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Small Cabbage White Butterfly Pictures, Facts, and Information

White butterfly on butterfly bush


White butterfly on butterfly bush

Cabbage White butterfly species Pieris rapae


Cabbage White butterfly species Pieris rapae

Cabbage white


Cabbage white

White butterfly with black spot


White butterfly with black spot

Cabbage white butterfly


Cabbage white butterfly
The Small Cabbage White butterfly (Pieris rapae), also known as the Small White, is a small-to-medium sized butterfly which lays its eggs on cabbage plants and other members of the Brassica family.  All the plants on which it lays its eggs are edible by humans, and include Kale, Radishes, Broccoli and Hedge Mustard, among others.

The Cabbage White is native to Europe, North Africa and Asia, but has spread to North America, Australia and New Zealand.  It is a very cold-hardy butterfly, and can sometimes be seen flying during midwinter thaws as far north as Washington, DC.  It has one of the longest seasons of any butterfly, emerging from the chrysalis in early Spring and remaining active until the first hard freeze.  In areas where winter temperatures stay above freezing, it can breed year-round.

As their name implies, Cabbage Whites are white in color, though the undersides of their wings range from white to pale yellow and are often speckled with black.  Individuals often have black upper wingtips, and females have a black dot in the center of the upper wing.  Because of their simple coloring, they are sometimes mistaken for moths.

Cabbage White caterpillars are green, which affords them very good camouflage.  Unlike their larger cousin the Large Cabbage White, (Pieris brassicae), Small Cabbage White caterpillars are tasty to predators, so they keep to the undersides of the leaves in order to avoid being spotted.  Because they live on Brassicas, many of which are food crops, the caterpillars can be a crop pest.

Small Cabbage Whites are very strong flyers, and though they rarely range farther than 2 miles (6.2 km) or so, it is estimated that they can fly over 100 miles (160 km) over their lifespan.  They regularly fly to Britain from the European mainland, and when they were first introduced to Australia, they spread from Melbourne all the way west to the western coast (a distance of over 1,800 miles (2,900 km)) in only three years.

All the pictures here were taken with a Canon 5D and a Sigma 150mm macro lens.