Pieris rapae | Small White | Bánóg bheag

Pre 2017

2017 - 2021


Conservation status

Ireland: Least Concern (Regan et al., 2010)
Europe: Least Concern (van Swaay et al., 2010)
Climate risk category: Potential Climate Change Risk; present distribution in Europe can be explained by climate to only a limited extent (Settele et al., 2008)

Legal status

The Small White is not afforded legal protection in Ireland.

Native status


Species Biology


Key identification features include:

  • Medium size, wingspan: 38 - 57 mm
  • Apical border of forewing with a dark marking extending further down the costal margin of wing compared to outer margin
  • Uniform yellow colouration on the underwings


Wide variety of habitats including fallow crops and gardens. Adults fly actively in sunshine, rarely and only very briefly alighting on low vegetation during bouts of flight. They are attracted in particular to white flowers and occur in greatest abundance in fields of Brassica crops (Bond & Gittings, 2008).

Flight period

Bivoltine: typically, the 1st generation flies from April to June and the 2nd generation flies from July to September.

Life stages

Life cycle

Eggs are laid singly on the underside of the leaves of the foodplant, with plants in sheltered positions being favoured.  After hatching, the larva feeds on a range of wild and cultivated Brassicaceae.  The larval stage lasts about 20 days, after which pupation occurs, sometimes on the foodplant in the spring generation, but otherwise away from it, on buildings, fences, trees,
 etc. This species overwinters as a pupa (Bond & Gittings, 2008).

Food plants

The larva feeds on a range of Brassicaceae, and notably on Garlic Mustart (Alliaria petiolata), Wild Mustard (Sinapis arvensis) and Nasturtium (Tropaeolum majus).

Flowers visited

Generalist, the adult’s nectar sources include: Thistles (Cirsium spp. and Carduus spp.), Bluebell (Hyacinthoides non-scriptus), Bugle (Ajuga reptans), Carline Thistle (Carlina vulgaris), Dandelion (Taraxacum agg.), Devil's-bit Scabious (Succisa pratensis), Field Scabious (Knautia arvensis), Fleabane (Pulicaria dysenterica), Greater Stitchwort (Stellaria holostea), Knapweeds (Centaurea spp.), Ragged Robin (Lychnis flos-cuculi), Ragwort (Senecio jacobaea) and Teasel (Dipsacus fullonum) are also used.


World distribution(GBIF)

Temporal change

Records submitted to Data Centre in 2021

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Bond, K.G.M. and Gittings, T. 2008. Database of Irish Lepidoptera. 1 - Macrohabitats, microsites and traits of Noctuidae and butterflies. Irish Wildlife Manuals, No. 35. National Parks and Wildlife Service, Department of the Environment, Heritage and Local Government, Dublin, Ireland.

Regan, E.C., Nelson, B., Aldwell, B., Bertrand, C., Bond, K., Harding, J., Nash, D., Nixon, D. and Wilson, C.J. 2010. Ireland Red List No. 4 – Butterflies. National Parks and Wildlife Service, Department of the Environment, Heritage and Local Government, Ireland.

Settele, J., Kudrna, O., Harpke, A., Kühn, I., Van Swaay, C., Verovnik, R., Warren, M.S., Wiemers, M., Hanspach, J., Hickler, T. and Kühn, E. 2008. Climatic risk atlas of European butterflies. Sofia-Moscow: Pensoft.

Van Swaay, C., Cuttelod, A., Collins, S., Maes, D., López Munguira, M., Šašic, M., Settele, J., Verovnik, R., Verstrael, T., Warren, M., Wiemers, M. and Wynhof, I. 2010. European Red List of Butterflies. Luxembourg: Publications Office of the European Union.