Saturday, 6 February 2016

Wood White [Leptidea sinapis]

      Butterflies of the UK. Wood White butterflies of Chiddingfold Wood

These are my own observations [unless stated]

 The smallest of our native Whites, this dainty little insect can be found floating up and down the woodland rides of the Chiddingfold Wood complex. With its awkward unbalanced flight, the Wood White is quite unmistakable from any of Britain's other Whites.

There are two broods a year, the 1st brood normally fly from late April to late june and, the 2nd brood can be seen early July to late August. With both broods, the flying dates can vary, all depending on the great English weather.

The 1st  and 2nd brood differ in appearance to one another. The easiest way to distinguish the male from the female of both broods is by the antenna, the male's antenna being white tipped as in the photo below and, the females being black. The males also have larger eyes than the females.

1st brood males and females have a more heavily marked underside of the hind wings
Photo, 1st brood male Wood White
2nd brood males and females have much cleaner/whiter underside of the hind wings with less markings
Photo, 2nd brood male Wood White
The 1st brood males have a large grey spot on the tip of the forewing upper side

Photo, depicting a 1st brood female Wood White, [with her wings fully open, again during the
mystery ritual] with a very faint mark/spot on the tip of the forewing upper sides. This spot
can vary considerably in both the 1st and 2nd brood females from, very faint, to completely
absent, or to a grey spot similar to that of the 1st brood males.
Photo, showing a typical 2nd brood male Wood White with a black spot, fading to grey
around the edges, the black spot resembling the stripes of an army corporal. This spot
does fade with age.
 2nd brood female Wood White with no spot on the tips of the forewing upper sides
 2nd brood female Wood White depicting a grey spot on the tip of the forewing
upper sides similar to that of a 1st brood male
On rare occasions you can come across much smaller Wood whites than normal as the following photo depicts.

Photo 29.7.2015, two male Wood Whites roosting, clearly showing one male to be a lot smaller
than the normal sized male on the right.
The Wood White males spend most of their lives in search of females for the sole purpose of mating, only stopping to nectar from flowers and to take in salts/minerals, which can be extracted from Horse droppings, and damp soil which are two of their favourites and, more commonly seen.

Photo, two male Wood Whites taking salts/minerals from horse droppings

Female Wood Whites do not fly so freely or as much as the males and, can quite often be found nestling in amongst the vegetation, even on a hot summers day. But once the females have been mated and are ready to lay their eggs [ovum] they are continually flying, looking for suitable plants, on which to lay her eggs. Such as Bird's-foot Trefoil, Meadow Vetchling, Tufted Vetch, and Bitter Vetch.

                                                               Courtship rituals or not..

I believe that there are two rituals performed by the Wood White. 1st, a very short courtship ritual, lasting just a few seconds that leads to the mating of a male and female. With the male sitting opposite the female, waving it's proboscis either side of the females head, and with both male and females opening and closing their wings, [ukbutterflies P. Eeles] which varies considerably with each courting couple. But this ritual is not always used before mating takes place, quite often copulation will take place without any courtship what so ever.

The 2nd ritual performed by the Wood White is much longer and, can last for several minutes. This ritual is performed by males on males and, males on females. This consists of a male hitting the butterfly opposite [whether a male or female] on the side of their wings with his proboscis, both butterflies open and close their wings and, as the butterfly opposite opens its wings fully, the male brings down his proboscis on the top of the opened wings. Again the opening and closing of the wings can vary as to how often this happens from one ritual performance to another. This particular ritual never ends in copulation. Why the Wood Whites perform this very popular ritual remains a mystery.

Photo, two male Wood Whites performing the longer ritual of the two. This act
between two males is is quite common, and really can't end in copulation.

Photo, a male and female performing the same ritual as the two males in the above photo.
 The male hitting the female with his proboscis on the side of her wings and opening
his wings at the same.
                                                            The female rejection signal

It is said that the female Wood White has no rejection signal to warn off amorous males wanting to mate and, thats why they continually go through with these long rituals. But females do have a reject signal and, so ends this theory as to why the Wood Whites continually performs this longer ritual. A mystery to be solved...

Photo, female Wood White clearly rejecting this male at his attempt to mate her, by raising
her abdomen skywards in the same manner as other members of the White family do to
ward off any unwanted advances made by the males.


In copulation the female always takes charge, and is normally found to position herself slightly higher than the male when mating, [about 90% of the time]. This act normally lasts between 40-100 min. Within about two days of copulation the females are ready to lay their eggs [ovum].

Photo, male and female 2nd brood Wood Whites copulating, August 13th  5.13pm
The female is the top butterfly.
To read about the life cycle of both 1st and 2nd broods of the Wood White, please look for ,

Wood White ovum and 1st instar larva                        4.9.2015
Wood White 1st-5th instars                                        1.10.2015
Wood White pupa, [offspring of the 1st brood]       21.10.2015
Wood White pupa, [offspring of the 2nd brood 1]   21.10.2015
Wood White pupa, [off spring of the 2nd brood 2]  23.10.2015 All here on my blog. Thank you.

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