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Lepidoptera 2005 spring 001.jpg
The Small White (Pieris rapae)
Scientific classification
Kingdom: Animalia
Phylum: Arthropoda
Class: Insecta
Order: Lepidoptera
Suborder: Ditrysia
Superfamily: Papilionoidea
Family: Pieridae
Duponchel, 1835


76 genera
1,051 species

The Pieridae are a large family of butterflies with about 76 genera containing approximately 1,100 species, mostly from tropical Africa and tropical Asia.[1] Most pierid butterflies are white, yellow or orange in coloration, often with black spots. The pigments that give the distinct colouring to these butterflies are derived from waste products in the body and are a characteristic of this family.[2]

It is believed that the name "butterfly" 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 3 or 4 branches and rarely with 5 branches. The fore legs are well developed in both sexes, unlike in the Nymphalidae, and the tarsal claws are bifid unlike in the Papilionidae.[3]

Like the Papilionidae, 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.


The Pieridae are generally divided into the following four subfamilies:

According to the molecular phylogenetic study of Braby et al. (2006), sister group relationships among Pieridae subfamilies are: ((Dismorphiinae+Pseudopontiinae)+(Coliadinae+Pierinae)).

Some popular species[edit]

Clouded Yellow, Colias croceus
Psyche Butterfly, Leptosia nina

Some pest species[edit]

See also[edit]


  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, Butterflies and Moths (2000)
  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


  • 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

Further reading[edit]

  • 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)

External links[edit]