Small White - Pieris rapae


This species and its larger cousin, the Large White, are often referred to as Cabbage Whites, though the Small White causes less damage to crops. There is a black tip to each wing plus one or two black dots. The underside is often more creamy white. Second brood adults have noticeably darker markings that those of the first brood.

Similar Species

Whilst the Large White and Small White can usually be distinguished by size, this isn't always useful in a photo. However there are differences in the shape of the black mark on the forewing tip. In the Large White, this black tip wraps around both the leading edge and trailing edge with the inner boundary strongly curved. In the Small White the black tip has a more or less straight inner line and it doesn't extend very far along the trailing edge.


The Green-veined White is a similar size to the Small White and whilst the underwing of the former usually shows prominent green-yellow veining the upper wings of both species are very similar. The black tip in the Green-veined White is usually less 'solid' and extends in blotches along the wing edge.

Identification difficulty

This species is found in a wide variety of habitats and can turn up almost anywhere, including gardens, allotments, parks, meadows, open grassland and hedgerows.

When to see it

April to September.

Life History

First-brood adults typically emerge in late April, peaking around the middle of May and gradually tailing off through June. The second brood, which is always stronger than the first brood, starts to emerge in early July. However, in good years, the second brood may emerge in late June and give rise to a third brood. The main larval food plants are various crucifers and nasturtium.

UK Status

This is one of the most widespread species found in the British Isles and can be found almost everywhere. It is relatively scarce in northern Scotland but has been seen as far north as The Orkneys and Shetlands. This species is also known to migrate to the British Isles from the Continent, sometimes flying in great swarms, augmenting the resident population in the process.

VC55 Status

Common throughout Leicestershire & Rutland.

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Leicestershire & Rutland Map


Yellow squares = NBN records (all known data)
Coloured circles = NatureSpot records: 2020+ | 2015-2019 | pre-2015

UK Map