A Guide to the Insects of the Coal Oil Point Reserve

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  Insects of Coal Oil Point > Guide > Lepidoptera > Pieridae - Whites, Orangetips, and Sulphurs

Pieridae - Whites, Orangetips & Sulphurs


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Pieris rapae | Pontia protodice | Anthocharis sara | Colias eurytheme

White, Orangetip and Sulphur Photos
(click to enlarge)

Pieris rapae - Cabbage White



Size: wingspread 1.5-2 in.

Recognition: Medium-sized; white with black FW tip; female has two black spots down mid-wing, while male only has one.

Flight period: Adults are active all year in southern California, and from March to November (spring to fall) farther north.

Hostplants: Larvae feed on many plants in the mustard family (Brassicaceae) such as cabbage, broccoli, mustards, winter cress, watercress, and peppergrass (it is considered a serious pest of some of these).

Habitat: Found in various natural and suburban areas including fields, gardens, mountain edges, roadsides, and hills; not found in deserts.

Distribution: Very common throughout the U.S. and Canada, this is probabaly the most widespread and visible butterfly in southern California. Just look around, they are everywhere!

Pontia protodice - Checkered White

male upperside

male underside

Size: wingspread 1.5-2 in.

Recognition: White; few spots on upper FW, with more distinct spots down outer edges of FW and HW in female.

Flight period: Adults are active all year, with peak flying time occurring in the late spring.

Hostplants: The larvae of the Checkered White feed on plants in the mustard family (Brassicaceae),such as peppergrass, tumble mustard, and occasionally plants in the caper family.

Habitat: Found in various open areas including fields, roadsids, deserts, suburbs, and coastal areas.

Distribution: Found throughout the U.S. and Central America, with localities around southern California in a variety of habitats and altitudes.

Anthocharis sara - Sara Orangetip



Size: wingspread 1.5-2 in.

Recognition: Small; creamy white to white (male) or yellow (female) with dark FW tips and large orange patch beneath dark FW tips; underside of hindwing finely mottled with dark gray-green.

Flight period: In many years with two flights, the main in February to April, with a second generation emerging in May and June.

Hostplants: The larva feeds on rock cress (Arabis), and other plants in the mustard family (Brassicaceae).

Habitat: Found in a variety of habitats, but prefers sunny foothills, wooded canyons, and montane meadows.

Distribution: Ranges through much of the western U.S. from Alaska to Baja California. Found throughout southern California and Santa Barbara County. Look for these distinctive butterflies in the dry mountains and hillsides surrounding Santa Barbara.

Colias eurytheme - Orange Sulphur

male upperside

male underside

female upperside

female underside

Size: wingspread 1.5-2.5 in.

Recognition: Yellow-orange with outer black border and small central orange patch in HW; females may be yellow or white (albinic, as shown).

Flight period: Adults are active from February to November with a spring and late summer flight during this time.

Hostplants: The larvae feed on a variety of legumes (Fabaceae), including alfalfa, white sweet clover, white clover, and vetches.

Habitat: Found in open areas including agricultural fields (alfalfa), meadows, mountains, and hillsides.

Distribution: Found throughout the U.S. and Canada.

Other: The Orange Sulphur is occasionally considered a pest of alfalfa.


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