The brimstone is a common butterfly. The males are bright yellow in colour and it is widely held that the species was the inspiration for the name ‘butterfly’ (4). The females are more greenish-white in colour, with an orange spot in the centre of each wing. The undersides of the wings are greenish, with prominent veins (3). The caterpillar has a green body with blackish flecks, a white line along the sides (2).
The brimstone is univoltine, meaning that one generation is produced per year. During May, females lay their eggs singly on the undersides of leaves of the foodplants. The caterpillars hatch after around ten days; they then feed on the leaves, typically resting along the mid-rib where they are difficult to spot (2). After around a month, pupation takes place; the caterpillars attach their pupae to the stems of the foodplant. Around two weeks later the adults emerge (2); they do not mate at this time but instead spend many hours feeding on nectar, building up reserves for hibernation. This species has a very long proboscis, and can exploit flowers with very deep nectarines, including runner bean flowers and teasels (5).
Widespread in southern England, becoming less common further north. The range is expanding at present, particularly in northern England (5). Elsewhere the species is found throughout Europe with the exception of the extreme north (2). It reaches Mongolia and North Africa (5).
For more on butterflies see: The Millennium Atlas of Butterflies in Britain and Ireland by: Asher, J., Warren, F., Fox, R. Harding, P., Jeffcoate, G. & Jeffcoate, S. Published by Oxford University Press.
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