Wood White - Leptidea sinapis

Scientific Name: Leptidea sinapis. The specific name implies that the caterpillars eat mustard, but it is presumably a mistaken idea, as the caterpillars actually eat vetches.

English Name: Wood White.

French Name: La Piéride de la moutarde or la Piéride du lotier.

5 Key Characters:
  • always rests with wings closed.
  • medium sized butterfly (forewing 19 - 24 mm long) but small for a White Pieridae.
  • white, rather elongated wings with rounded tips on the forewings and subtle grey markings on the underside of the hindwing.
  • males have grey forewing tips and white on the antennal clubs.
  • the amount of grey is reduced and the wings may be yellowy on those individuals emerging later in the year.
Lookalikes: In 2011 there was a lot of excitement regarding DNA testing of Leptidea specimens from the British Isles. This has established that there are 3 distinct species of Leptidea where we had thought there was only two. These 3 species, Wood White L. sinapis, Réal's Wood White L. reali and Cryptic Wood White L. juvernica are indistinguishable in the field. However, the population in the area covered by this blog seems to be restricted to L. sinapis. The other two seem to be more upland species in France, not occuring on the central and south-western lowlands.

Do not confuse with Small White Pieris rapae, which has different shaped wings and darker grey markings, or female Orange Tip Anthocharis cardamines, which also has darker grey markings and a marbled underside.

Habitat: Woodland fringes, clearings, open woodland and wooded grassland. They fly in a leisurely fashion, keeping low along hedgerows and woodland fringes. Males often gather on damp earth and excrement to feed and drink. In courtship the male lands in front of the female, touching her with his antennae and flapping his wings periodically. She also engages in wing flapping in response.

Flight Period: March-April-May-June-July-August-September-October-November.

Caterpillar: Green with a stripe down the side, April - October, overwintering as a chrysalis.

Host Plant: Various Legumes Fabaceae (Meadow Vetchling Lathyrus pratensis, Tufted Vetch Vicia cracca, Birdsfoot Trefoil Lotus corniculatus, Prostrate Canary Clover Dorycnium pentaphyllum).

Status: Very common, widely distributed and abundant.

Photographed by Loire Valley Nature:

Photographs are numbered from left to right and top to bottom. All photos will enlarge in a new window if you click in them. 1 female on Lady Orchid Orchis purpurea, Bois des Pretres.

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