White Butterflies (Pierinae), a fairly diverse butterfly subfamily, count over two dozen species in a dozen genera within their ranks.
Types of Butterflies
From mustards to pines, white butterfly larvae display an eclectic palate. Pine Whites (Neophasia menapia), common Western species, fly wherever pine trees grow.
The picture shows a top view of the wings. The curved border line on the top of the wing that starts at the body is a key identification mark.
Their larvae also feed on plants in the mustard family, common North American plants, which partially explains their extended range.
Usually the very prominent orange tipped wings get matched with an equally dull pattern for the underside of the wings.
The pattern serves as camouflage while the orangetip rests with wings folded.
The Sara's Orangetip butterfly, a striking butterfly, represents the genera. They are abundant up and down the West Coast, making their home in fields, deserts and other areas. They are one of the first butterflies to appear in early spring and their bright colors add a touch of sparkle to their newly emerging green environment.
Four Pontia species, collectively called checkered whites also make a prominent showing across North America. The Western White butterfly (Pontia occidentalis) extends its range through much of the Rocky Mountain region to western coastal areas.
Giant White Butterflies (Ganyra josephina) wings can span close to four inches. They are a tropical species that can be seen in South Texas.
The Cabbage White Butterfly (Pieris rapae), one of the most recognizable whites, flies in and around residential gardens from spring through summer.
Females, like the one in the top picture, have two black spots on an otherwise white wing. Males have one black spot on the wing.
Their name derives from both color and diet. The caterpillars feed on plants in the mustard family (Brassicaceae). Cabbage, a mustard plant, naturally invites the species to gardens.
Cabbage whites are introduced species, native to Europe. Their presence in any one area means they compete with other native Pieridae species that feed on mustard plants.
One of those competing Pieris, the Margined White (Pieris marginalis), inhabits western areas.
Depending on their specific location they fly from spring through summer. The picture shows a side view, with the darker streaked veins.
© 2002-2014 Patricia A. Michaels