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Cabbage White Butterfly (Pieris rapae)


Detailing the physical features, habits, territorial reach and other identifying qualities of the Cabbage White Butterfly



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The European Cabbage White Butterfly is a charming visitor that leaves behind a notorious plant pest.



Updated: 01/26/2021; Authored By Staff Writer; Content ©www.InsectIdentification.org
When spread flat, it is easy to see the charcoal gray coloring at the upper corners on the white, pale wings of the Cabbage White. Males have 1 black spot on the center of each forewing, while females have 2 spots in the same place. The color under the forewings may be yellow or light green and is visible if the wings are raised. A frequent visitor to vegetable patches, the Cabbage White adds whimsy to a garden scene. The unfortunate consequence of this may mean a caterpillar problem a few weeks later.

The green larva of the Cabbage White eats cabbage, nasturtiums and other plants related to mustard. It is covered with hairs and has 5 yellow lines running down its length. Because the caterpillar has a voracious appetite and usually has siblings nearby, the leaves of cabbage and other cruciferous vegetables like broccoli and cauliflower can be chewed through in a matter days. Because of their destructive dietary needs, they are considered a garden pest and require population control in order to save harvests. The use of row covers when adults are seen in the area can reduce egg-laying on host plants. This practice can help lessen chemical use on produce and reduce labor in the garden.

The abundant Cabbage White Butterfly can be seen fluttering around from early spring to late autumn. They are well-adapted to living in urban areas. They can be found in fields, meadows, parks and gardens.




General Characteristics
Capability, Shape, Texture/Pattern, Benefits, Dangers
Garden pest insect icon
Patterned insect icon
Pest insect icon




Taxonomic Hierarchy
Species Breakdown
Kingdom: Animalia
  Phylum: Arthropoda
    Class: Insecta
      Order: Lepidoptera
        Family: Pieridae
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          Genus: Pieris
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            Species: rapae
Identifying Information
Size, Colors, Features
Scientific Name: Pieris rapae
Other Name(s): Small White; European Cabbage White
Category: Butterfly or Moth
Size (Adult; Length): 30mm to 50mm (1.18" to 1.96")
Colorwheel Graphic Colors: white; black; gray; yellow
Descriptors: dot, garden pest
Relative Size Comparison
Typical Range Between 30mm and 50mm
Lo: 30mm
Md: 40mm
Hi: 50mm
Territorial Map*
U.S., Canada, and Mexico
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Territory map graphic of the country of Mexico
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Alaska  
Hawaii  
Prince Edward Is.  
* MAP NOTES: The territorial heat map above showcases (in red) the states and territories of North America where the Cabbage White Butterfly may be found (but is not limited to). This sort of data is useful when attempting to see concentrations of particular species across the continent as well as revealing possible migratory patterns over a species' given lifespan. Some insects are naturally confined by environment, weather, mating habits, food resources and the like while others see widespread expansion across most, or all, of North America. States/Territories shown above are a general indicator of areas inhabited by the Cabbage White Butterfly. Insects generally go where they please, typically driven by diet, environmental changes, and / or mating habits.

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