Pieridae

Clive Knight has sent in beautiful photographs of two butterflies: a brimstone (Gonepteryx rhamni) and a large white (Pieris brassicae). Although both are members of the Pieridae family, they have significantly different life cycles.

The brimstone is the longest lived of the British butterflies with a life span of almost twelve months. It overwinters in its adult form, hibernating in woodland among evergreen leaves, and emerging in the early spring. Most years, it is the first butterfly seen in the reserve. The large white is a summer butterfly that lives little more than three weeks as an adult, one of the many species of butterfly that overwinter in the pupal form.

A brimstone female lays her eggs singly on the underside of the leaves of just a few species of buckthorn; altogether she lays up to seventy eggs. Large white females lay many clutches, with each clutch containing up to a hundred eggs, on both the upper and lower surfaces of many different species of Brassicaceae. In her short life a female large white can lay several hundred eggs.

The brimstone is a single brood species, raising only one generation each year but the large white can raise up to three generations every year.

Above: large white (Pieris brassicae) by Clive Knight. Header image: brimstone (Gonepteryx rhamni) by Clive Knight

Despite their differences, both species share the capacity for strong and fast flight. They can cover surprising distances and turn up anywhere: woodland or meadows, town parks or gardens. Keep a look out for them in your own garden.

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