Large White

Pieris brassicae


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Pieris brassicae

Male, Málaga, March 2019

Pieris brassicae

Female, Switzerland, July 2017

Pieris brassicae

Female, Suffolk, UK, July 2020

Pieris brassicae

Female, Switzerland, July 2017

Pieris brassicae

Male, Suffolk, UK, April 2019

Pieris brassicae

Male, Gibraltar February 2007

Pieris brassicae

Female, Suffolk, UK, July 2020

Pieris brassicae

Switzerland, July 2009

Pieris brassicae

Female, Switzerland, September 2013

Female, Switzerland, September 2006

Suffolk, July 2002 (the male is on the right)

Pieris brassicae eggs

Eggs, Suffolk, UK, August 2020

Pieris brassicae larvae

First instar caterpillars on garlic mustard, Suffolk, UK, July 2021

Pieris brassicae larvae

Caterpillars on curly kale, Suffolk, UK, August 2021


Pieris brassicae larvae

Caterpillars, Suffolk, UK, August 2019

Pieris brassicae pupa

Pupa, Suffolk, UK, August 2021

Pieris brassicae pupa

Pupa, Suffolk, UK, August 2021

Pieris brassicae pupa

The same pupa coloured up, September 2021

Pieris brassicae distribution

Distribution

This is the familiar 'cabbage white', known to all gardeners as a pest of cabbages and related plants - though to my mind a very welcome pest. It is an opportunistic breeder and strong migrant, resident throughout most of Europe but in the North found in much greater numbers in late summer after the population has been swelled by continued immigration and breeding. In fact, after cold winters it may be rather scarce in spring at higher latitudes, before the newcomers arrive.

Despite its notoriety, the large white is a strikingly attractive butterfly. It is noticeably larger than its nearest cousins, the green-veined, small, southern small and mountain small whites and also has noticeably more pointed wings. The black apical mark extends further down the outer margin of the forewing than along the costa, allowing easy separation from the equally common (or commoner) small white. The male has a clear forewing upperside apart from the apical black but the female has two heavy black spots and a strip along the trailing edge. From the underside the sexes are very similar, both showing a strong, black discal spot.

Like its relatives, the large white hibernates as a pupa, often on posts or walls of houses. The female lays eggs in large batches on crucifers and nasturtiums, where they hatch into sometimes prolific green and black caterpillars. For some reason, I have no pictures of the early stages, nor many good pictures of the adults. This is something to be corrected in future years!