Insects of Britain and Ireland: the families of Lepidoptera

DELTA home

L. Watson and M. J. Dallwitz


Adults diurnal; medium sized to large; relatively short-bodied (almost invariably), or medium-bodied to long-bodied (e.g., in L. sinapis); very relatively slender-bodied (wingspan more than 15 times the thoracic width) to medium built (wingspan more than 8 and less than 15 times the thoracic width); wings in repose apposed vertically over the back.

Head rough. Antennae of medium length; extending to about 0.26–0.49 times the length of the forewing; inserted markedly less than one half the width of the head apart; clubbed. The club gradual, or abruptly terminal (straight or curved, strongly flattened or not, usually pale-tipped). Antennae of males simple; non-ciliate. Eyes neither notched nor emarginate, and clearly separated from the bases of the antennal sockets; glabrous. Ocelli absent. Chaetosemata present. Maxillary palps absent. Labial palps ascending (appressed to frons); 3 segmented. Proboscis fully developed; not scaly.

Wingspan (31–)40–72(–76) mm; 12–23 times the thoracic width. Forewings broad; 1.5–1.86 times as long as wide. The outer and hind margins angled at about (90–)97–105(–127) degrees. The outer margin convexly curved to more or less straight, or sigmoid-curved (Gonepteryx); forewings apically blunt, or hooked (Gonepteryx); ground colour predominantly white or cream, or yellow; forewings without eye-spots above; forewings not eye-spotted underneath near the tip. Hindwings broadly rounded; similar in breadth to the forewings; tailed (Gonepteryx only), or not tailed; the upper surfaces conspicuously patterned above, or plain; with a discal spot (this sometimes yellow or orange), or with neither discal spot nor transverse lines (with the conventional lepidopterous lines and discal marks lacking or more or less obscured); without a frenulum.

Neuration of forewings and hindwings dissimilar. Forewings 10 veined (7 and 9 absent), or 11 veined (then vein 7 or 9 absent), or 12 veined; with 1 anal vein. The anal veins of the forewings representing 1b only. Forewings lacking a tubular vein 1c. Vein 1b of the forewings simple. Discal cell of the forewings without a tubular media (M) vein. Forewing veins 7, 8 and 9 stalked or coincident. Hindwings 8 veined, or 9 veined (usually), or 9–10 veined; with 2 anal veins, or with 3 anal veins. The anal veins of the hindwings comprising 1a and 1b, or comprising 1a, 1b and 1c. Hindwings exhibiting vein 1a; lacking a tubular vein 1c; with a praecostal spur, or without a praecostal spur. The hindwing cell emitting more than six veins (usually), or emitting no more than six veins. 6 veins arising from the hindwing cell (Leptidea), or 7 veins arising from the hindwing cell. The cell-derived hindwing veins all arising independently of one another, or 3+4 proximally joined, or 3+4 proximally joined and 6+7 proximally joined. Vein 8 of the hindwings arising from the upper margin of the cell (from near its base); not approximating to vein 7.

Adults having all 6 legs fully developed and operational for walking. Fore-legs of female operational for walking. Fore-legs without a tibial epiphysis. Tibiae of middle legs 2-spurred. Posterior tibiae 2-spurred.

Tympanal organs absent.

Eggs, larvae and pupae. Eggs not flattened (elongate, bottle-shaped or truncate-fusiform); longitudinally ribbed and/or reticulate. Larval prolegs 10. Larvae conspicuously, densely long-hairy, or not densely long-hairy (usually somewhat hairy, sometimes associated with ants in the early instars); without tentacles on segment 2; exposed feeders; not feeding in communal tents. Mostly on Cruciferae or Papilionaceae, but the extinct Aporia on woody Rosaceae and Gonepteryx on Rhamnus.

Pupae ridged and angular, or smooth and rounded; conspicuously patterned, or plain; without shining-metallic spots; exposed, with no coccoon; not suspended, but attached at the tail and secured by a median girdle of silk.

British representation. Genera 8; 15 species (including 3 adventive, 1 extinct). Anthocharis cardamines (Orange Tip), Aporia crataegi (Black-veined White - extinct in Britain), Colias alfacariensis (Berger’s Clouded Yellow - adventive, or perhaps often confused with the closely similar C. hyale), Colias hyale (Pale Clouded Yellow), Colias croceus (Clouded Yellow), Colias palaeno (Moorland Clouded Yellow, adventive), Euchloë simplonia (Dappled White, adventive), Gonepteryx cleopatra (Cleopatra, adventive), Gonepteryx rhamni (Brimstone), Leptidea sinapis (Wood White), Pieris brassicae (Large White), Pieris rapae (Small White), Pieris napi (Green-veined White), Pontia daplidice (Bath White).

Classification. Butterflies. Suborder Ditrysia. Superfamily Papilionoidea.

Illustrations. • Pieridae (1): Newman. • Pieridae (2): Newman. • Pieridae (3): Newman. • Colias croceus (Clouded Yellow), C. hyale (Pale Clouded Yellow), C. alfacariensis (Berger’s Clouded Yellow): photos. • Colias hyale (Pale Clouded Yellow: B. Ent. 242). • Colias hyale (dissections: B. Ent. 242). • Colias hyale: B. Ent. 242, legend+text. • Colias hyale: B. Ent. 242, text cont.. • Colias croceus (Clouded Yellow: Hübner/Curtis). • Colias palaeno (Moorland Clouded Yellow: Kirby). • Gonepteryx rhamni (Brimstone, variety: B. Ent. 173). • Gonepteryx rhamni: B. Ent. 173, legend+text. • Gonepteryx rhamni: B. Ent. 173, text cont.. • Gonepteryx rhamni (Brimstone) and G. cleopatra (Cleopatra): photos. • Gonepteryx cleopatra (Cleopatra: Kirby). • Aporia crataegi (Black-veined White): photos. • Aporia crataegi (Black-veined White: B. Ent. 360). • Aporia crataegi: B. Ent. 360, legend+text. • Aporia crataegi: B. Ent. 360, text cont.. • Pontia daplidice (Bath White: B. Ent. 48). • Pontia daplidice: B. Ent. 48, legend+text. • Pontia daplidice: B. Ent. 48, text cont.. • Anthocharis cardamines (Orange Tip): photos. • Anthocharis cardamines (Orange Tip: Hübner/Curtis). • Euchloë simplonia (Dappled White, adventive: Kirby). • Leptidea sinapis (Wood White: Morris/Curtis). • Pieris brassicae (Large White, Large Cabbage White: Hübner/Curtis). • Pieris rapae (Small White, Small Cabbage White: Hübner/Curtis). • Pieris napi (Green-veined White: Hübner/Curtis). • Dwarfism in Pieridae - Anthocharis cardamines (Orange Tip) and Pieris rapae (Small White): photos. • Colias, Leptidea: neuration.

To view the illustrations with detailed captions, go to the interactive key. This also offers full and partial descriptions, diagnostic descriptions, differences and similarities between taxa, lists of taxa exhibiting or lacking specified attributes, and distributions of character states within any set of taxa.

Cite this publication as: ‘Watson, L., and Dallwitz, M.J. 2003 onwards. Insects of Britain and Ireland: the families of Lepidoptera. Version: 8th June 2016.’.