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Manitoba Museum

Butterflies and Moths (Lepidoptera)

Whites, Sulfurs, Orangtips, Marbles


These butterflies occur on all continents except Antarctica. They are common, and include the well-known Cabbage White. Adults feed on flower nectar, and are beneficial pollinators. They are common in gardens and will gather at mud puddles to obtain nutrients. The larvae feed on host plant leaves, flowers, and fruit. Sulphurs tend to lay their eggs on legumes, while Whites and Marbles lay theirs on plants in the Mustard family.

Representative Genera and Species:

Colias interior, C. philodoce, Pieris rapae

Pollinator Life Cycle:

Males often actively seek out their mates. Females lay single eggs on host plant leaves, buds, or stems. Most species hibernate in the pupal or larval stages. To pupate, larvae usually attach themselves using a silk girdle, and develop in an upright position. These butterflies may produce multiple generations each year.

Rarity Status:

None of the butterflies in this family are considered rare in Canada. Provincially, some species are listed as “may be at risk” or “sensitive”.

Physical Appearance:

These are small to medium butterflies, with three pairs walking legs and forked claws. They are usually white, yellow, or orange with black or red markings. Some species have UV patterns used for courtship that are not visible to humans. At rest, adults often keep their wings tightly closed.

Pollinator Habitat:

Prairies, wet meadows, gravely ridges, hillsides, open grassy areas, weedy yards, gardens, fields, farmyards, roadsides, clearings, trails in coniferous and mixed woods, along rocky lakeshores and riverbank bluffs. Adults are often found among their food plants.

Canadian Distribution:

  • Alberta
  • British Columbia
  • Manitoba
  • New Brunswick
  • Newfoundland/Labrador
  • Northwest Territories
  • Nova Scotia
  • Nunavut
  • Ontario
  • Prince Edward Island
  • Quebec
  • Saskatchewan
  • Yukon

Prairie Types:

  • Fescue Prairie
  • Mixed Grass Prairie
  • Tall Grass Prairie
Whites, Sulfurs, Orangtips, Marbles