Small White Butterfly - Pieris rapae

Phylum: Arthropoda - Class: Insecta - Order: Lepidoptera - Family: Pieridae

Small White butterfly

The Small White butterfly first appears in March and is seen on the wing throughout the summer and into autumn. There are two or more broods per year. They are found in open countryside as well as in gardens and allotments throughout Britain.

Small White butterfly on Wild Thyme

The eggs are laid on the undersides of leaves and can take anything between three and ten days to hatch, depending on temperature.

Eggs of the Small White butterfly on the underside of a Nasturtium leaf

Usually there is a spring brood and a summer brood, so you can sometimes find eggs from April through to early September.

Small White butterfly egg

Above: a closeup of a single egg of the Small White butterfly.

The eggs of the Small White butterfly are whitish when newly laid, but they gradually turn yellow and eventually grey before hatching.

Larva if the Small White butterfly

Catterpillars of the Small White butterfly (see above) can do great damage to brassicas such as cabbages and broccoli - as also can its close relative the Large White (pictured below), which is often referred to as the 'cabbage white' butterfly.

Caterpillar of the Small White butterfly

In the picture below, Small White butterfly larvae are seen feeding together with larvae of Large Whites. Usually the larvae of Small Whites keep out of sight during daytime, whereas the bright colours of larvae of Large Whites act as a warning to predators that they are toxic (as indeed they are to most insectivorous birds), and they tend to feed more overtly, often in quite large groups.

Larvae of Small White and Large White butterflies feeding together


This page includes pictures kindly contributed by Betty and Tony Rackham.

Studying butterflies and moths...

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