Individual study: Captive-bred large whites Pieris brassicae are larger, lay more eggs and have smaller wings than wild individuals; experiments at the University of Oxford, Oxfordshire, England
Lewis O.T. & Thomas C.D. (2001) Adaptations to captivity in the butterfly Pieris brassicae (L.) and the implications for ex situ conservation. Journal of Insect Conservation, 5, 55-63
Breeding butterflies in captivity for conservation carries a risk that captive butterflies will develop traits not well suited to their natural environment, such as larger bodies and shorter wings. This study compared traits of large whites Pieris brassicae bred in captivity with those of a recently wild-caught population, at the University of Oxford, Oxfordshire, UK.
Eggs were collected from two sources – a ‘captive’ group, bred in captivity for more than 25 years (100-150 generations) at Horticulture Research International, Warwickshire, UK, and a ‘wild’ group collected from the field at Bridgend, Glamorgan, South Wales. The captive group originated from butterflies caught in southern England.
Butterflies were reared from these eggs in groups, fed on fresh cabbage leaves.
Captive females laid more eggs than wild females. They laid on 11 of the 16 days, up to 90 eggs per female on average, compared to less than 10 eggs/female on only three of the 16 days, for wild butterflies.