A beautiful, striking white butterfly of arid regions of North Africa and Asia (2)(3), the desert white (Pontia glauconome) is a member of the Pieridae family, also known as the true butterflies, which comprises around 1,100 species worldwide. Most members of this family are white or yellow and are characterised by medium size, fully functional forelegs, and the forked claws on the tips of the legs. They also have pigments in the wings that either reflect or absorb ultraviolet light, such that the wings produce a variety of attractive patterns (4)(5). The caterpillars are generally green and lack hairs or spines (4). The Pieridae fly in a straight, steady fashion without any glides and close the wings while at rest (6).
Little has been documented on the biology of the desert white, but it is thought that the ultraviolet pattern on the wings is used by the male and female desert white to identify the opposite sex during courtship. Like many other Pierids, the male desert white probably patrols in search of receptive females, with the female laying round, elongated eggs on leaves, buds or stems after mating (4). The caterpillar is known to feed on the leaves of shrubs, including Zilla spinosa and Ochradenus baccatus(2), and the adult is likely to visit flowers to feed on nectar (5). The desert white flies between March and October, during which time it produces three generations, each of which differ greatly in appearance (2)(3).
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