Pine Whites are easily recognized white butterflies. The outer margins of the forewings and hindwings are black with white spots. The front edge of the forewing is black, and the wing veins on the ventral hindwing are outlined in black. Orange markings are frequently present on the ventral hindwings, especially in females.
Eggs are flask-shaped and emerald green, with vertical ribbing and a circle of white beadlike bumps below the narrow upper end. Mature larvae are dark green with a narrow dorsal white stripe and a broad white stripe along each side; they have two short anal tails. The head is yellow green, sometimes with blackish patches. The legs are black, and the prolegs are green yellow. Pupae are slender and dark green, with a white dorsal line and two white lateral lines (Edwards 1887-97; Holland 1931).
Subspecies tau (Scudder, 1861), described from the Gulf of Georgia, is the Pacific Northwest subspecies that occurs in BC (Austin 1998a). Compared with the nominate subspecies (TL: restricted to vicinity of Davis Creek Park, Washoe Co., NV [Emmel et al. 1998d]), male tau lack red ventral markings and females have more heavily marked ventral hindwing veins and orange, rather than red, markings.
The name Neophasia is from the Latin neo (new) and phasis (phase or appearance). "New" refers to the genus Leucophasia Stephen, 1827, to which Behr compared the new genus. The common name "pine whites" refers to the larval foodplants being pines and other trees in the family Pinaceae.
There are only two species of pine whites in the world. The Pine White occurs throughout western North America, including BC. The other species, the Chiricahua Pine White, occurs only in the southwestern USA and northwestern Mexico. The larvae of both species feed exclusively on trees in the family Pinaceae (pines, firs, hemlocks).
The genus Neophasia is characterized by a straight hindwing humeral vein, and by the cross-veins at the outer ends of the hindwing and forewing discal cells being straight and not curved.
The genus appears to be quite primitive, and may have evolved before flowering plants replaced conifers and related plants as the dominant vegetation.
Pine Whites are univoltine throughout their range. The adults are on the wing from late July at low elevations to late September at high elevations and on the west coast of Vancouver Island. The females spend most of their time resting in the upper branches of conifers, making short flights for oviposition or to forage for nectar. Males spend most of their time patrolling the surface of the conifers (where females rest), but spend considerable time nectaring at flowers, especially in the morning and evening. Their flight is very slow and weak, making it possible to capture them in midair with bare hands.
Pine Whites undergo occasional population outbreaks that result in severe defoliation of conifers, which is sometimes controlled by aerial spraying. Fletcher (1902) noted that "towards the end of the season, in August, the dead butterflies may be seen in vast numbers floating on the sea around Vancouver Island, or thrown up along the beach in windrows sometimes an inch or two in depth." The most recent population outbreak in BC was in 1961 on Vancouver Island, when there were "snowdrifts" of Pine Whites along the highway through Cathedral Grove (CSG). Population outbreaks are rare now, possibly because most of the old forests of southeastern Vancouver Island have been eliminated. High population densities in Yakima County, WA, have damaged ponderosa pines (Newcomer 1964a), but very large numbers of adults in flight do not necessarily result in noticeable defoliation (Young 1987).
Eggs are laid in groups at the base of conifer needles, where they overwinter. The eggs hatch in the spring, and the larvae feed on the new needles. Pupation may occur on the tree branches, or the larvae may drop to the ground on silk threads to pupate on tree bases or shrubs (Edwards 1887-97).
In BC Pine Whites use a wide range of conifers in the family Pinaceae as foodplants, including amabilis fir, Douglas-fir, lodgepole pine, ponderosa pine, western hemlock, western white pine, and the introduced Scotch pine (Harvey 1908; CSG; FIS). Within a given area, one coniferous species is generally preferred over the others that are present. Outside BC additional larval foodplants include Jeffrey pine, pinyon pine, and subalpine fir (Howe 1975; Scott 1992).
Pine Whites occur throughout southern BC in low-elevation (below 1,500 m) coniferous forests, and occasionally in subalpine forests up to timberline above 2,000 m. Partially open forest or forest margins appear to be preferred, possibly because of access to nectar sources.
Pine Whites occur from southern BC and southwestern AB south to central CA, NM, and AZ, and east to SD and NE.
Recommended citation: Author, Date. Page title. In Klinkenberg, Brian. (Editor) 2021. 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:
2022-12-08 3:50:08 PM]
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