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Black-veined white (Aporia crataegi) male
Scientific classification Edit this classification
Domain: Eukaryota
Kingdom: Animalia
Phylum: Arthropoda
Class: Insecta
Order: Lepidoptera
Superfamily: Papilionoidea
Family: Pieridae
Swainson, 1820
76 genera
1,051 species
Common Jezebel (Delias eucharis)
Eastern greenish black-tip (Euchloe penia)

The Pieridae are a large family of butterflies with about 76 genera containing about 1,100 species, mostly from tropical Africa and tropical Asia with some varieties in the more northern regions of North America and Eurasia.[1] Most pierid butterflies are white, yellow, or orange in coloration, often with black spots. The pigments that give the distinct coloring to these butterflies are derived from waste products in the body and are a characteristic of this family.[2] The family was created by William John Swainson in 1820.

The name "butterfly" is believed to have originated from a member of this family, the brimstone, Gonepteryx rhamni, which was called the "butter-coloured fly" by early British naturalists.[2]

The sexes usually differ, often in the pattern or number of the black markings.

The larvae (caterpillars) of a few of these species, such as Pieris brassicae and Pieris rapae, commonly seen in gardens, feed on brassicas, and are notorious agricultural pests.

Males of many species exhibit gregarious mud-puddling behavior when they may imbibe salts from moist soils.[1]



The Pieridae have the radial vein on the forewing with three or four branches and rarely with five branches. The forelegs are well developed in both sexes, unlike in the Nymphalidae, and the tarsal claws are bifid, unlike in the Papilionidae.[3]

Like the Papilionidae, the Pieridae also have their pupae held at an angle by a silk girdle, but running at the first abdominal segment, unlike the thoracic girdle seen in the Papilionidae. But some species such as the madrone butterfly that belong to this family do not shows the presence of this abdominal silk girdle.[4]



The Pieridae are generally divided into these four subfamilies:

According to the molecular phylogenetic study of Braby et al. (2005),[5] sister group relationships among Pieridae subfamilies are ((Dismorphiinae + Pseudopontiinae) + (Coliadinae + Pierinae)).

Some common species


Some pest species

Pieris brassicae, large white or cabbage white


  1. ^ a b c d e DeVries P. J. in Levin S.A. (ed) 2001 The Encyclopaedia of Biodiversity. Academic Press.
  2. ^ a b Carter, David (2000). Butterflies and Moths.
  3. ^ Borror, D. J.; Triplehorn, C. A. & Johnson, N. F. (1989). An Introduction to the Study of Insects (6th ed.). Philadelphia: Saunders College Publishers. ISBN 0-03-025397-7
  4. ^ Kevan, P. G.; Bye, R. A. (1991). "The natural history, sociobiology, and ethnobiology of Eucheira socialis Westwood (Lepidoptera: Pieridae), a unique and little-known butterfly from Mexico". Entomologist. ISSN 0013-8878.
  5. ^ Braby, M. F. (2005). "Provisional checklist of genera of the Pieridae (Lepidoptera: Papilionidae)". Zootaxa. 832: 1–16. doi:10.11646/zootaxa.832.1.1.

Further reading

  • Braby, M. F. 2005. Provisional checklist of genera of the Pieridae (Lepidoptera: Papilionidae). Zootaxa 832: 1–16.
  • Braby, M., R. Vila, and N. E. Pierce. 2006. Molecular phylogeny and systematics of the Pieridae (Lepidoptera: Papilionoidea: higher classification and biogeography. Zoological Journal of the Linnean Society 147(2): 239-275.
  • Carter, David. 2000. Butterflies and Moths (2/ed). Dorling Kindersley, London. ISBN 0-7513-2707-7.
  • A New Subspecies of Eurema andersoni (Lepidoptera: Pieridae) from South India, O YATA, H GAONKAR - Entomological science, 1999 - ci.nii.ac.jp
  • Glassberg, Jeffrey Butterflies through Binoculars, The West (2001)
  • James, David G. and Nunnallee, David Life Histories of Cascadia Butterflies (2011)
  • Pyle, Robert Michael The Butterflies of Cascadia (2002)