The Western White Butterfly, scientifically known as Pontia occidentalis, is a beautiful and intriguing butterfly species found in K-Country. This butterfly is part of the Pieridae family, which includes the familiar white and yellow butterflies commonly seen in North America. Here’s some information about the Western White Butterfly and its presence in Kananaskis:
- Appearance: The Western White Butterfly is primarily white, with black markings on its wings that are characteristic of the Pieridae family. It also has some light yellow or pale greenish markings on its wings, which can vary in intensity among individuals.
- Size: Adult Western White Butterflies typically have a wingspan ranging from 35 to 50 millimeters (1.4 to 2 inches).
Habitat and Range:
The Western White Butterfly is primarily found in the western regions of North America, including parts of the United States and Canada, including K-Country. It thrives in a variety of habitats, including open fields, meadows, gardens, and grasslands.
Like many butterflies, the Western White Butterfly goes through a complete metamorphic life cycle, consisting of four stages: egg, larva (caterpillar), pupa (chrysalis), and adult butterfly.
- Egg: The female butterfly lays her eggs on the host plants, which are typically members of the mustard family (Brassicaceae).
- Larva: The caterpillar hatches from the egg and begins feeding on the host plant. Western White Butterfly caterpillars are green with a series of yellow stripes and possess fine bristles.
- Pupa: After a period of growth, the caterpillar forms a chrysalis, where it undergoes transformation into an adult butterfly.
- Adult Butterfly: The adult Western White Butterfly emerges from the chrysalis and takes flight, seeking nectar from various flowering plants. This butterfly species is known to engage in a unique behaviour called “puddling,” where males gather at damp spots to extract essential minerals and nutrients from the wet soil or mud. The shores of Lower Lake are particularly popular. Adults migrate to lower elevations, and can travel as far as Mexico.
- Pollination: Like other butterfly species, Western White Butterflies play a role in pollination. While they are not as effective as some other pollinators like bees, they can contribute to the pollination of certain flowering plants in their habitat.
- Prey: Western White Butterfly caterpillars are herbivores that feed on host plants. They can sometimes be considered pests in agricultural settings. However, they provide a food source for various predators and parasitoids.
- Indicator Species: The presence and population dynamics of Western White Butterflies can serve as indicators of environmental conditions and habitat health. Changes in their abundance can signal shifts in the local ecosystem.
See some more of K-Country’s butterflies here!