Checkered White

Pontia protodice (Boisduval and Le Conte, [1830])

Pontia protodice- Checkered White (female)
Fitz Clarke

Insecta (Insects)
Pieridae (Whites and Sulphurs)
State Protection
Special Concern
Listed as Special Concern by New York State: at risk of becoming Threatened; not listed as Endangered or Threatened, but concern exists for its continued welfare in New York; NYS DEC may promulgate regulations as to the taking, importation, transportation, or possession as it deems necessary.
Federal Protection
Not Listed
State Conservation Status Rank
Critically Imperiled in New York - Especially vulnerable to disappearing from New York due to extreme rarity or other factors; typically 5 or fewer populations or locations in New York, very few individuals, very restricted range, very few remaining acres (or miles of stream), and/or very steep declines.
Global Conservation Status Rank
Apparently Secure globally - Uncommon in the world but not rare; usually widespread, but may be rare in some parts of its range; possibly some cause for long-term concern due to declines or other factors.


Did you know?

There is a spring (short-day) and summer (long-day) form of checkered white. The spring form has strongly reduced black marks above and there is heavy green veining ventrally (Opler and Krizek 1984). Shapiro (1968) showed that the color variation is the result of larvae subjected to long nights of more than 14 hours in the spring.

State Ranking Justification

There are two occurrences in New York as of 2012. There was a proposal to develop one of the sites.

Short-term Trends

The short-term trends are unknown. This species hasn't been reported since 1990. However, it is not known if there have been any surveys targeting this species since then.

Long-term Trends

Populations appear to be declining. It is believed that the decline could be, at least in part, due to the introduction of the parasitoid wasp (Cotesia glomerata) to control cabbage white populations.

Conservation and Management


Checkered white populations may have declined because of the introduction of a parasitoid wasp, Cotesia glomerata that was released to control cabbage white populations. The wasp also attacks other pierine butterflies (Schweitzer et al. 2011). Development and railroad and road maintenance are also threats as this species has been found in areas with such pressure in New York.

Conservation Strategies and Management Practices

This species often occurs along roadsides and railroads. Maintenance in these areas should be done to reduce the impact to the species. Broadcast use of herbicides should be avoided. Instead, it has been recommended that herbicides be applied to specific target species (Schweitzer et al. 2011).



In general, this species can be found in a variety of disturbed habitats lacking heavy shade, such as vacant lots, railroads, airports, and grasslands that also contain their mustard and caper foodplants (NatureServe 2011). In New York, the species has been found in sandy or gravelly disturbed areas with sparse vegetation.

Associated Ecological Communities

  • Cropland/field crops*
    An agricultural field planted in field crops such as alfalfa, wheat, timothy, and oats. This community includes hayfields that are rotated to pasture.
  • Mowed roadside/pathway*
    A narrow strip of mowed vegetation along the side of a road, or a mowed pathway through taller vegetation (e.g., meadows, old fields, woodlands, forests), or along utility right-of-way corridors (e.g., power lines, telephone lines, gas pipelines). The vegetation in these mowed strips and paths may be dominated by grasses, sedges, and rushes; or it may be dominated by forbs, vines, and low shrubs that can tolerate infrequent mowing.
  • Pastureland*
    Agricultural land permanently maintained (or recently abandoned) as a pasture area for livestock.
  • Railroad
    A permanent road having a line of steel rails fixed to wood ties and laid on a gravel roadbed that provides a track for cars or equipment drawn by locomotives or propelled by self-contained motors. There may be sparse vegetation rooted in the gravel substrate. The railroad right of way may be maintained by mowing or herbicide spraying.
  • Unpaved road/path
    A sparsely vegetated road or pathway of gravel, bare soil, or bedrock outcrop. These roads or pathways are maintained by regular trampling or scraping of the land surface. The substrate consists of the soil or parent material at the site which may be modified by the addition of local organic material (woodchips, logs, etc.) or sand and gravel. Abandoned railroad beds where tracks have been removed are included here. One characteristic plant is path rush.
  • Urban vacant lot
    An open site in a developed urban area that has been cleared either for construction or following the demolition of a building. Vegetation may be sparse, with large areas of exposed soil, and often with rubble or other debris. Characteristic trees are often naturalized exotic species such as Norway maple, white mulberry, and tree of heaven, a species native to northern China and introduced as an ornamental. Tree of heaven is fast growing and tolerant of the harsh urban environment; it can dominate a vacant lot and form dense stands.

* probable association but not confirmed.


New York State Distribution

Populations have been documented in Queens.

Global Distribution

Checkered whites can be found from southern Canada south to northern Mexico. They are absent from the Pacific Northwest. In recent times, this species is also absent from New England where there is some question if it ever was a resident in the area. Occurrences are becoming more erratic east of the Appalachians (NatureServe 2011).

Best Places to See

  • Gateway National Recreation Area (Queens County)

Identification Comments

Identifying Characteristics

Checkered whites are 44 to 62 mm. Upperside: Males have a black and white checkered-pattern on the outer half. The hindwing is white. Females are more heavily checkered above. Underside: The hindwing is faintly checkered in males. Females have a yellow-tan pattern on the hindwing and forewing apex (Opler and Malikul 1992). Both sexes have a quadrate black mark in the dorsal forewing cell (Opler and Krizek 1984). There are two forms noted: spring and summer. The male has one to three black marks in the postmedian forewing area. Its ventral hindwing is weakly veined with gray-green. The summer female is boldly marked with much black on the forewing and apex and outer margin of both wings. Ventrally, females' gray-green veins are much more distinct. The spring form of both sexes have strongly reduced black marks above, but very heavy green veining ventrally (Opler and Krizek 1984). The caterpillar is alternately striped yellow and purple-green. The body has many small tubercles (Opler and Malikul 1992).

Best Life Stage for Proper Identification



Flight is low and erratic.


Foodplants include species from the mustard and caper families.

Best Time to See

Shapiro (1974) states that there are four broods on Staten Island. Adults can be found March through November (Opler and Malikul 1992).

  • Present
  • Active

The time of year you would expect to find Checkered White present and active in New York.

Similar Species

  • Cabbage White (Pieris rapae)
    Cabbage whites are uniformly yellow-green or gray-green and have a charcoal wingtips and distinctive single or double dorsal forewing spot. In addition to their similar appearance, both checkered whites and cabbage whites have a low and erratic flight pattern.

Checkered White Images


Checkered White
Pontia protodice (Boisduval and Le Conte, [1830])

  • Kingdom Animalia
    • Phylum Arthropoda (Mandibulates)
      • Class Insecta (Insects)
        • Order Lepidoptera (Butterflies, Skippers, and Moths)
          • Family Pieridae (Whites and Sulphurs)

Additional Resources


NatureServe. 2011. NatureServe Explorer: An online encyclopedia of life [web application]. Version 7.1. NatureServe, Arlington, Virginia. Available (Accessed: April 17, 2012 ).

New York Natural Heritage Program. 2024. New York Natural Heritage Program Databases. Albany, NY.

Opler, P.A. and V. Malikul. 1992. A field guide to eastern butterflies. Houghton Mifflin, Boston, MA. 396 pp.

Opler, Paul A. and G. Krizek. 1984. Butterflies East of the Great Plains. The Johns Hopkins University Press, Baltimore.

Schweitzer, D.F., M.C. Minno, and D.L. Wagner. 2011. Rare, Declining, and Poorly Known Butterflies and Moths (Lepidoptera) of Forests and Woodlands in the Eastern United States. USFS Technology Transter Bulletin, FHTET-2009-02.

Shapiro, A.M. 1968. Photoperiodic induction of vernal phenotype in Pieris protodice Biosduval & LeConte (Lepidoptera: Pieridae). Wasmann J. Biol. 26: 137-49.

Shapiro, A.M. 1974. Butterflies and skippers of New York State. Search 4:1-60.


About This Guide

This guide was authored by: Hollie Y. Shaw

Information for this guide was last updated on: June 6, 2012

Please cite this page as:
New York Natural Heritage Program. 2024. Online Conservation Guide for Pontia protodice. Available from: Accessed June 23, 2024.