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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.
13.5.2012 Wood White female, chiddingfold wood

Photo © hideandseek
Wood White

Leptidea sinapis
lep-TID-ee-uh
sy-NAY-piss
Number: 58.001
B&F No.: 1541
Family:Pieridae (Duponchel, 1835)
Subfamily:Dismorphiinae (Staudinger & Schatz, 1892)
Tribe:Leptideini (Verity, 1947)
Genus:Leptidea (Billberg, 1820)
Subgenus: 
Species:sinapis (Linnaeus, 1758)
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  Introduction  

The Wood White is one of our daintiest butterflies with one of the slowest and delicate flights of all the British butterflies. When at rest, the rounded tips of the forewings provide one of the main distinguishing features between this butterfly and other “whites”. Adults always rest with their wings closed. In flight, the male can be distinguished from the female by a black spot at the tip of the forewings that is greatly reduced in the female. This butterfly lives discrete colonies and was only recently separated from the visibly-identical Cryptic Wood White. This local species can be found in central and southern England and also in Ireland on the limestone pavements of Clare and South-east Galway. This species is absent from Scotland, the Isle of Man and the Channel Islands.

Taxonomy Notes

Aside from the confusion that has historically surrounded the identification of L. sinapis, L. reali and L. juvernica, several other taxonomic names have been applied to L. sinapis.

  • Hübner (1823) uses f. lathyri to describe the spring generation. f. sinapis, the nominate form, is then used to describe the summer generation.

  • Verity (1916) uses f. transiens to describe the British population and mentions the distinguishing features: "The British race is quite similar in both generations to the nymo-typical one; it is a little smaller than the one from the South of Europe; a careful comparison also shows that the dark bands on the underside of the hindwings in the summer broods are more diffused than in Italian specimens, thus differing a little less from the spring brood than in the latter region; form transiens, mihi; "types" from the New Forest in July".

Leptidea sinapis

This species was first defined in Linnaeus (1758) as shown here (type locality: Sweden). Males of the summer brood have darker wing spots than those of the spring brood, whose spots are greyer in colour. Females of the summer brood are slightly smaller than those of the spring brood.

Spring Brood


Wood White - male disturbing mating pair - Botany Bay, 8 May 2012
Male
Photo © Colin Knight
Wood-White-Wicken Wood 8 May 2011 03C6683
Male Underside
Photo © IainLeach
Wood White Female (in flight) - Botany Bay, Sussex 25-June-12 (013-3)
Female
Photo © P.J.Underwood
Wood-White-Wicken Wood 14 June 2010 03C3462
Female Underside
Photo © IainLeach

Summer Brood


IMG 6559-1 Wood White 2nd brood male, Chiddingfold Wood, Surrey, 20.7.14
Male
Photo © hideandseek
Wood White - imago - Botany Bay - 16-Jul-09 (6)
Male Underside
Photo © Pete Eeles
IMG 6364-1 Wood White 2nd brood female, Chiddingfold Wood, Surrey, 19.7.2014
Female
Photo © hideandseek
Wood White (female), Oaken Wood, Surrey (11 July 2011)
Female Underside
Photo © Mark Colvin

  Phenology  

The English colonies emerge in early May and fly until the end of June. In Ireland, the emergence starts a little later in late May and the adults fly until the middle of July. Some sites, especially those in Surrey and Sussex, typically experience a 2nd brood and this can be more substantial than the 1st brood in good years.


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  

As its name implies, this species is found in woodland rides and margins. However, colonies in the south west of its range can be found in more-open areas such as disused railway cuttings and meadows. Suitable habitat is characterised as being warm, sheltered and damp, where both larval foodplants and nectar sources are in abundance. Foodplants include various vetches and trefoils. Nectar sources include a variety of flowers, favourites being Bramble, Bugle, Ragged Robin and Birds-foot Trefoil. In hot weather, males can also be found taking mineral salts from puddles.

  Larval Foodplants  

The primary larval foodplants are Bird's-foot Trefoil (Lotus corniculatus), Bitter Vetch (Lathyrus linifolius), Greater Bird's-foot Trefoil (Lotus pedunculatus), Meadow Vetchling (Lathyrus pratensis) and Tufted Vetch (Vicia cracca).

  Nectar Sources  

Adults feed primarily on Bird's-foot Trefoil (Lotus corniculatus). Bramble (Rubus fruticosus), Bugle (Ajuga reptans), Buttercups (Ranunculus spp.), Greater Stitchwort (Stellaria holostea), Ragged Robin (Lychnis flos-cuculi), Red Clover (Trifolium pratense) and Vetches (Vicia spp.) are also used.

  Imago  

Males are the more active of the two sexes and can be found patrolling for females, rarely stopping to rest or feed, especially in sunny weather. On dull days, the butterfly will rest on the underside of a leaf with its wings closed and, when disturbed, the butterfly will fly into thick undergrowth.

The courtship of this butterfly is an amazing spectacle. Male and female face each other with wings closed and intermittently flash open their wings. At the same time, the male waves his proboscis and white-tipped antennae either side of the female’s head. If the female is receptive to these signals, the female bends her abdomen toward the male and the pair mate, staying coupled for around 30 minutes.

Spring Brood


Wood Whites (Tongue-lashing courtship dance)  Nr. Bletchley, BUCKS
Photo © Trev Sawyer
Wood White - imago - Botany Bay - 26-May-04 (4)
Photo © Pete Eeles
26-May-2004
Wood White - imago - Whitecross Green Wood - 03-Jun-04 (3)
Photo © Pete Eeles
03-Jun-2004
Wood White - imago - Wicken Wood - 09-Jun-06 (0240)
Photo © Pete Eeles
09-Jun-2006
Wood White - imago - Boston, Co Clare - Unknown date [Adrian Riley]
Photo © Adrian Riley
Wood White (m) Botany Bay Surrey 10th May 2010
Photo © millerd
Wood White - imago - Botany Bay - 14-May-10 (1)
Photo © Pete Eeles
14-May-2010
Wood White - imago - Botany Bay - 14-May-10 (5)
Photo © Pete Eeles
14-May-2010
Wood White - imago - Botany Bay - 14-May-10 (6)
Photo © Pete Eeles
14-May-2010
Wood White - imago - Botany Bay - 14-May-10 (9)
Photo © Pete Eeles
14-May-2010
13.5.2012 Wood White female, chiddingfold wood
Photo © hideandseek
13-May-2012
Wood-White-Wicken Wood 14 June 2010 03C3328
Photo © IainLeach
Wood-White-Wicken Wood 14 June 2010 03C3462
Photo © IainLeach
Wood-White-Wicken Wood 14 June 2010 03C3597
Photo © IainLeach
Wood-White-Wicken Wood 8 May 2011 03C6683
Photo © IainLeach
Wood-White-Wicken Wood 8 May 2011 03C7408
Photo © IainLeach
Wood White - male disturbing mating pair - Botany Bay, 8 May 2012
Photo © Colin Knight
08-May-2012
Wood White Males taking salts - Chidingfold Wood, Surrey 2-May-2011
Photo © hideandseek
02-May-2011
P1030172-800 Wood White, Botany Bay, 11/05/2012
Photo © Pauline
11-May-2012
Wood White Female (in flight) - Botany Bay, Sussex 25-June-12 (013-3)
Photo © P.J.Underwood
Wood White - male - Thatcham - 03-May-14 [REARED]-6
Photo © Pete Eeles
03-May-2014
Wood White - male - Thatcham - 28-Apr-14 [REARED]-4
Photo © Pete Eeles
28-Apr-2014

Summer Brood


Wood White Female - Second Brood, Botany Bay/Oaken Wood, Sussex 16-July-09
Photo © Vince Massimo
16-Jul-2009
Wood White Male - Second Brood, Botany Bay/Oaken Wood, Sussex 21-July-05
Photo © Vince Massimo
21-Jul-2005
Wood White - imago - Botany Bay - 16-Jul-09 (3)
Photo © Pete Eeles
16-Jul-2009
Wood White - imago - Botany Bay - 16-Jul-09 (4)
Photo © Pete Eeles
16-Jul-2009
Wood White - imago - Botany Bay - 16-Jul-09 (6)
Photo © Pete Eeles
16-Jul-2009
Wood White - imago - Botany Bay - 16-Jul-09 (7)
Photo © Pete Eeles
16-Jul-2009
Wood White - imago - Botany Bay - 16-Jul-09 (8)
Photo © Pete Eeles
16-Jul-2009
Wood White - imago - Thatcham - 22-Aug-09 (1) {REARED}
Photo © Pete Eeles
22-Aug-2009
Wood White - imago - Thatcham - 22-Aug-09 (2) {REARED}
Photo © Pete Eeles
22-Aug-2009
Wood White, Botany Bay, 24 July 2008
Photo © Neil Hulme
24-Jul-2008
29.7.2013  Copulating Wood Whites, Surrey 155
Photo © hideandseek
29-Jul-2013
courting 2nd brood Wood whites (Oaken Wood) 14-Aug-2011
Photo © robsol1982
14-Aug-2011
Wood White (female), Oaken Wood, Surrey (11 July 2011)
Photo © Mark Colvin
11-Jul-2011
P1000349d-800, Wood White, Botany Bay, 10/07/2011
Photo © Pauline
10-Jul-2011
P1000403a 1-800, Wood White, Botany Bay, 10/07/2011
Photo © Pauline
10-Jul-2011
IMG 6364-1 Wood White 2nd brood female, Chiddingfold Wood, Surrey, 19.7.2014
Photo © hideandseek
19-Jul-2014
IMG 6559-1 Wood White 2nd brood male, Chiddingfold Wood, Surrey, 20.7.14
Photo © hideandseek
20-Jul-2014
Wood White - second brood female. Botany Bay, Chiddingfold, Surrey.
Photo © nomad

  Aberrations  

Description to be completed.

Click here to see a full list of aberrations for this species.

  Ovum  

The yellowish-white and skittle-shaped eggs are laid singly on the underside of a leaf, on sheltered plants. They hatch after about 2 weeks.


Wood White - ovum - Botany Bay - 22-May-05
Photo © Pete Eeles
22-May-2005
Bury Ditches  26.05.09
Photo © Tony Moore
26-May-2009
Wood White (eggs) - Botany Bay, Surrey 3-July-2010
Photo © millerd
Wood White - ovum - Botany Bay - 27-Apr-11 (1)
Photo © Pete Eeles
Wood White - ovum - Botany Bay - 27-Apr-11 (2)
Photo © Pete Eeles
Wood White (ovum) Botany Bay Surrey 27th May 2013
Photo © millerd
27-May-2013
1.8.2013 Wood White ovum after 5 days, Surrey 068
Photo © hideandseek
01-Aug-2013
Wood White - ovum - Chiddingfold - 15-Aug-13
Photo © Pete Eeles
16-Aug-2013
Wood White - ovum - Chiddingfold - 15-Aug-13-5
Photo © Pete Eeles
16-Aug-2013
Wood White - ovum - Chiddingfold - 15-Aug-13-6
Photo © Pete Eeles
16-Aug-2013
Wood White - ovum - Chiddingfold - 15-Aug-13-7
Photo © Pete Eeles
16-Aug-2013
Wood White - ovum - Chiddingfold - 15-Aug-13-8
Photo © Pete Eeles
16-Aug-2013
3.9.13, Wood White ovum after 8 days, Chiddingfold Wood, Surrey 262-2 1 1
Photo © hideandseek
03-Sep-2013
31.8.13 Wood White ovum after 5 days, Chiddingfold Wood, Surrey  008 1 1
Photo © hideandseek
31-Aug-2013

  Larva  

The superbly-camouflaged larva feeds by first eating the tips of the finest shoots, before working its way down the plant. There are 4 moults in total.


Wood White - larva - Thatcham - 06-Aug-09 (1) {REARED}
Photo © Pete Eeles
06-Aug-2009
Wood White - larva - Unknown location - 2004 (2) [REARED] [Reg Fry]
Photo © Reg Fry
Wood White - larva - Unknown location - 2004 (3) [REARED] [Reg Fry]
Photo © Reg Fry
Wood White - larva - Unknown location - 2004 [REARED] [Reg Fry]
Photo © Reg Fry
Wood White - larva - Thatcham - 29-Aug-13 (1) [REARED]
Photo © Pete Eeles
29-Aug-2013
Wood White larva just hatched, Chiddingfold Wood, Surrey, 5.9.13  033-5 1
Photo © hideandseek
05-Sep-2013
Wood White larva just hatched, Chiddingfold Wood, Surrey, 5.9.13  032-2 2
Photo © hideandseek
05-Sep-2013
Wood White larva just hatched, Chiddingfold Wood, Surrey, 5.9.13  023-6 1
Photo © hideandseek
05-Sep-2013
Wood White - larva - Thatcham - 04-Oct-13 (1) [REARED]
Photo © Pete Eeles
04-Oct-2013
Wood White - larva - Thatcham - 20-Sep-13 (1) [REARED]
Photo © Pete Eeles
20-Sep-2013
Wood White - larva - Thatcham - 20-Sep-13 (2) [REARED]
Photo © Pete Eeles
20-Sep-2013
Wood White - larva - Thatcham - 20-Sep-13 (3) [REARED]
Photo © Pete Eeles
20-Sep-2013
Wood White - larva - Thatcham - 20-Sep-13 (4) [REARED]
Photo © Pete Eeles
20-Sep-2013
Wood White - larva - Thatcham - 20-Sep-13 (5) [REARED]
Photo © Pete Eeles
20-Sep-2013

  Pupa  

The pupa is primarily green, although the wing edges and veins are a beautiful pink. It is attached to the stem by a silken girdle and the cremaster. Those pupae that do not give rise to a new generation in the same year overwinter.


Wood White - pupa - Unknown location - 2004 [REARED] [Reg Fry]
Photo © Reg Fry
Wood White - pupa - Thatcham - 04-Oct-13 (1) [REARED]
Photo © Pete Eeles
04-Oct-2013
Wood White - pupa - Thatcham - 01-Mar-14 {REARED}
Photo © Pete Eeles
01-Mar-2014
Wood White - pupa - Thatcham - 02-May-14 [REARED]
Photo © Pete Eeles
02-May-2014
Wood White - pupa - Thatcham - 03-May-14 [REARED]-14
Photo © Pete Eeles
03-May-2014
Wood White - pupa - Thatcham - 17-Apr-14 [REARED]
Photo © Pete Eeles
17-Apr-2014
Wood White - pupa - Thatcham - 30-Apr-14 [REARED]
Photo © Pete Eeles
30-Apr-2014

  Similar Species  

Cryptic Wood White

The Cryptic Wood White and Wood White can only be differentiated by a detailed examination of their genitalia.

  Videos  

Video © Peter Eeles
Wood White larva pupating
Video © Peter Eeles
Wood White Courtship
Video © Sjaak van Beek
Baltsende boswitjes, Courtship Wood White

  Sites  

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

Sites
Ballyvaughan, Betty Daw's Wood, Branscombe, Branscombe Cliffs, Bury Ditches, Chambers Farm Wood, Coldwell Copse, Common Hill, Coombe Heath, Dunscombe Cliffs, Dunsdon NNR, Foxholes, Haldon Butterfly Walk, Haldon Woods, Haugh Wood, Howe Park Wood, Kingcombe Stones, Lea and Pagets Wood, Little Linford Wood, Lough Bunny, Lyme Regis Undercliff, Marks Hall Estate, Monk Wood, Mount Fancy Reserve, Nupend Wood, Oaken Wood, Pentaloe Glen, Powerstock Common, Quoditch Moor Nature Reserve, Salcey Forest, Stonebarrow Hill, Wicken Wood, Woodside

  Conservation Status  

Despite relatively short-term increases, the long-term view is that this butterfly is in decline and is therefore a priority species for conservation efforts. This butterfly has suffered due to a change in woodland management and, in particular, the reduction in coppicing that allows new woodland clearings to develop that provides the conditions suitable for this species. Even improvements in habitat management will not guarantee that the species will reappear from areas where it has been lost, since it is not a very mobile species and may not, therefore, be able to recolonise naturally.

UK BAP StatusDistribution Trend (%)Population Trend (%)
Priority Species
Click here to access the Biodiversity Action Plan (BAP) for this species.
Decrease-23Decrease-49

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
Hübner (1823) Hübner, J.: Sammlung europäischer Schmetterlinge. 1823.
Linnaeus (1758) Linnaeus, C.: Systema Naturae. Edn.10. 1758.
Verity (1916) Verity, R.: The British Races of Butterflies: their relationships and nomenclature. Entomologist's Record and Journal of Variation. 1916.

  Copyright © Peter Eeles 2002-2014
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