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Dr. Giuseppe MAZZA Journalist - Scientific photographer > Aporia cra...


D r.G iuseppe M A ZZA A poria crataegi

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Aporia crataegi
Family : Pieridae

Text Dr. Gianfranco Colombo

English translation by Mario Beltramini

The Black-veined white ( Aporia crataegi -Linnaeus, 1758)

belongs to the order of the Lepidoptera and to the family of
the Pieridae a rather vast group including butterflies of
various size, present in every continent and which in Europe
includes the so-called white ones, that is the cabbage
butterflies, the small white, the napi and the sinapis.

In the tropical areas this family includes butterflies of

remarkable beauty and of fantastic colours but also in our
continent some genera display charming tonalities ( Colias,
Anthocharis, Gonepteryx ).

The black-veined white is a very common butterfly even if

subject to strong annual fluctuations. In some years it
becomes even a pest and it is possible to observe groups on
the flowered meadows seeing the presence of hundreds of
individuals in quite reduced spaces.

As it loves the proximity of water, often on the mountain

paths close to streamlets can be seen thousands of specimens
practically leaning on each other, busy in sucking the salts
that permeate the soil. Their attraction towards this activity
renders them extremely vulnerable to possible dangers as
they may even be touched without the fear that they flee

It is a species that is showing during the last century a

progressive tendency to move to altitudes higher than their
traditional habitat, usually abandoning the plain and
preferring the hilly zones. It loves the flowery meadows and
does not have a preference for any particular essence.

The scientific name Aporia has been object of various


The Greek etymology says that A-privative alpha united with

poros = narrow passage, should identify the difficulty in
transiting in a narrow and complex way and Macleod refers
this to the difficulty in understanding the strong fluctuation
that this butterfly, only member of this genus, has during the
various years.

Referring to this sense of difficulty and of shortage, Westwood

and Spuler join this fact to the scarcity of scales this butterfly
has on the wings and which often renders them rapidly
hyaline and transparent. Another possibility stands in the
rarity or the strong reduction of this butterfly in some periods
White, almost transparent, with its black or dark brown veins and its 75 mm of wingspan,
Aporia crataegi, here while mating, is really unmistakable Mazza and in some areas. Explanation given in Germany during the
second decennium of the 19th century and which might lead

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to definitely agree with this interpretation as the prevailing concept.

The name of the species crataegi simply comes from the genus Crataegus , the scientific name of the hawthorn, its host plant. The
common European names are: Black-Veined White, in English; Baum Weissling, in German; Gaz or Piride de lAubpine, in French;
la Blanca del Majuelo, in Spanish.


The black-veined white is a Palearctic butterfly diffused all over Europe excluding the northern part. It is common in the
Mediterranean basin, African coasts included, temperate Asia up to Korea and Japan. It is considered as endangered in various north-
European nations and is extinct in the British islands whilst is very abundant in the other nations where is present. It is totally absent in
Sardinia and in Corsica. It lives from the sea level up to 2000 m of altitude.


The Black-veined white is a remarkably

big butterfly reaching the 75 mm of
wingspan. It is completely white with
very much marked veins on both wings
of black colour, very strong in the males
and dark brown in the females. As said
before, on the apices of the fore wings, it
shows a scarcity of scales which reveals
the glossy and hyaline surface of the
wing which, therefore, results being

The entire shingling of this butterfly

results furthermore rather weak and
after a few days of flight the specimens
lose most of this cover leaving
uncovered most of the wing surface.
They have a stocky blackish body
becoming glossy and oily after a few
days of life. Like all pierids, the antennae
are robust and clavate and are long
about half of the fore wing. It is a highly
sociable butterfly and gathers often in
huge number in the visited areas. It is a monovoltine species. Eggs are laid in June-July and the larvae spend the winter in a sort of nest built around the
host plant. The pupae fix on the trees branches and when hatching emit a red blood discharge liquid that once long time
ago was deemed as a divine sign of ill venture for the population and the harvests Gianfranco Colombo
It loves to frequent open and sunny
meadows with strong presence of inflorescences it continuously visits flying from flower to flower and creating, where present in big
quantity, that messy and wavy movement that makes them look from afar a sort of a moving sea.

Particular and odd is the behaviour of these butterflies when the sun suddenly disappears: they hang on the flowers where they are
staying, remaining motionless in bunches until when the rays do reappear.

Reproductive biology

It is a monovoltine species and the adults fly away from May to July. It lays a huge number of eggs as during the development it is often
subject to deadly reduction. At times, entire generations reduce to quite a few specimens whilst in other years the survival avers almost

The eggs are laid between June

and July and are usually placed
directly on the upper face of the

The larvae, during the first

phases, keep united in a unique
and big nest built around the
whole host plant, in which they
will spend the winter. Though
this cocoon protects the whole
colony from the natural foes, the
final number of the survivors will
usually result very small.

Upon the last stage, the

caterpillars abandon this nest and
look for an isolated place where
to pupate.

The caterpillars are whitish with

an ample yellowish dorsal line
and the whole body is scattered
of very fine white spines.

The chrysalises, yellow with a

slight and sparse black dotting,

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It is a gregarious species, common or rare depending on the years. Often, on the mountain paths, close to streamlets,
are found thousands of specimens close each other, busy in sucking the salts permeating the soil Giuseppe Mazza
are firmly fixed to a small branch.

When hatching, this butterfly emits a blood red discharge liquid, called meconium, that inevitably soils the tree where the cocoon is
staying, a situation that, in the past, has originated the strangest beliefs and legends. In England, when this butterfly was still much
diffused, when these trees and the underlying grass did appear blooded, it was thought that the happening was a divine sign of bad
omen for the populations and the harvestings.

The caterpillar nourishes mainly on Prunus, Crataegus and Spiraea but also on other Rosaceae and fruit trees. At times it is a
parasite in the fruit orchards.


Papilio crataegi Linnaeus , 1758.

For general information about Lepidoptera please click here

To appreciate the biodiversity of BUTTERFLIES and find other species, please click here.

The photographic file of Giuseppe Mazza


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