Large White butterfly

©Zsuzsanna Bird

Large white

Scientific name: Pieris brassicae
The Large white is a common garden visitor - look out for its brilliant white wings, tipped with black. Its caterpillars can be a bit of a nuisance, however, as they munch their way through your veg!

Species information

Statistics

Wingspan: 5.8-6.3cm

Conservation status

Common.

When to see

April to October

About

The Large white is a common, large, white butterfly that is often spotted flying slowly over cabbage patches in gardens and allotments, and over farmland; adults fly between April and October. Also known as the 'Cabbage white', the foodplants of the caterpillars of this butterfly are members of the cabbage family, known as 'Brassicas', hence its Latin name, Pieris brassicae.

How to identify

The Large white is a white butterfly with prominent black tips to the forewings. The underside of the wings is cream. The female has two black spots and a dash on each forewing. As its name suggests, the Large white is larger than the other white butterflies.

Distribution

Found across the UK, although scarcer in the north of Scotland.

Did you know?

The Brassica-loving caterpillars of the Large white are brightly coloured to warn predators that they are poisonous having accumulated mustard oils from the Oil-seed rape, cabbages and sprouts they have eaten.

How people can help

If you want to keep Large white caterpillars at bay, try placing horticultural fleece over your vegetables to stop the butterfly laying its eggs on them. You can also pick off the caterpillars, which are hairy and yellowy-green, with yellow stripes and black spots. To find out more about controlling garden pests in a wildlife-friendly way, or encouraging wildlife into your garden, visit our Wild About Gardens website: a joint initiative with the RHS, there's plenty of facts and tips to get you started.