Whites or Yellows



The members in this family of butterflies are commonly known as the whites and yellows. These butterflies are predominantly white or yellow on the upper surface of their wings; some with various patterns around the perimeter and on the underside most have bright markings or patterns, some with striking colours. The whites and yellows are mostly medium sized and have an average wingspan ranging from 36 to 75 millimetres.

The caterpillars of this family are long, often green in colour and usually covered with patches of short, white hairs.

Subfamily: Pierinae

Members of this family are known as the 'whites'. Adult butterflies are predominantly white with black markings on the upper side of the wings and of medium to large size. The caterpillars are mainly slender and green with a few short white setae.

Belenois java (caper white)

This species is migratory and can often be seen in large numbers flying towards the coast in late spring to early summer. The adult female lays her conical shaped eggs in wild orange trees in inland areas of Australia. The caterpillars are dark orange-green and are sometimes laid in such large numbers as to defoliate the plants on which they feed. If the food supply becomes inadequate the larvae often pupate prematurely emerging as undersized adults. The adults The adults have a wingspan of approximately 53 millimetres and are not known to feed.

The caper white butterfly can be found over most of the Australian mainland except for the southwest quarter of the country.

Subfamily: Coliadinae

Members of this family are known as the 'sulphurs' or 'yellows' as adults have predominantly yellow colouring on the upper side of their wings, sometimes with darker markings around the edges. The larvae are mainly green and feed openly predominantly on legumes.

Eurema smilax (small grass yellow)

The grass yellows are more common in the drier parts of Australia especially in the mallee and inland open woodlands and grasslands where their favoured food plants grow. Adult butterflies are often seen flying close to the ground in a slow, erratic manner. They have a wing span of about 35 millimetres and are usually bright yellow on the upper sides of the wings with a darker band along the edge of the forewings and predominantly yellow underneath. The caterpillars are green with a darker line along their body and yellow lines along the sides and feed mainly on Cassia species.

For more whites and yelows visit the Australian Insect Common Names - Peiridae section found here.



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