12 days old) - Caterham, Surrey 27-Sept-11
Photo © Vince Massimo
27-Sep-2011
Large White larva (14 days old) - Caterham, Surrey 29-Sept-11
Photo © Vince Massimo
29-Sep-2011
Large White larva (final instar) - Caterham, Surrey 12-Sept-11
Photo © Vince Massimo
12-Sep-2011
Large White larva (preparing to pupate) - Caterham, Surrey 23-Oct-11
Photo © Vince Massimo
23-Oct-2011
Large White - larva - Thatcham - 01-Sep-12
Photo © Pete Eeles
Large White - larva - Thatcham - 13-Aug-12 (1) [REARED]
Photo © Pete Eeles
Large White, Liphook, 27/07/2013
Photo © Pauline
27-Jul-2013
Large White, Liphook, 27/07/2013
Photo © Pauline
27-Jul-2013
Large White larva - Caterham, Surrey 15-Aug-2013
Photo © Vince Massimo
15-Aug-2013
Large White larva - Caterham, Surrey 15-Aug-2013
Photo © Vince Massimo
15-Aug-2013
Large White larva preparing to pupate - Caterham, Surrey 24-Aug-2013
Photo © Vince Massimo
24-Aug-2013
Large White Larva - Final Instar - Somerset - 30/08/13
Photo © William
30-Aug-2013
Large White - larva - Thatcham - 24-Jul-14
Photo © Pete Eeles
23-Jul-2014

  Pupa  

After wandering for some time, the larva finds a suitable pupation site that is typically away from the foodplant, such as fences, tree trunks, and under any overhang on a building, such as its eaves. The pupa is attached by a silk girdle and the cremaster. This stage lasts around 2 weeks for pupae that produce the summer brood. This stage lasts around 8 months for pupae which overwinter and that produce the spring brood.


Lagre White Pupae (Female) - Bred in captivity Mountstewart, Co Down, Northern Ireland 19-July-2009
Photo © Dave McCormick
19-Jul-2009
Large White Pupa - Somerset - 13/02/13
Photo © William
Large White - pupa - Thatcham - 27-Jun-07 {REARED}
Photo © Pete Eeles
27-Jun-2007
Large White - pupa - Dundee - 12-Jul-05 [Peter Field]
Photo © Peter Field
Large White Pupa - Caterham, Surrey 4-Nov-11
Photo © Vince Massimo
04-Nov-2011
Large White Pupa - Caterham, Surrey 4-Nov-11
Photo © Vince Massimo
04-Nov-2011
Large White Pupa (Grey-Green form) - Caterham, Surrey 19-Sept-11
Photo © Vince Massimo
19-Sep-2011
Large White Pupa (freshly emerged) - Caterham, Surrey 23-Sept-11
Photo © Vince Massimo
13-Sep-2011
Large White Pupa (following predation by spider) - Caterham, Surrey 4-Oct-11
Photo © Vince Massimo
04-Oct-2011
Large White Pupa (predation by spider) - Caterham, Surrey 2-Oct-11
Photo © Vince Massimo
02-Oct-2011
Large White Pupa (predation by spider) - Caterham, Surrey 2-Oct-11
Photo © Vince Massimo
02-Oct-2011
Large White Pupa (cream form) - Caterham, Surrey 7-Oct-11
Photo © Vince Massimo
07-Oct-2011
Large White Pupa (grey form) - Caterham, Surrey 4-April-12
Photo © Vince Massimo
04-Apr-2012
Large White Pupa, male (6 hours before hatching) - Caterham, Surrey 9-May-12
Photo © Vince Massimo
09-May-2012
Large White Pupa, female (6 hours before hatching) - Caterham, Surrey 13-May-12
Photo © Vince Massimo
13-May-2012
Large White Pupa, female (9 hours before hatching) - Caterham, Surrey 13-May-12
Photo © Vince Massimo
13-May-2012
Large White Pupa, female (12 hours before hatching) - Caterham, Surrey 13-May-12
Photo © Vince Massimo
13-May-2012
Large White Pupa, female (18 hours before hatching) - Caterham, Surrey 7-May-12
Photo © Vince Massimo
07-May-2012
Large White Pupa, female (36 hours before hatching) - Caterham, Surrey 12-May-12
Photo © Vince Massimo
12-May-2012
Large White Pupa, female (40 days before hatching) - Caterham, Surrey 3-April-12
Photo © Vince Massimo
03-Apr-2012
Large White pupa (pale green form) - Caterham, Surrey 6-Sept-2013
Photo © Vince Massimo
06-Sep-2013
Large White pupa (3 hours old) - Caterham, Surrey 24-Aug-2013
Photo © Vince Massimo
24-Aug-2013
Large White pupa (1 hour old) - Caterham, Surrey 24-Aug-2013
Photo © Vince Massimo
24-Aug-2013
Large White pupa (20 mins old) - Caterham, Surrey 24-Aug-2013
Photo © Vince Massimo
24-Aug-2013
Large White pupa (freshly emerged) - Caterham, Surrey 24-Aug-2013
Photo © Vince Massimo
24-Aug-2013
Large White pupa (shedding larval skin) - Caterham, Surrey 24-Aug-2013
Photo © Vince Massimo
24-Aug-2013
Large White completing pupation - Caterham, Surrey 24-Aug-2013
Photo © Vince Massimo
24-Aug-2013
Large White pupating - Caterham, Surrey 24-Aug-2013
Photo © Vince Massimo
24-Aug-2013
Large White larva pupating - Caterham, Surrey 24-Aug-2013
Photo © Vince Massimo
24-Aug-2013
Large White larva pupating - Caterham, Surrey 24-Aug-2013
Photo © Vince Massimo
24-Aug-2013
Large White larva pupating - Caterham, Surrey 24-Aug-2013
Photo © Vince Massimo
24-Aug-2013
Large White larva commencing pupation - Caterham, Surrey 24-Aug-2013
Photo © Vince Massimo
24-Aug-2013

  Similar Species  

Green-veined White

Description to be completed.

Small White

In general, the Large White and Small White can be distinguished based on size. However, there are occasions when a "small" Large White flying with a "large" Small White causes confusion. In terms of uppersides, a distinguishing feature is the black marking at the apex of the forewing. This is generally more vertical than horizontal in the Large White, and more horizontal than vertical in the Small White.


Large White (left) and Small White (right)

Distinguishing these two species based on their underside is a little more difficult. Aside from size, there is sometimes a hint of the upperside markings where, again, those at the apex of the forewing can give an indication of the species.


Large White (left) and Small White (right)
  Videos  

Video © Martyn Garrett
The life cycle of the large white butterfly
Video © jkh02
Large white butterfly emerging from chrysalis
Video © Sjaak van Beek
Groot koolwitje verlaat pop. Large White leaves its pupa.

  Sites  

Click here to see the distribution of this species overlaid with specific site information. Alternatively, select one of the sites listed below.

Sites
Ashampstead Common, Banstead Woods, Bedfont Lakes Country Park LNR, Bryncelyn Hall, Darley, Fleam Dyke, Glenarm, Higher Hyde, Horsenden Hill, Hounslow Heath LNR, Howardian Local Nature Reserve, Kinghorn Loch Path, Latton Woods, Lavernock, Malling Down, Mansmead wood, Mayford Pond, Meanwood Park, Millenium Arboretum, Moors Valley Country Park, Moss Field, Mynydd Marian, Nupend Wood, Old Down, Basingstoke, Roudsea Wood NNR, Strumpshaw Fen, Winsdon Hill

  Conservation Status  

Despite a slight decline in its fortunes, this widespread and common butterfly is not currently a species of conservation concern.

UK BAP StatusDistribution Trend (%)Population Trend (%)
Not ListedStable-8Increase+34

The table above shows the distribution and population trends of species regularly found in the British Isles. The distribution trend represents a comparison between data for the periods 1995-1999 and 2005-2009. The information provided is taken from the Butterfly Conservation report The State of the UK's Butterflies 2011. The UK BAP status is taken from the UK Biodiversity Action Plan (UK BAP) (2007 review).


  Links  

The following links provide additional information on this butterfly.

  References  

The species description provided here references the following publications:

ReferenceDetails
Goodson & Read (1969) Goodson, A.L. and Read. D.K.: Aberrational and Subspecific Forms of British Lepidoptera (unpublished work, British Museum of Natural History) . 1969.
Linnaeus (1758) Linnaeus, C.: Systema Naturae. Edn.10. 1758.
Stephens (1828) Stephens, J.E.: Illustrations of British Entomology (Haustellata Vol.1). 1828.

  Copyright © Peter Eeles 2002-2014
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