Pieridae: Whites, marbles, organgetips and sulphurs

The Pieridae family include whites, marbles, orangetips and sulphurs. There are about 75 species of Pieridae in North America and about 1,000 worldwide.

Most of the Pieridae are medium-sized butterflies with white, yellow or orange wings with black pattern elements on the upperside. Their underwings often have a pattern of yellow and black scales.

Typically, their eyes are smooth, hairless, round, and not indented next to the antennae, which are moderately long with a well-defined club at the end.


Males of many species involve in gregarious mud-puddling.[1]

The Whites (Pierinae)

Margined White butterfly (Pieris marginalis) on sunflower. Photo by T.D. Hatten

Margined White (Pieris marginalis) on sunflower. Photo by T.D. Hatten

As their common name indicates, the butterflies in the subfamily Pierinae are predominantly white. These medium-sized butterflies typically have black markings, but many species’ females have ventral wings that are pale yellow.

They have a moderately fast, straight, and fluttering or bobbing flight pattern.

Host plants

The larvae feed on mustards, cabbage and related plants. Adults are avid flower visitors; especially the flowers of their host plants when available.

The Marbles and Orangetips (Anthocharinae)

Stella Orangetip

Stella Orangetip (Anthocharis stella) Photo by T.D. Hatten

Members of the Anthocharinae subfamily are small butterflies with orange tips on their front wings. They typically have a green marbled pattern on the ventral hindwings. Orangetips females may be yellow, while female Marbles may have cream-colored dorsal hindwings.

They have a moderately fast, straight, and fluttering or bobbing flight pattern.

Host plants

The larvae feed on  cruciferous vegetables such as cabbages, mustards, cauliflower, broccoli, Brussels sprouts; as well as shepherd’s purse, related plants and some types of seeds.

The Sulphurs (Coliadinae)

Orange Sulphur (Colias eurytheme)

Orange Sulphur (Colias eurytheme)

Coliadinae are a predominately temperate group. Most species are found in mountainous or alpine habitats. Common examples in the western U.S. included the clouded sulphur and the orange sulphur.


These butterflies are orange and yellow. Some species’ wings are bordered with black.

Host plants

Larva consume legumes, heaths, clover or willows.


DeVries P. J. in Levin S.A. (ed) 2001 The Encyclopaedia of Biodiversity. Academic Press.

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