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Understanding the Life Cycle of the Cabbage White Butterfly

Cabbage white butterfly life cycle-Cabbage-white-collecting-nectar

A cabbage white butterfly collecting nectar

History of the cabbage white butterfly

The cabbage white butterfly belongs to the family Pieridae and can easily be identified by its white wings and black markings which can be found on the wingtips, the wings of this butterfly also have small black dots. The cabbage white butterfly can be found throughout Asia, North Africa, and Europe.

In Europe, the cabbage white butterfly is known as the small cabbage white or small cabbage, in New Zealand as the small white and in North America as the cabbage butterfly or cabbage white. What I found so amazing about the courtship of these butterflies is when the male spots a female and seeks to win here he will get here attention by flying up and down in the front of here in a zig-zag pattern.

The male will catch her forewings with his legs and spreads his wings causing the female to lean in his direction. Once the male is successful and the female excepts his invitation the courtship begins, this is rather interesting to see these types of butterflies displaying this behavior. The host plants of the cabbage white butterfly are cabbage, cauliflower, radishes, horseradish, nasturtiums, broccoli, etc.. Below, however, we will be looking at the life cycle and other facts about these butterflies.

The life cycle of the cabbage white butterfly

The cabbage white butterflies go through 4 stages which are egg, caterpillar, chrysalis and adult. These butterflies produce 2 broods per year, the female lays her egg singly on the underside of the host plant.

The eggs are creamed-colored or white and oblong, in about 4 days to a week the eggs hatch and the larva emerges. The larva has a green color with yellow strips that runs lengthwise and is covered with tiny hairs.

For the first two weeks, the larva feeds on the leaves consuming them almost entirely before they enter the pupal stage they will molt five times. Their big appetite causes them to grow very quickly outgrowing their exoskeleton.

The larva then attaches itself to the host plant by spinning a silk covering, the larva will begin to pupate in about two and a half weeks or thereabout. The larva will attach itself on the underside of a stem or leaf spinning a silk pad that is made out of silk.

Cabbage butterfly feeding-the life-cycle-of cabbage-white-butterfly

Cabbage white caterpillars feeding

Strands that are made of silk is also made by the caterpillar, the caterpillar uses these strands to attach itself to the silk pad. Inside of the exoskeleton, a beautiful transformation takes place. A chrysalis that is brown is produced. In 24 hours a beautiful butterfly emerges.

Unusual Twist about the Cabbage White Butterfly

Unlike other butterflies, the larva stage or the caterpillar have been known for causing damage to food crops such as cabbages, cauliflowers, and radishes. So what I have discovered is that these butterflies should be discouraged from laying eggs in your edible garden because of their vase devastation.

How to control the cabbage white butterfly garden invasion

1. Biological control is a natural way to eliminate the larva of the cabbage white butterfly, the use of ladybugs and lacewings are considered beneficial insects and will feed on the larva of cabbage white butterfly. Installing plants in your garden such as yellow button flowers, fennels, sweet alyssum, zinnias, cosmos white sensation, tansy, coriander, purple poppy mallow, dandelion, basket of gold, common yellow and carpet bugleweed is a great choice. These plants will attract ladybugs and lacewings. This natural method of ridding your garden of insect pests is known as companion planting.

2. The use of a netting material that can be purchase from your garden center or hardware store will help greatly. Once this netting is purchased covering your plants will prevent the cabbage white butterfly from laying her eggs.

3. The use of sprays such as Bacillus thuringiensis has proven to give good success spray the entire leaves underside along with the stem. Before using this product read and follow the manufactures direction for the best results.

4. The use of decoys by installing artificial butterflies or spreading dry eggshells over the leaves is said to trick the cabbage butterfly into thinking that those leaves are already in use discouraging them from laying their eggs.

5. Insecticidal soap is also said to bring results.

6. The cold weather is a natural way also of ridding your gardens of these butterflies.

The natural habitat of the cabbage white butterfly

Their natural habitat includes fields, gardens, parks, urban areas, heath woodland, forest and open spaces.

The cabbage white butterfly collecting nectar

The cabbage white butterfly collecting nectar

12 fun facts about the cabbage white butterfly

1. The pupae of this butterfly have a large external shell.

2. The cabbage white butterfly was introduced to the USA in the 1800s.

3. It’s said that these butterflies are easy to raise.

4. The cabbage white butterfly’s favorite spots are fields and gardens.

5. This is a European butterfly.

6. It’s very common throughout Europe.

7. As a caterpillar they eat cabbage but as and adult (butterfly) feeds on nectar.

8.The eggs of this butterfly are shaped somewhat like a bottle.

9. The larva or caterpillar is covered with tiny hairs.

10. In captivity, the cabbage white can be feed sugar.

11. The adult butterflies are very active during the day time.

12. The cabbage white butterfly can be found in the rocky mountains.

The final word about the cabbage white butterfly

The cabbage white butterfly as you have seen has a twist as they can cause massive destruction. These butterflies though found in the home garden is not welcome like other butterflies, the cabbage white unfortunately is not accepted, implementing control methods as was discussed above will bring control ensuring that your garden plants are growing healthy giving you a great yield.

17 comments

  1. primoz pticak says:

    Hi! Wow I had no idea that this kind a butterfly lives, but to be honest I don’t even know basics about butterflies, I didn’t even know that butterflies could do harm to your garden. Are there any other harmful butterflies we should worry about? I have to tell this to my mom as she is a gardener and I never heard her talking about cabbage white butterflies.

    Cheers,

    Primoz P.

    1. Norman says:

      So happy to help and thanks for sharing this information. Will send information on other listed butterflies to keep a watch on. Thanks again and have a good day.

      1. Nancy says:

        Aloha Norman, I live in Hawaii and we have the small white butterfly caterpillar. I have screen over my garden ( three raised 3×6 boxes). However not seeing any butterflies I left my screens up, which was a mistake. Hence my broccoli and cabbage got eaten. I tried hot pepper spray but to no avail. I removed them By hand and washed off their extament which is very easy to see ( bright green Balls) each day until I got them all. They didn’t damage the cabbage or broccoli heads. I don’t leave the screen up anymore. It’s been a week free of them! Have you heard of kneeling nymph which attacks tomatoes?

  2. Jonathon Howard says:

    I had never heard of this kind of butterfly before my mom loves butterflies and has always been a real fanatic When it comes to them the cabbage white butterfly seems like a very interesting species of butterfly and seems very different than most butterfly’s this definitely helped me to learn something new today that i didn’t know about you great information on  cabbage white butterfly’s and how they live there life cycle and  reproduce I enjoyed the article hope to read many more from you in the future keep up the good work-jonathon

    1. Norman says:

      So happy to help and thanks for your kind words. All the best to you.

  3. Richard Brennan says:

    Hi Norman

    I live in the UK and we (the Wife and  I) have been growing our own vegetables in the back garden for quite a few years now.

    We live next to open fields where cattle graze and it’s a real hit with the local Cabbage White population who like to visit our vegetable patch to ‘share’ in our home grown produce.

    We’ve done a few – but not all – of things you suggest in deterring them and, by coincidence, we’ve planted Cosmos near to our growing area this year. We didn’t plant them as a butterfly deterrent so it will be interesting to see this season what the effect of the planting will be.

    We got a very useful tip from a TV gardening program a few years back which you might like to add to your list of ways to deter the Cabbage White. If you’re growing rhubarb, you’ll need to trim the leaves back from time to time to get the sunlight to the stems. Put the cut leaves in a bucket and fill the bucket with water, then transfer it to a watering can and water your veg with that. It’s very effective at keeping the Cabbage White away and stopping it laying it’s eggs all over your crop.

    A word of caution, though – it smells terrible! Not so much after you’ve sprinkled it on your crop, but whilst it’s fermenting in the bucket. Breathing it in won’t do you any harm but it will certainly make you gag if you don’t take a good inhale and hold it in beforehand!

    1. Norman says:

      Hello, I am so happy to help and thanks so much for your help, I will take your advice into consideration. Wishing you all the best of success with your garden projects. Have a good day.

  4. Philebur says:

    Such a beautiful creature. You would hardly believe it can cause such havoc on your garden. I think I would love to own a butterfly like this. This article has been helpful though, as it has given me the opportunity to know that this kind of creature actually does exist. Nice one and please keep dropping more animals as rare as this.

    1. Norman says:

      So happy to help and all the best to you.

  5. Chris Towers says:

    Hi Norman, it is great to be on your site once more.

    I actually live in Greece (On Rhodes Island) and butterflies are quite common here although i am not sure if we have the breed here that you mention. Am I right in saying that they are also known as Pieris Rapae?

    Here in Rhodes the most popular are called the Jersey Tiger Moth.

    It is interesting for me to come across this article now as only a few days ago me and my neighbor have been discussing growing out own vegetables and managing some land on our property. This has all come about due to the current coronavirus and I guess planning ahead is best.

    Do you know if the Pieris Rapae are in my location and if I need to be aware of any potential threats? Maybe even The Tiger Month Butterfly could have the same characteristics?

    Thanks Norman, and as always I enjoyed my visit.

    Chris

    1. Norman says:

      Hello my friend so good to see you, hope all is well with both you and your family. This butterfly do cause a lot of damage but once you put the proper measures in place like I listed you will be find. I only know them by the listed name but I will be back with more information as I seek to answer your questions so stay tune and will keep in touch. Have a wonderful day and God bless!

  6. Louise says:

    I loved that post.  I really like butterflies and I enjoy reading the facts especially the mating part.  Yes, I had 10 sunflower plants a couple of year ago and some of their leaves were munched on by critters.  It wouldn’t have been these caterpillars though?  I never did find out the culprits.  And I didn’t use anything as I didn’t like the idea of killing something so I like your ideas on companion planting.  I’ve always wanted to go to Project Eden in Cornwall, UK as they have a butterfly house, have you been?

    1. Norman says:

      Before purchasing and installing plants it is always good to do your homework first about the care of plant including pests issues and control to have success. Sorry to hear about your flowers and hope that you have success when planting another garden and please let me know how it goes.

  7. Pentrental says:

    Good to know that, though beautiful, the cabbage white butterfly is capable of causing massive destruction. I appreciate the control methods that you have provided. They are easy to follow and straight to the point, something that people with gardens especially will find useful. I think the preferred method would be the most natural, such as welcoming other bugs that might help rid the cabbage white butterfly, but if these methods don’t work it’s nice to have something to fall back on such as with sprays, decoys and soap. As one who enjoys gardening I have found your post extremely useful, and I look forward to reading more, well done!

    1. Norman says:

      These butterflies can cause massive damage to edibles but with the proper methods in place, they can be brought under control. It is always best to use natural means first before switching to chemicals and even then with chemicals, we should follow the direction on the label before applying. So happy that I could help and all the best to you.

  8. Edwin Bernard says:

    Your description of the life cycle of the cabbage while butterfly was fascinating. The butterflies are quite beautiful. When you continued that during their stages of metamorphosis they can be deleterious to plants in the garden I was aghast! After setting us up to appreciate the beauty of the white butterfly you then told us how to keep them at bay using a variety of techniques. 

    I loved how you emphasized the humanitarian methods as well as using other bugs to do so naturally. Who would have thought that a light and airy butterfly could lay waste to a garden. Now anyone who reads your article will have the knowledge to prevent this happening without using harmful pesticides.

    Thanks for a very educational article. 

    Edwin

    1. Norman says:

      These butterflies can cause damage, their larva that is but it is good to know that you can save your crops or garden plants by putting these methods in place. Thanks so much for those kind words and I am so happy to help. All the best to you.

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