Small White butterfly

©Les Binns

Small white

Scientific name: Pieris rapae
The Small White is a common garden visitor. It is smaller than the similar Large White, and has less black on its wingtips. Its caterpillars can be a bit of a nuisance as they munch their way through your veg!

Species information


Wingspan: 3.8-5.7cm

Conservation status


When to see

April to October


As its name suggests, the Small White is a fairly small, white butterfly that is on the wing between April and October. A common butterfly, it is found in a wide variety of habitats, including hedgerows, farmland, gardens and parks. Like the Large White, the foodplants of the caterpillars of the Small White are members of the cabbage family, including Garlic Mustard and garden cabbages, although it relies less on cultivated varieties, breeding on a range of wild foodplants. Resident butterflies are joined by migrants from mainland Europe in summer.

How to identify

A smaller version of the Large White, the Small White has less black on the tips of the forewings. The underside of the wings is creamy-yellow. The female has one or two black spots on each forewing. It can be distinguished from the Green-veined White by the plain yellowish colour of the underside of its hindwings.


Found across the UK, although scarcer in the north of Scotland.

Did you know?

There are usually two generations of Small Whites in a year, but if the weather is warm, there can be up to three broods over the spring and summer. Adults of the first brood tend to have lighter markings than those of the summer broods.

How people can help

If you want to keep Small White caterpillars at bay, try placing horticultural fleece over your vegetables to stop the butterfly laying its eggs on them. You can also pick off the caterpillars, which are green, with a thin yellow stripe down the back and black spots. To find out more about controlling garden pests in a wildlife-friendly way, or encouraging wildlife into your garden, visit our Wild About Gardens website: a joint initiative with the RHS, there's plenty of facts and tips to get you started.