Pieris brassicae

Large White


by Matt Rowlings

copyright © 2003-2024

Show butterflies of: EU US
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Var, France, July 2010

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Vaud, Switzerland, August 2006

Female with black spots on forewing

Field notes and information

A common and widespread butterfly, notorius for the risk it poses to the private and commercial production of cabbage and related crops.

Identification & Similar species: One of the largest white butterflies in Europe. Only the black veined white and the apollos (Aporia crataegi, Parnassius sp.) are larger and these have distinct red rings or veins lined black. Some of the small whites may be confused with this species, but the Large white is distinguished by the heavy black apical mark - it is curved on the inside, tapering to the costa and extending a long way down the outer margin. In the small whites, formerly included in the genus Artogeia, this mark is rather rectangular and meets the costa at an angle and fades away quickly down the inner margin. Females have heavy black spots on the forewings, males generally lack these marks and if present are very small compared to the females.

Distribution & Flight: Resident throughout much of Europe and north Africa, northern populations (e.g. the UK) are reinforced by migration from southern areas. Early spring until autumn cold. Usually becomes commoner as the season progresses.

Habitat & Behaviour: It is found in almost all and every habitat, including towns and gardens. It is partially migratory which explains why it is so widespread. It is often attracted to nectar rich plants such as buddleia and thistles and garden or commercial cabbage and other Brassica cultivation. Has rarely but repeatedly been known to swarm in vast numbers as they arrive in southern England - the sky turns black as the swarms cross the English Channel.

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Andalusia, Spain, October 2005

Male with clear white forewing

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Tuscany, Italy, June 2019

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Kozani, Greece, May 2004

Spring generation - very dark scaling on underside.

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Large white P. brassicae with black curving apical mark tapering to costa and inner margin.

Small white A. rapae less intense black apical mark, rather angular and joins the costa and the inner margin at a sharp angle.

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Gibraltar, October 2014

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Rhodes, Greece, May 2017

With C. cardui and V. atalanta, Painted Lady and red adminral.

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Vaud, Switzerland, September 2013

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Var, France, April 2018

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Var, France, April 2007

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Rhodes, Greece October 2018

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Rhodes, Greece October 2018

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Macedonia, Greece, July 2016

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Savoie, France, May 2005 (female)

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Valais, Switzerland, October 2011

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Var, France, April 2007