Alabama Butterfly Atlas

Butterfly: Wingspan: 1 3/8 to 1 5/8 inches (3.5-4.1 cm).  A dusky white butterfly.  There is gray scaling along the wing edges and wing base on the upperside.  Females typically have slightly more gray than males.  The underside of the hindwings is faintly suffused with gray along the veins.  Although there is much variation in the amount of gray, females may appear darker than males. The topside of the body is dark.

ID TIp: Almost completely white with no spots or checkering.

Egg: White, spindle-shaped eggs are usually attached singly to host plant.

Caterpillar: Downy and green, including head.  Marked only with a faint lateral line and tiny blue dots.

Chrysalis: Chrysalis is sharply angled and may be green or yellow/tan.  It is the overwintering stage.

West Virginia Whites are at home in the Appalachian Mountain Range.  Its cool cove forests and rich deciduous woodlands are favorite haunts and breeding grounds.  Fortunately for Alabamians, the northeast corner of our state include just such habitats, allowing these delicate butterflies to maintain residency.  They seldom stray far from their host plants and are not considered good colonizers.  These butterflies seem to meander through the woodland floor, stopping occasionally to nectar at small woodland wildflowers, including those of their toothwort hosts.  Males check out anything white to see if it might be an unmated female.  They also puddle at damp spots along trails or creek banks. 

In many parts of its range, an invasive alien plant, Garlic Mustard (Alliaria petiolata) poses a critical threat to West Virginia White populations.  Its smell entices females to lay their eggs on it, but caterpillars are not adapted to its particular array of chemicals and cannot survive.  Originally confined to the northeastern states, the Alabama Plant Atlas indicates that Garlic Mustard now occurs in at least 2 northeast Alabama counties: Jackson and Limestone.  Careful monitoring of our state's West Virginia White populations is needed so that appropriate conservation steps can occur if circumstances warrant.  

Distribution and Abundance

A dot on the county map indicates that there is at least one documented record of the species within that county. In some cases, a species may be common throughout the county, in others it may be found in only a specific habitat.

The sightings bar graphs depict the timing of flight(s) within each of three geographic regions. Place your cursor on a bar within the graph to see the number of individuals recorded during that period.

The abundance calendar displays the total number of individuals recorded within each week of the month. Both the graphs and the calendar are on based data collection that began in 2000.

The records analyzed here are only a beginning. As more data is collected, these maps and graphs will paint a more accurate picture of distribution and abundance in Alabama. Submit your sightings to albutterflyatlas@gmail.com.

Sightings in the following counties: Calhoun, DeKalb, Jackson

  • Sightings in the past 5 years
  • Sightings in the past 5 - 10 years
  • Sightings more than 10 years ago
Jan Feb Mar Apr May Jun Jul Aug Sep Oct Nov Dec
1 5 16 9 4 1

Habitat

Moist, shady mountain woodlands that support toothwort plants.

Host and Nectar Plants

Members of the Mustard family (Brassiceae), especially toothworts (Cardamine spp.), are reported. Garlic Mustard (Alliaria petiolata), an invasive alien species, is reported in other regions and is considered a conservation threat to West Virginia White populations.  

This host plant has been verified in Alabama: Two Leaf Toothwort/Crinkleroot (Cardamine diphylla).

West Virginia Whites nectar from a variety of small woodland wildflowers, including those of their host plants.

For more information about the documented host plants and/or nectar plants, please visit the Alabama Plant Atlas using the following links:

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