Pieris wollastoni (Butler)

Madeiran Large White (Pieris wollastoni)  

The classification of the Madeiran Large White is somewhat difficult, it is treated by different authors either as a subspecies of the Large White (Pieris brassicae (L.)) or of the Canary White (Pieris cheiranthi (Hübner)), or as a distinct species.  

Most individuals of this insular form resembled the European mainland Large White in appearance, however the individuals, like in most species of Whites, could differ highly from each other, by their coloration as well as in their size.  

The species reached a wingspan of 5,5 – 6,5 cm, it was named locally Borboleta da Madeira or Grande Branca da Madeira (in Portuguese).  

The larval host plant is said to have been common cabbage (Brassica oleracea (L.)).  

The entomologist R. Pinker reported in 1968 of a very unusual method of cabbage harvesting on Madeira. The lower leaves are said to have been taken away almost every day, which probably made a survival of the caterpillars sitting on these leaves very likely impossible. [2]  


In the year 1974 the Small White (Pieris rapae (L.)) was found on Madeira for the first time, interestingly instantly in masses. [3]  

According to a hypothesis by the entomologist B. O. C. Gardiner this new species of white, resp. a special form of granulosis virus, which was spread by this species, and against which the Madeiran Large White did not have any resistance, may be at least one of the reasons for the extinction of the endemic White. [4]  

The last sighting of the Madeiran Large White was in 1977 (according to the European Red List of Butterflies in 1986).  



[1] A. E. Holt-White: The butterflies and moths of Teneriffe. London, L. Reeve & Co. 1894 
[2] Rudolf Pinker: Der Lebensraum von Pieris cheiranthi HBN, und die Einwanderung und Ausbreitung der Catopsilia florella F. auf den Kanaren. Zeitschrift der Arbeitsgemeinschaft österr. Entomologen. 20 (1-3) 1968 
[3] N. Wolff: On the sudden mass occurrence in 1974 of Pieris rapae L. (Lepidoptera, Pieridae) in Madeira. Boletim Mus. Municip. Funchal, 29: 26-32. 1975 
[4] B. O. C. Gardiner: The possible cause of extinction of Pieris brassicae wollastoni Butler (Lepidoptera: Pieridae). Entomologist’s Gazette, 54: 267-268. 2003  


female; specimen supposedly caught on the island of Tenerife, Canary Island [1] 

Depiction from ‘A. E. Holt-White: The butterflies and moths of Teneriffe. London, L. Reeve & Co. 1894′ 

(not in copyright) 
male, left upside, right underside

Photo: Dr. Heiner Ziegler, by courtesy of Dr. Heiner Ziegler 



edited: 14.09.2020