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Did a white butterfly fly past you and you want to know its name? Here we present 9 common species and their characteristic features so that you can identify them more easily.

In a nutshell

  • about eight white species
  • other species with a white base color
  • easily confused with each other
  • white butterfly does not have to be pure white, often colored markings
  • When determining, pay attention to subtleties, e.g. B. Wing shape or shape of the wing spots
    Diverse Whites

A white butterfly does not necessarily have to be pure white: Most species of the white butterfly family (Pieridae), to which many from our list belong, are characterized by a predominantly white coloration, but can also have colored wing markings or spots or differently colored underwings - or own tops. Sometimes only the females are colored white, while the males show bright colors. The various species of whiting that are widespread in Central Europe can be observed almost all year round. You can therefore encounter a white butterfly from late winter or early spring to late autumn.

Notice: A white butterfly, the Karst white (Pieris mannii), is one of the so-called migratory butterflies, which, coming from the Mediterranean region, are sometimes found in southern Germany.

White butterflies from A to G

Aurora Butterfly (Anthocharis cardamines)

Source: Dinkum, Papillon dans le jardin Albert Kahn, Edited by Plantopedia, CC0 1.0
  • Wingspan: 35 to 45 millimeters
  • Ground colouration: white with gray to grey-black fore wing tips, small black dot in the middle of the wing; irregular yellowish-green markings on a white background on the underside of the hind wing
  • Coloring females: no orange coloring
  • Coloration males: striking orange coloration of the outer forewing
  • Occurrence and distribution: common white butterfly in Central Europe, v. a. in light forests and on dry meadows
  • Flight time: early April to June

Tree White (Aporia crataegi)

  • Wingspan: 60 to 80 millimeters
  • Basic coloration: white wing surfaces clearly separated by dark vein lines; dark spot on forewings
  • Coloration of females: brownish vein lines that are more faint, dark wing spot is often absent
  • Coloration of males: clear differentiation of the wing surfaces by black veins, black wing spot
  • Occurrence and distribution: White butterfly widespread in North Africa, Europe and as far as Asia, very variable in terms of its habitat
  • Flight time: late May to early June, in warmer regions also from mid-April to July

Notice: While the caterpillars of the tree white are mainly found on hawthorns, the adult butterflies prefer open areas overgrown with thistles or flowering crops.

Large Cabbage White (Pieris brassicae)

Source: Karelj, Pieris brassicae Jaroměř 1, Edited by Plantopedia, CC0 1.0
  • Wingspan: up to 60 millimeters
  • Ground colour: white with slightly darker forewing tips
  • Coloration females: black spots on the forewings
  • Coloration males: black spots absent
  • Occurrence and distribution: common white butterfly in North Africa and Europe, variable habitat and found almost everywhere where there are forage plants
  • Flight time: March to the end of October in several generations

Notice: The cabbage white is primarily found on cabbages and other cruciferous plants, which are some of its favorite forage crops. That is why he can often be observed in the garden.

White butterflies from K to R

Karst white (Pieris mannii)

Source: Adrian198cm, Artogeia mannii M 1, Edited from Plantopedia, CC0 1.0
  • Wingspan: 40 to 46 millimeters
  • Basic colouration: very similar to the small cabbage white, white with dark markings on the undersides of the hind wings, large wing spots; no differences between the sexes
  • Occurrence and distribution: Widespread in the Mediterranean area, but also increasingly found in southern Germany; prefer barren, rocky habitats, v. a. between trees and bushes
  • Flight time: in southern Germany between May and August

Tip: Karst and cabbage whites can be distinguished by their wing spots: these are rather small and round on the cabbage white and larger and more angular on the cabbage white.

Lesser Cabbage White (Pieris rapae)

Source: Michael Mulqueen, Butterfly (14251756950), Edited by Plantopedia, CC BY 2.0
  • Wingspan: 40 to 50 millimeters
  • Ground colouration: Wing tops white with gray margins, hind wing tops creamy white with gray patch, undersides greyish yellow (hind wing) and white (fore wing)
  • Coloration females: two gray spots on the forewings
  • Coloration males: a gray patch on the forewings
  • Occurrence and distribution: in North Africa and Europe, everywhere where its fodder plants (cruciferous plants) grow
  • Flight time: between March and October in several generations

Green-veined White (Pieris napi)

Source: Paul van de Velde from Netherlands, Pieris napi-male (48232503061), Edited by Plantopedia, CC BY 2.0
  • Wingspan: about 50 millimeters
  • Basic colouration: white undersides of forewings with yellowish tips, white uppersides with slight grey-green veins, hindwings yellow with greenish scaled vein lines
  • Coloration females: two dark spots on the forewings
  • Coloration males: a dark spot on the forewings
  • Occurrence and distribution: Widespread throughout Europe, prefers moist and rather shady habitats (e.g. forest edges, hedges, wooded river courses, fatty meadows, flood plains)
  • Flight time: April to early September in several generations

Notice: The species is also known as green-veined white or hedge white.

Mignonette butterfly (Pontia edusa)

Source: Charlie Jackson, Eastern Bath White (48885846722), Edited by Plantopedia, CC BY 2.0
  • Wingspan: 42 to 48 millimeters
  • Ground colouration: white with green-grey spots on undersides of hind wings, gray spots on fore and hind wings, gray margins on fore wing tips, no distinction between the sexes
  • Occurrence and distribution: prefer open grassland and meadows
  • Flight time: in Germany between April and September in several generations

White butterflies from S to Z

Mustard White (Leptidea reali/sinapis)

Source: Armand Turpel, Leptidea sinapis (14211218144), Edited by Plantopedia, CC BY 2.0
  • Wingspan: 36 to 44 millimeters
  • Ground coloration: white to off-white, very narrow wings, sometimes yellowish-green undersides of wings
  • Coloration females: only faint or absent spot on front wing
  • Coloration Males: Distinct black spot on the upper surface of the forewings
  • Occurrence and distribution: wherever it is sunny and warm, preferably on the edges of forests, on meadows and in gardens
  • Flight time: April to August in mostly two generations

Notice: These are actually two different types, but they can hardly be distinguished from each other. They are also known as the mustard white or ink spot.

Brimstone butterfly (Gonepteryx rhamni)

  • Wingspan: 50 to 55 millimeters
  • Coloration of females: similar to the cabbage white, only distinguishable by the shape of their wings; this is clearly pointed at all four ends, orange spot on the upper sides of the wings
  • Coloring of males: intense lemon yellow, orange spot on the upper sides of the wings
  • Occurrence and distribution: distributed throughout Central Europe; where there are buckthorn plants (e.g. buckthorn).
  • Flight time: between March and October, but retires in the hot summer months

frequently asked Questions

How many butterfly species are there in Germany?

The group of butterflies is very diverse: in Germany alone there are around 3700 different species, of which only around 170 are butterflies. Of these, about 50 species only occur in the Alpine region. The largest proportion of species richness is distributed among nocturnal moths, some hawk moths and spiders, moths and wood borers. About 26 species occurring in Germany belong to the Weißlingen.

Which butterflies are threatened with extinction?

However, the great biodiversity is under massive threat, mainly due to the decline of natural habitats, the planting of sterile and exotic garden plants and the use of pesticides in gardening and agriculture. Today, around 80 percent of butterflies are on the Red List and are therefore immediately threatened with extinction. Species that used to be particularly endangered, such as the lesser cabbage white, the lesser tortoiseshell, brimstone butterfly, admiral and the peacock butterfly are considered to be particularly endangered.

What species of butterflies are considered pests?

Cabbage whites in particular - especially the small cabbage white, which is now under severe threat - are considered pests. These species cause great damage to vegetable crops because the insects prefer to lay their eggs in cruciferous plants (like the cabbage that gives it their name) and their larvae eat the leaves bare.

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