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Butterfly Conservation- Glasgow & South West Scotland Branch

Green-veined White (Pieris napae)


The Green-veined White is probably the most widely distributed butterfly in South West Scotland. From a distance it can be difficult to tell the Green-veined White from a Small White or even a smaller sized Large White, but closer inspection reveals that it has distinctive greenish-grey venation, particularly on the underside of the hindwings (wingspan 40-52 mm). The amount of vein colour can be quite variable. Both sexes are similar to each other, but females tend to have darker markings. There are differences between broods with the first brood having darker veins while later broods have paler veins and more of a yellow background colour. Another helpful diagnostic feature is that the white tips of the antennae of Green-veined White are more conspicuous than in Large & Small White. The sub species of Green-veined White in Scotland is thomsoni which differs from the napi napi race in southern Britain in a number of ways including a generally more yellow colour on the underwings.

Credit: Jim Black
Credit: Jim Black
Credit: Jim Black

Life Cycle

After emerging, this highly mobile species can cover large distances in search of nectar or mates. The Green-veined White tends to have at least two broods per year in South West Scotland.. The pale green elongated eggs are laid singly on the underside of leaves of a number of wild crucifers such as cuckooflower (Cardamine pratensis), garlic mustard (Alliaria petiolata), hedge mustard (Sisymbrium pratensis) or water cress (Rorippa nasturtium-aquatica). After 7 -14 days the well camouflaged green larvae hatch and begin feeding. When fully grown (~25mm), the larvae move away from the food plant to pupate, forming either a green or brown chrysalis in the surrounding vegetation. Later broods of Green-veined white overwinter in the pupal stage.

Flight Times

In South West Scotland adults can be found on the wing anytime from April through to early October with the first brood peaking in May to mid June and the second brood in late July to August.

Habitat & Distribution in SW Scotland

Distribution map 2010

The Green-veined White can be found in a wide range of habitats, but favour damp grassland with lush vegetation where their food plants grow. It can be seen along hedgerows and damp field margins, river banks, meadows, moorland and woodland edges.

The Green-veined White is the most common and widely distributed butterfly in South West Scotland. It is a strong flyer and can move large distances to find suitable habitat or mates. It can be found from the tops of mountains down to sea level and is often the only butterfly to be seen in the extensive moorland habitat of Scotland. Itís preference for wild crucifers mean that it is not a pest of commercial brassica crops such as cabbages.


  • Futter, K., Sutcliffe, R., Welham, D., Welham, A., Rostron, A., MacKay, J., Gregory, N., McCleary, J., Tait, T., Black, J. & Kirkland, P. 2006. Butterflies of South West Scotland. Argyll Publishing. (see Atlas page)
  • Asher, J., Warren, M, Fox, R., Harding, P., Jeffcoate, G., Jeffcoate, S. 2001. The Millennium Atlas of Butterflies in Britain & Ireland. Oxford University Press.
  • Fox, R., Asher, J., Brereton, T., Roy, D., Warren, M. 2006. The State of Butterflies in Britain and Ireland. Pisces Publications.
  • Tomlinson, D. & Still, R. 2002. Britainís Butterflies. WILDGuides.
  • Written by Scott Shanks & Andrew Masterman

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