Small White (Pieris rapae)

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2020 photographs highlighted in green. Click on any photograph to go to an enlarged picture, or simply scroll down the page.

14795_male_Var_28Apr09 17219_male_Alpes-Maritimes_04Jul09 7965_male_Isère_5Jul07
40696_male?_Var_5Jun16 20832_pair_Var_16Jun10  

Undoubtedly the most common butterfly in Europe. It has three to five generations in lowland regions, one or two in mountainous areas. The first brood is quite lightly marked compared to the summer brood.

It is very similar to the Southern Small White (P. mannii) (see the mannii page for distinguishing features) which is quite common, perhaps even more so than rapae, in southern Var.
ref sex


alt. m
14795 M

a first brood male.

17219 M

a male of the summer brood, with a rather small post-discal spot. There are some distinct differences to typical mannii, especially the thickness of the apical mark and that it extends down the margin only to around v5, not low enough for typical mannii but lower than I would expect for rapae (H&R says rapae extends to v7 or v6, and mannii to v4 or v3). Does the spot have a straight external edge? Very hard to say. It almost seems like an intermediary form between rapae and mannii, but I don't believe these exist. On balance, it may be rather closer to rapae than mannii.

7965 M

a male of the summer brood. Another mannii/rapae conundrum: one expert has opined that this is actually mannii and he may well be right. It has a fork, albeit very small and significantly smaller than most rapae forks, and this particular expert has asserted that mannii CAN sometimes have a very small fork; if this is the case, the question arises as to how forked does it need to be to be rapae? Where is the dividing line? Lafranchis, in TLID, says rapae v7 "often forked" and mannii v7 "not forked"; quite categorical here. In addition, the grey scales seem almost evenly spread above and below the cell - indicative of mannii. The forewing margin is quite rounded, also an indicator of mannii. In favour of rapae is the strong lemon yellow ground colour. So, plenty of conflicting evidence here. Any input which would clarify or qualify any of these factors would be welcome.


However, since then I have spoken to one of the UK's leading experts who says that exceptionally mannii can have a very small fork. Additionally, Matt Rowlings has pointed out that the scale-free region in the cell is a sure pointer to rapae (compare with 17921 on the mannii page).

40696 M? clearly rapae, as can be seen from the fork in vein 7. I suspect it is a male from the pose and the apparently lighter dusting of grey scales on the unh. 200
20832 PAIR

a mating pair. These can be clearly identified as rapae rather than mannii as the forewing vein 7 is clearly forked (see mannii page).