A butterfly

Mustard White Butterfly (Pieris oleracea)
Mustard White Butterfly (Pieris oleracea)


I saw this butterfly yesterday while working in my garden spreading old hay around rhubarb and currant bushes. It had probably just emerged from its chrysalis earlier in the morning and was finishing up drying its wings. The butterfly is the Mustard White Butterfly (Pieris oleracea) a species native to North America and occurs in Canada from the Northwest Territories south to Alberta and then east to the Atlantic seaboard. In the US it can be found from North Dakota to Maine.

The green larva with a single white or pale yellow lateral line and small black spots feed on members of the mustard family (Brassicaceae), such as rock cress (Arabis spp., Boechera spp., and Draba spp.), cuckoo flower and bittercress (Cardamine spp.), and toothwort (Dentaria spp.). There are usually two or three generations a summer with the last generation overwintering as a chrysalis.

Adult Mustard White Butterflies come in a spring and summer forms. The one in the photo is the spring form. Summer forms have less dark shading on the wing upper surfaces and the lower surface veins are also less dark. Adults feed on nectar usually from mustard family plants.

Previously Mustard White Butterfly was considered to be in the species Pieris napi, a European species commonly called the Green-veined White. They are regarded as distinct enough to be classed as separate species although some authorities consider the North American P. oleracae to be a subspecies of P. napi (synonym Artogeia napi) calling it Pieris napi subsp. oleraceaP. oleracae differs from P. napi by having chalky white upper wings while P. napi has dark spots and dark margins on the upper wings. Another difference is the tolerance of P. napi for garlic mustard (Alliaria petiolata) which is toxic to the larvae of P. oleraceae and thus a serious concern for the species survival where this plant occurs in North America to which it is not native.


Insecta (Insects)
Order Lepidoptera (Butterflies and Moths)
Superfamily Papilionoidea (Butterflies and Skippers)
Family Pieridae (Whites, Sulphurs, Yellows)
Subfamily Pierinae (Whites)
Tribe Pierini (Cabbage Whites, Checkered Whites, Albatrosses)
Genus/species: Pieris oleracea


Bowden, S. R. (1979). Subspecific Variation in Butterflies: Adaptation and Dissected Polymorphism in Pieris (Artogeia) (Pieridae). Journal of the Lepidopterists’ Society

Heinen R., Gols R., and Harvey J. A. (2016). Black and Garlic Mustard Plants Are Highly Suitable for the Development of Two Native Pierid Butterflies. Environmental Entomology, Vol. 45 (3):671–676.

 Mustard White (Pieris oleracea) (Harris, 1829) at the Canadian Biodiversity Information Facility website.

Pieris oleracea at the Wikipedia website.

Species Pieris oleracea – Mustard White – Hodges#4195.1 at the Bug Guide website.








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