North American Butterflies and Moths List

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Butterflies of North America

Butterflies of Iowa

Checkered White (Pontia protodice)
JPG -- species photo

Checkered White (Pontia protodice [Boisduval & LeConte])

Wing span: 1 1/2 - 2 1/2 inches (3.8 - 6.3 cm).

Identification: Upperside of male forewing has black checkered pattern on outer half. Female is more heavily patterned, but markings are more brown and diffuse. Hindwing of both male and female white. Underside of male hindwing with pale checkered pattern. Underside of female with yellow-tan markings on hindwing and tip of forewing. Short-day form has underside hindwing veins with heavy gray-green outlines.

Life history: Males patrol flats seeking receptive females, who lay eggs singly on leaves and flowers of host plants. Buds, flowers, and fruits are favorite foods of caterpillars, but they will also eat leaves. A short-day form appears in spring and fall. Chrysalids hibernate.

Flight: Three flights, with a partial 4th in the South, from March-November.

Caterpillar hosts: Plants in the mustard family (Brassicaceae) including cabbage (Brassica oleraceae); and caper family (Capparidaceae) including Rocky Mountain bee-plant (Cleome serrulata).

Adult food: Flower nectar including hedge mustards, composites, and alfalfa.

Habitat: Wide variety of sites including dry weedy areas, vacant lots, fields, pastures, sandy areas, railroad beds, and roads.

Range: Permanent resident in southern United States and northern Mexico; temporary in northern United States and southern Canada. Does not occur in most of New England.

Conservation: Not required.

Management needs: None noted.

The Nature Conservancy Global Rank: G4 - Apparently secure globally, though it might be quite rare in parts of its range, especially at the periphery.


Opler, P. A. and V. Malikul. 1992. A field guide to eastern  butterflies.
     Peterson field guide #4. Houghton-Mifflin Co.,  Boston. 396 pages,
     48 color plates.

Scott, J. A. 1986. The butterflies of North America. Stanford  University 
     Press, Stanford, Calif. 583 pages, 64 color plates.

Tilden, J. W. 1986. A field guide to western butterflies.  Houghton-Mifflin 
     Co., Boston, Mass. 370 pages, 23 color plates.

Author: Jane M. Struttmann

State and Regional References:

Nekola, Jeffrey C. 1995.  County Distribution Maps of Iowa Butterflies and 
     Skippers.  Dept. of Natural and Applied Sciences, Univ. of Wisconsin,
     Green Bay, WI.  30 pp.
Opler, P.A. 1998. A field guide to eastern butterflies, revised format.
     Houghton Mifflin Co., Boston.     
Checkered White (Pontia protodice)
distribution map
map legend

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