Insects of Britain and Ireland: butterflies

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L. Watson and M. J. Dallwitz


Adults. Wingspan 38–47 mm; the fringes not banded. Very slender-bodied; medium-bodied to long-bodied. The eyes glabrous. Antennae reaching noticeably less than halfway to the wingtips. The antennal clubs gradual-elongate to abrupt; not curved; flattened (blunt, orange-tipped). Labial palps ascending (appressed to the frons). Having all 6 legs fully developed and operational for walking. Fore-legs without a tibial epiphysis. Tibiae of middle legs 2-spurred. Posterior tibiae 2-spurred.

Forewings. Forewings apically blunt. The outer and hind margins angled at about 100–104 degrees. The outer margins convexly curved. Uppersides of the forewings white; without a discal mark; with a dark grey terminal blotch in the male, this relatively inconspicuous in the female.

Hindwings. Hindwings broadly rounded. Uppersides of the hindwings white; plain (unpatterned); without a discal mark.

Undersides of wings. Undersides of the forewings white like the upperside, but duskier proximally along the costa, and lacking the apical dark blotch.

Undersides of the hindwings differing from the upperside, the white background ground being irregularly clouded with light grey; without a discal mark.

Wing venation. Forewings 12 veined; without basally dilated veins. Forewings with 1 tubular anal vein; the anal veins of the forewings representing 1b only; vein 1b simple. Forewings with a discal cell; vein 2 departing from the cell less than three-quarters of the distance from its base (about 2/3 from the base). Forewing veins 2–6 well separate, 8–11 all more or less equidistantly out of 7, 12 separate. “The subcostal nervure 5-branched” (Kirby).

Hindwings 9 veined; with a praecostal spur; with 2 anal veins; exhibiting vein 1a; the anal veins comprising 1a and 1b. Hindwings with a closed discal cell; the transverse vein complete. 6 veins arising from the hindwing cell. The cell-derived hindwing veins 6+7 proximally joined (on a long stalk). Hindwing vein 5 rising nearer to 4 than to the 7+7 stalk.

Eggs, larvae, pupae. Eggs more or less truncate-fusiform (truncate at the base); longitudinally ribbed. The larvae associated with ants in the early instars (attracting them via secretions presented at the forked tips of long glandular setae); hairy; exposed feeders. On Papilionaceae - Vicia and Lathyrus.

Pupae ridged and angular (similar in shape to that of the Orange Tip, but less curved and less tapered at either end); conspicuously patterned; without shining-metallic markings; exposed, with no coccoon; not suspended, but attached at the tail and secured by a median girdle of silk.

British representation. 1 species. Leptidea sinapis (Wood White). The adults abroad May to August.

Status in Britain. Indigenous.

Distribution. Northern England, English Midlands, East Anglia, Wales, southeast England, central southern England, southwest England, Isle of Wight, and Ireland. Frequenting woodland. Habitats calcareous and non-calcareous.

Comments. Flight weak, fluttering; a woodland species.

Classification. Superfamily Papilionoidea. Pieridae.

Illustrations. • Leptidea sinapis (Wood White): photos. • Larva and pupa of L. sinapis: Duponchel (1849). • Leptidea sinapis (Wood White): egg, larva, pupa. • Leptidea sinapis (Wood White: Morris/Curtis). • 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. 2008 onwards. Insects of Britain and Ireland: butterflies. Version: 16th May 2016.’.