Western White Butterfly

The Western White butterfly (Pontia occidentalis) looks similar to, and belongs to the same genus of white butterflies, as the Checkered White.

With the exception of the far Southwest, the Western White's range extends from the Rocky Mountains to the Pacific Coast.

Females, like the one in the top picture, are characterized by a dark spotted pattern on the top and bottom wings. According to most experts, the pattern on the Western White female is typically darker than the pattern on the Checkered White female.

Comparing wing patterns on the males is often the best way to differentiate between Western Whites and Checkered Whites.

The row of black spots on the border of the top wing in the Western White male on the bottom picture is larger than the marks that border the Checkered White. The bottom wing lacks dark spots or patterns.

Pine White

Pine Whites (Neophasia menapia) are fairly common butterflies in forested regions of the Western United States.

The species name reflects the fact that the caterpillars feed on pine and other fir tree needles.

Adults nectar on flowers in their territory. They tend to stay settled on flowers longer than the average white butterfly, making them easy to photograph.

The picture shows a top view of the wings. The curved border line on the top of the wing that starts at the body is a key identification mark.

Sara's Orangetip Butterfly

The Sara's Orangetip butterfly, also know as the Pacific Orangetip is a striking butterfly.

Field identification is very easy. It's a variation on the white butterfly theme, with bright orange spots on the tips of the wings. Female color is more pale than the male color.

The underside of the wings are marbled, making it easy for them to hide when they close their wings and sit on an oak tree branch.

They are abundant up and down the West Coast, making their home in fields, deserts and other areas. They are one of the first butterflies to appear in early spring and their bright colors add a touch of sparkle to their newly emerging green environment.

Butterflies are generally categorized as one of two types, patroller or percher, depending on mating strategies.

Sara's Orangetips fall in the patroller category of butterflies. Males patrol, or fly up and down a particular territory, in search of female butterflies.

As it relates to butterfly photography, the patrollers are sometimes difficult subjects because you can follow them for up to an hour without their settling down on a flower long enough for a decent picture.

Margined White Butterfly

The Margined White (Pieris marginalis) is a common butterfly of the Western United States.

They can be found flying and nectaring on flowers from spring through summer, depending on their location.

The top picture shows a top view of the mostly white wings. The bottom picture shows a side view, with the darker streaked veins.

Like many white species, the caterpillars feed on plants in the mustard family.

Great Southern White Butterfly

The Great Southern White (Ascia monuste) is a neotropical white, with a limited range in the United States.

It can be found, often visiting gardens, along Southern tier states from Florida through California.

The picture shows a males, with a slight dark border on the top wings. Top and bottom wings are marked on the female.

Checkered White

The Checkered White butterfly (Pontia protodice) a very widespread species, is found wherever the caterpillar's food, mustard plants, grows, which is practically everywhere in the United States.

The picture shows a female with an elaborate black or dark checker pattern covering the otherwise white wings. The markings on the wing borders are complimented by a dark bar on the top middle portion of the wing.

Checkered Whites are easily confused with Western Whites, especially females, in areas of the West where their territories overlap. Because the picture was taken in an area without a Western White butterfly population, the identification was fairly straight forward.

The markings on the wing borders are complimented by a dark bar on the top middle portion of the wing.

Males of both Checkered and Western whites are characterized by less black marks on the wings. Please see the Western White article for greater detail.

Cabbage White Butterfly

The Cabbage White Butterfly (Pieris rapae) is one of the most recognizable butterflies in the Pieridae family.

Females, like the one in the top picture, have two black spots on an otherwise white wing. Males have one black spot on the wing.

Their name is based on both color and diet. The caterpillars of the species feed on plants in the mustard family (Brassicaceae). Cabbage is one plant in the family, and consequently the butterfly is naturally associated with gardens.

Their range, however, extends beyond residential areas to any non-residential area with a sufficient food source. Typically they are among the first of the spring butterflies.

Males patrol a territory, staying in almost constant motion, making patience the most important trait for photographing them. They do not often settle on flowers for any long period of time.

Cabbage whites are introduced species, native to Europe. Their presence in any one area means they compete with other native Pieridae species that feed on mustard plants.


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