checkered white

(Pontia protodice)

Conservation Status
checkered white
  IUCN Red List

not listed


N4 - Apparently Secure

S4S5B - Apparently Secure to Secure Breeding


not listed


Checkered white is a medium-sized butterfly. It is a southerly species and is uncommon in Minnesota.

There are two forms, the spring form and the summer form. On the summer form, the upperside of the wings are white with black and gray markings. On the male, the upperside of the forewing has a median rectangular spot near the leading edge, a ghostly median spot near the inner margin, two submarginal spots, and some checkering on the outer margin near the tip. The upperside of the hindwing is unmarked. Most of the female markings, including inner median spot, are dark gray. There is considerably more checkering on the outer margin of the forewing, and there is faint checkering on the outer margin of the hindwing.

The underside of the forewing of both sexes reflect the markings on the upperside. The underside of the female hindwing has a brownish-gold zig-zag pattern. The male hindwing is much paler.

Spring form individuals are slightly smaller. They have more and darker markings above, and more goldish-green outlining on the veins below.

The larva (caterpillar), known as the southern cabbageworm, is up to 1 long. It is striped longitudinally with yellow and gray to bluish-gray bands, and there is a pattern of small and even smaller shiny black spots, each with numerous short, bristle-like hairs (setae).




Wingspan: 1½ to 2½


Similar Species


Dry, open, disturbed areas: pastures, old fields, agricultural fields, and roadsides.




Two overlapping broods: Early June to August and July to mid-October






Life Cycle


The female is sexually receptive and often mates on its first day of its adult life. It lays eggs singly, usually on the fruits, sometimes on the stems, of host plants. The eggs are yellowish, barrel-shaped, and ridged. The offspring of the second brood overwinters as a chrysalis, the pupal stage.


Larva Hosts


Mostly buds and flowers, but also leaves, of a variety of plants in the Mustard (Brassicaceae) Family.


Adult Food


Flower nectar of plants in the Mustard (Brassicaceae) and Aster (Asteraceae) families, and of alfalfa.


Distribution Map



7, 21, 27, 29, 30.

Wisconsin Butterflies




Checkered white populations have drastically decreased in eastern Unites States, and the butterfly is now scarce or extirpated in some areas where it was once common. It is uncommon in Minnesota. It appears stable in the west. The cause of the decline is unknown, though habitat loss is certainly a contributor. It is possible that the extremely abundant introduced species cabbage white is displacing native whites, including checkered white. It is also possible that checkered white is a western and midwestern species that only sporadically became abundant in eastern agricultural fields. It remains to be seen whether the decline will continue to spread westward.



Lepidoptera (butterflies and moths)  


Papilionoidea (butterflies)  


Pieridae (whites, yellows and sulphurs)  


Pierinae (whites)  


  Subtribe Pierina  







Common Names


checkered white









The pupa (third) stage of a butterfly or moth during which the caterpillar metamorphoses into an adult. In moths, the pupa is enclosed in a silk cocoon. In butterflies, the pupa is naked but protected by a hardened outer shell.



The life stage of some insects undergoing transformation. In caterpillars, the chrysalis. Plural: pupae.



A usually rigid bristle- or hair-like outgrowth on butterflies and moths used to sense touch. Plural: setae.






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    checkered white   checkered white  



Checkered White (Pontia protodice)
Simon (celery) Marshall
  Checkered White (Pontia protodice)  
Pontia protodice (Checkered White)
Allen Chartier
  Pontia protodice (Checkered White)  



Visitor Videos

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Other Videos
  Checkered White (Pieridae: Pontia protodice) on Blossom
Carl Barrentine

Published on Sep 4, 2010

Photographed at the Turtle River State Park, North Dakota (04 September 2010).

  Pontia protodice CHECKERED WHITE frustrated mating attempts
Rob Curtis

Published on Oct 24, 2017

Pontia protodice CHECKERED WHITE frustrated mating attempts

  Checkered White Butterflies in the Field, Bouquet Canyon

Published on Dec 21, 2008

Some realtime footage of Checkered White (Pieris protodice) in the field - Bouquet Canyon, 2008 V03392

  massed checkered white butterflies in HD
Jim French

Published on Dec 21, 2008

Hundreds of them clustered on plants in Carrizon Plain, San Luis Obispo County. Click the "watch in HD"

  Checkered White caterpillar eating
Butterfly Mommy

Published on May 5, 2015

One hungry Checkered White caterpillar munching away.




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