Green-veined White Pieridae

Pieris napi (Linnaeus, 1758)

Description: Wingspan 40-52mm. This is an extremely variable butterfly, but general characteristics should mean most specimens can be identified. Adults have black tips to the forewings. The underside of the hindwing is pale yellow with the veins prominently lined with diffuse green mottling. On some specimens this mottling can be seen from the upperside. Adults of both sexes of the summer brood are darker than their first brood counterparts. Females are more prominently marked and darker than males.

Similar Species: Very similar to the Small White. It is separable from that species by the green mottling to the veins on the underside of the hindwing. The extent of the black mark on the apex of the forewing differs, with that in the Green-veined White being as extensive on the costal as on the side margin. The female Orange Tip is also similar but the green mottling on the underside of the hindwing is more extensive and not confined to the veins.

Key Identification Features:

Sets:  male upperside female underside

Flight Period: Adults have been recorded in all months between March and October. There are two broods each year. The spring brood peaks in late April and early May and the summer brood in late July and early August. The flight period of the two broods overlaps in late June/early July.

Status: This is probably the commonest butterfly in N. Ireland. Certainly away from urban areas it is the commonest white in N. Ireland. It is found everywhere in open habitats and open woodlands especially wet grassland up to 300m. It is absent from only the highest ground and most urbanised areas. It is a non-migratory species.

Ecology: Green-veined Whites inhabit loose colonies in grassland and open habitats. The adults stay within habitat but colonies mingle. Males fly within habitat searching for females. There is usually a courtship chase prior to mating. The females lay eggs on the young leaves of the foodplant which is most commonly Cuckoo-flower Cardamine pratensis but other wild crucifers are occasionally used. Adults feed frequently on flowers including Cuckoo-flower, Knapweed Centaurea nigra and Bramble Rubus fruticosus. The pupa is the overwintering stage.

World Distribution: This is an extremely widespread butterfly, found throughout Europe, NW Africa, Asia between 40 and 70N and N. America. The specific status of some populations are disputed.

Bradley & Fletcher number: 1551 Agassiz number: 58.008

Additional information:

UK Butterflies account


 Thompson, R. S. & Nelson, B., 2003 (Oct 2). [In] The Butterflies and Moths of Northern Ireland