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Large White

Photograph by: 
Peter Orchard

A familiar species of countryside and gardens


  • Large white: eat your greens

    Post date: Tuesday, 20 May, 2014 - 00:00

    In some years you can see clouds of large white (Pieris brassicae) butterflies, in other years far fewer. Obviously the summer weather will play its part but not always as this is a species, like several others, where the numbers can be boosted by significant inward migration from Europe. It is one of those butterflies you can expect to see at any time in the spring, throughout the summer and in to the autumn as it can have three broods a year here in the south. 

    As a species that lays its eggs on plants of the crucifereae family, in other words cabbages, it is much persecuted and chemical warfare is raged against it. This species is certainly far less common than thirty years ago although this might also be due to the fact that very few of us grow our own vegetables in our gardens these days. The insect over winters as a pupa and can hatch in April to give us the first brood but usually it will be well in to May before we see them.

    As you would expect, it is larger than the small white and has darker and clearly visible black wing tips and spots. It may only be a cabbage white but actually, on closer inspection, they are like all butterflies, beautiful.


  • Large White in Dorset: what your tweets tell us ...

    Post date: Friday, 12 April, 2019 - 21:21

    The large white is one of the most common white butterflies here in Dorset and can generally be seen in good numbers although occasionally an influx of immigrants can mean numbers reach very high levels indeed. Infamous for its caterpillars devouring cabbages, large whites can be seen in gardens, downland and woodland in open countryside and in the middle of towns; it can be seen almost anywhere! The first brood appear in late April and then there is a short gap in late June until the second brood emerge and they can be seen through until the end of September or even longer depending on weather conditions.

    Despite being common there are only 24 records in the Nature of Dorset database for 2017 and 2018 combined. I think this is partly due to the low number of observers that report butterflies and also because it is common and sometimes though not worthy of a mention. What reports there are show a single sighting in week 10 in early March and one wonders whether this is an accurate record or whether it could have been a female brimstone? Reports start in earnest in week 18 to week 20 in May. There is then a gap until week 25 in early July and reports continue in to late September and early October. Indeed, October has produced the most records over the two years and this must surely reflect the late inward migration in these years?

    The distribution maps shows just how widely spread the large white is with records from all over the county but there is a strong band of sites along the coast that have reported them and that, too, may reflect the inward migration.


Common Name Large White
Scientific Name Pieris brassicae
Species Group Pierid Butterflies Whites
Interest Level
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Identification Notes
Primary Habitat
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Additional Identification Notes
Similar Species

The records for this species have been organised into reports, charts, maps and photos. Click a pic below to see the detail:

Notebook Distribution Map Sites List Some Charts Some Photographs Recent Records Guidance Notes

To see related species click here: 

Pierid Butterflies Whites