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[All pictures of garden wildlife on this page are thumbnails. Click on any thumbnail for a large format to be displayed.]

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Brimstone (Gonepteryx rhamni)

Taxonomy
Kingdom:Phylum:Class:Order:Family:Genus:Species:
AnimaliaArthropodaInsectaLepidoptera PieridaeGonepteryxG. rhamni


Another well-known white is the Brimstone. The male is citron like yellow and easily identified. The female is almost white and has to be seen in close up. Otherwise she will probably be mistaken for an ordinary white. But in close up you will notice that where all whites have regularly shaped wings, the Brimstone has irregular wingtips. These tips are characteristic of the Brimstone. Except for the colour, little differences exist to separate the males from the females. The Brimstone not anly has irregular wingtips. It is an unusual white in more respects, for it produces only one brood a year. After hatching in May the caterpillars grow up quickly and pupate in June. Soon the adults appear flying about till July when most of them oversummer. In the temperate zones of Northern and Central summer this oversummering doesn't take particularly long, but in the subtropical and Mediterranean zones the animals may be inactive for two or three months! In late summer and autumn they may be seen again, but by september they all seem te have disappeared. The same Brimstones that oversummered first, are now overwintering. But in February or March, when winterdays are over they appear again, thus being the first butterflies of the year in our parts of Europe.



The Brimstone has the common wingspan of a Central European butterfly of up to 55 mm. It's a harmless white, even in agriculture, for its caterpillars are not interested in cabbage at all. They are usually found on Alder. It's very difficult to locate them, as they spend the day resting on the leaves. Their colour is identical to that of the Alder leaves! In Southern Europe (e.g. on the Canary Islands and Madeira) we find a few relatives of our Brimstone. They are usually called Cleopatras and have an orange yellow colour and the same irregular wingtip as our Brimstones have. The Brimstone is a common species all over the British Isles.
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