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.
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. To find out more about gardening 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.