E-Fauna BC: Electronic Atlas of the Wildlife of British Columbia

Pieris angelika Schrank, 1801
Arctic White; Whites
Family: Pieridae (Whites, Marbles, and Sulphurs)
Species account authors: Crispin Guppy and Jon Shepard.
Extracted from Butterflies of British Columbia
The Families of Lepidoptera of BC
Introduction to the Butterflies of BC

© Norbert Kondla  Email the photographer   (Photo ID #5411)

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Distribution of Pieris angelika in British Columbia.
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Species Information

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Illustration Source: Butterflies of British Columbia by Crispin Guppy and Jon Shepard © Royal BC Museum


Male Arctic Whites are usually completely white on the dorsal wing surface. There are usually strongly defined dark grey vein borders on the ventral hindwings, with the vein generally the same dark colour as the borders. The vein borders on the ventral hindwing narrow strongly towards the wing margin. The ventral hindwing ground colour is frequently bright yellow. The veins on the dorsal wing surface form fine, contrasting black lines. Females have dark borders to the dorsal wing veins that widen towards the wing margin. The other dark markings are well developed, and the ground colour varies from white to yellow.

The name Pieris angelika was first used by Eitschberger (1981), but, as noted by Ferris et al. (1983), it was not accompanied by a description, definition, or indication differentiating the taxon, and hence is a nomen nudum. Eitschberger (1983) redescribed Pieris angelika, and fulfilled all the requirements for describing a new species, hence the date for the original description of Pieris angelika is 1983 rather than 1981.

Immature Stages

The immature stages were described and illustrated from Dempster Highway, YT, by Eitschberger (1983), from specimens and photographs supplied by CSG. Eggs are pale green when laid, soon turning pale yellow; they are conical and have 14-16 vertical ribs. Mature larvae are dark green with fine hairs, numerous black speckles, and a few small white spots on each segment. Each spiracle is highlighted by a yellow ring, the only Pieris larva in BC that has this character. Pupae have reduced projections compared with related species, with short and round apical and dorsal projections. There are no black spots down the back of the abdomen.


No subspecies are recognized. The type locality of the species is Elsa and Keno, YT.

Genus Description

Pieris was one of the Muses (Pierides) who lived on Mt. Pierus, close to Mt. Olympus. Pieris was one of the five families into which Schrank divided the butterflies. Originally Schrank applied the name to all the swallowtails and whites, with the first species name being apollo (Apollo was the patron of the Muses). Latreille later separated the swallowtails and whites, applying the name Pieris to what we now call the family Pieridae (Emmet 1991). The common name "whites" is shared with Pontia and refers to the predominantly white colour of the wings.

Whites in the genus Pieris are all medium-sized white butterflies with black markings and, especially when newly emerged, with pale yellow ventral hindwings. Some females of all the species are entirely yellow. The genus Pontia includes other species of whites.

The eggs of whites are conical, with vertical ribs down the sides and numerous small horizontal ridges between the vertical ribs. The eggs are pale yellow or yellow green. Eggs are laid singly on the leaves or flowers of plants in the mustard family (Brassicaceae), both cultivated species and native mustards. Mature larvae are green and smooth-skinned with a thin coat of fine hairs. Whites hibernate as pupae, which are roughly cylindrical and smooth except for dorsal and dorsolateral ridges; the pupae are held against a stem or other vertical surface with a girdle.

In the genus Pieris, the cross-vein at the end of the forewing discal cell curves inward towards the wing base. Unlike in the genus Pontia, this vein is not surrounded by a black spot. There are dark borders to the veins on the ventral hindwing and ventral forewing apex, except in the Cabbage White and summer broods of some other species. Geiger and Scholl (1985) and Robbins and Hensen (1986) showed that Artogeia Verity, 1947, into which some authors have placed the BC species of Pieris, is a synonym of the genus Pieris.

Until recently only two species of the genus Pieris were thought to occur in BC, the introduced Cabbage White and the Holarctic Pieris napi. Instead, there are four species of Pieris in BC, and it is now clear that Pieris napi does not occur in North America (Geiger and Shapiro 1992).

Eitschberger (1983) proposed four BC species: P. rapae, P. marginalis (four subspecies), P. oleracea, and P. angelika, which are distinguished by small differences in wing pattern characteristics. The fact that Eitschberger's book was in German, its high cost, and unreasonably critical reviews of this book by Kudrna and Geiger (1985), Ferris (1989), and Shapiro (1985b) combined to make Eitschberger (1983) ignored by most North American authors. Eitschberger's revision of Pieris is substantially supported by the electrophoretic data of Geiger and Shapiro (1992), however, which has led to a grudging acceptance of parts of his work.

During the preparation of this book, we examined several series of northern Pieris collected by Norbert Kondla and CSG, and various museum specimens. CSG conducted further sampling and rearing of northern BC Pieris. Two Pieris are sympatric in various northern locaIities, from Valemont to the southern Yukon: P. oleracea and P. marginalis tremblayi. Near the Yukon border, they a rejoined by a third species, P. angelika. Eitschberger's P. marginalis guppyi is electrophoretically quite distinct from P. marginalis marginalis (Geiger and Shapiro 1992), and the wing pattern of tremblayi indicates that it is closely related to guppyi. This suggests that guppyi and tremblayi may be a separate species from P. marginalis. We do not raise Pieris guppyi to species status, with tremblayi as a subspecies of guppyi, because the electrophoretic data are, by themselves, insufficient to separate the taxa into two species.


Arctic Whites are univoltine, with adults in flight in June and July. Shapiro (1985c) reared larvae (as P. marginalis) from eggs obtained from Dawson, YT. He reared them under continuous light and obtained only diapause pupae, indicating that the univoltine life cycle is genetically based rather than a result of the developmental environment.

The larval foodplants are presumably various Brassicaceae. Oviposition of two eggs has been observed on northern parrya, Parrya nudicaulis, in the Ogilvie Mountains of the Yukon (N.G. Kondla, pers.comm.).


Arctic Whites occur in northwestern BC. The habitat is forest openings and wet tundra.



Arctic Whites occur in AK, YT, western NT, and northern BC.

Status Information

Origin StatusProvincial StatusBC List
(Red Blue List)
NativeS4YellowNot Listed
BC Ministry of Environment: BC Species and Ecosystems Explorer--the authoritative source for conservation information in British Columbia.

Additional Photo Sources

General References

Recommended citation: Author, Date. Page title. In Klinkenberg, Brian. (Editor) 2019. E-Fauna BC: Electronic Atlas of the Fauna of British Columbia [efauna.bc.ca]. Lab for Advanced Spatial Analysis, Department of Geography, University of British Columbia, Vancouver. [Accessed: 2020-07-08 8:43:50 PM]
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