Steven Cheshire's British Butterflies
British Butterflies: Species: Species Account - The Wood White:
Wood White
Leptidea sinapis (Linnaeus, 1758)

Wood White egg.
  Wood White caterpillar.
  Wood White chrysalis
Wood White
View a different species

View a different family
Insecta: Lepidoptera : Family Pieridae: Subfamily Dismorphiinae : Genus Leptidea: Species sinapis:
The Wood White is the most delicate of our white butterflies... and anyone who has witnessed its lumbering weak flight pattern may question how the species has ever managed to survive the modern world!

The males will fly continuously in fine weather searching for a female. The females tend to spend the vast majority of their time feeding on flowers or resting.

The courtship of the Wood White is particularly interesting. The male and female face each other and the male will bob his head from side to side while waving his antennae backwards and forwards delicately stroking the females antennae and wings. The male will usually extend his proboscis towards the female during the courtship dance and flick his wings open to reveal the dark patches near the tips of his forewings.

The Wood White is a Priority Species for conservation due to the continued loss of habitat and resulting drop in population.
The Wood White is usually found in warm sheltered damp woodland rides and clearings where the larval food plant occurs. There are a few large colonies occurring on coastal undercliffs.

Although the larval food plants are widespread the Wood White is localised in its distribution and requires the creation of semi-permanent glades within woodland.

Woodland management through the re-establishment of coppicing regimes and the creation of open glades can help increase the population of the Wood White. It is important to note that due to the weak flight of the Wood White it is highly unlikely that the species can re-colonise a site unless landscape corridors link to existing colonies.
The Wood White has declined dramatically in England and Wales but is more widespread in Ireland where the almost identical species Réal's Wood White (Leptidea reali) occurs although their distribution in Ireland does not overlap and their habits are different.
Where to see the Wood White in the British Isles
The Wood White has declined dramatically in England and Wales but is more widespread in Ireland where the almost identical species Réal's Wood White (Leptidea reali) occurs although their distribution in Ireland does not overlap and their habits are different.

Key sites for the Wood White include:
Dorset: Powerstock Common
Oxfordshire: Whitecross Green Wood
Surrey/Sussex: Chiddingfold Forest SSSI
Warwickshire: Ryton Wood SSSI and Ryton Wood Meadows BC Reserve
Ireland: The Burren

The Wood White has recently been lost at one of its key sites in the West Midlands at Monk Wood, Worcestershire due to the loss of habitat.
Other notes
Lifecycle chart
Flight chart
The lifecycle and flight charts should be regarded as approximate guides to the Wood White in Britain. Specific lifecycle states, adult emergence and peak flight times vary from year to year due to variations in weather conditions.
IUCN category status 2010 5   IUCN category status 2007 34
Endangered Endangered

5Fox, R., Warren, M., Brereton, T. M., Roy, D. B. & Robinson, A.
(2010) A new Red List of British Butterflies. Insect Conservation and Diversity.
Endangered Endangered

3Fox, R., Warren, M & Brereton, T.
(2007) New Red List of British Butterflies. Butterfly Conservation, Wareham.

4More information about IUCN categories.
UK status
Larval foodplants
The larvae feed on a variety of plants including Meadow Vetchling (Lathyrus pratensis) Bitter-vetch (Lathyrus linifolius) Tufted Vetch (Vicia cracca) Common Bird's-foot-trefoil (Lotus corniculatus) and Greater Bird's-foot-trefoil (Lotus pedunculatus).
British subspecies
Leptidea sinapis ssp. juvernica (Williams, 1946)
Occurs in the Burren in County Clare and parts of south-east Galway, Ireland.The undersides tend to be greener than the subspecies sinapis
Leptidea sinapis ssp. sinapis (Linnaeus, 1758)
Occurs in southern and central England only.
Butterflies of Britain ID Chart
Your personal guide to British Butterflies. This 8-panel laminated chart is designed for speedy butterfly identification in the field. Ideal for anyone interested in identifying butterflies, perfect for children and adults and ideal for outdoor use, laminated, shower-proof and robust. Get your copy today.
Butterflies of Britain (Laminated ID Chart).
Online store
Visit our online store for many more butterfly related books and gifts.
Population trends 1
UK Population trend 1995-2004 up by 10%
UK Population trend 1976-2004 down by -64%

1Fox, R., Asher. J., Brereton. T., Roy, D & Warren, M. (2006) The State of Butterflies in Britain & Ireland, Pices, Oxford.
UK BAP status 2
UK BAP status candidate priority species (link)

2For information about the UK Biodiversity Action Plan, visit the JNCC web site

National Biodiversity Network Gateway
National Biodiversity Network Gateway Distribution Map

Areas in and indicate a contraction in distribution of the Wood White except in Ireland where data is only available up until 1999.

* Records shown in outside the natural distribution may be the result of illegal or accidental releases by breeders or, depending upon the species, migrant individuals from mainland Europe.

Key to map*
= 2000 to 2010 inclusive (current distribution)
= records from 1950 to 1999 inclusive
= records from 1900 to 1949 inclusive
Records prior to 1st January 1900 are not shown.

The NBN Gateway records are shown on the map right. (See terms and conditions).

More data is available on the Wood White on the NBN Gateway web site.
Powered by NBN Gateway.
For full details of books and reports mentioned on this web site, view the references page.

Find out more online*
Wood White can be found on Peter Eeles excellent UK Butterflies web site.
Wood White can be found on Matt Rowlings excellent European Butterflies web site.

  Show your support for this site
Every penny helps. From web site hosting to its continued development as a free resource for all, we need money to cover these ongoing costs.

Can you help towards the running costs of

Photographs of the Wood White
Image ID BB2157 - Wood White - © Steven Cheshire
Wood White (imago)
BB2157 ©
Image ID BB2025 - Wood White - © Steven Cheshire
Wood White (imago)
BB2025 ©
Image ID BB2024 - Wood White - © Steven Cheshire
Wood White (imago)
BB2024 ©
Image ID BB2023 - Wood White - © Steven Cheshire
Wood White (imago)
BB2023 ©
Image ID BB2022 - Wood White - © Steven Cheshire
Wood White (imago)
BB2022 ©
Image ID BB2021 - Wood White - © Steven Cheshire
Wood White (imago)
BB2021 ©
Image ID BB2020 - Wood White - © Steven Cheshire
Wood White (imago)
BB2020 ©
Image ID BB2019 - Wood White - © Steven Cheshire
Wood White (imago)
BB2019 ©
Image ID BB2018 - Wood White - © Steven Cheshire
Wood White (imago)
BB2018 ©
Image ID BB2017 - Wood White - © Steven Cheshire
Wood White (imago)
BB2017 ©
There are 26 photographs of the Wood White in our stock photo library.
View more photographs of the Wood White as a thumbnail gallery or as a slideshow.
Aberrations and forms
There are 6 named aberrant forms of the Wood White currently listed. Find out more about aberrants here.

ab. brunneomaculata - Stauder 1921
ab. detersa - Rocci 1920
ab. diniensis - Boisduval 1840
ab. flavescens - Grund 1905
ab. minor - Muschamp 1911
ab. sartha - Rühl 1895