cabbage white butterfly

Pests & Pathogens

white butterfly

Pretty little cabbage white butterflies (Pieris rapae) are doing their dance in pairs all over the place. These are the most common butterfly in the US and BAD news for broccoli and cabbages. Tomorrow I will try to remember to bring hoops and row cover to the garden. I cover my brassicas at least until the plants are big. Same at my home garden, though I haven’t seem any cabbages whites there yet. They’ll find the broccoli soon. Kale too.

My parents’ broccoli did fine last last year without any covers. And I notice others at the community gardens don’t cover their cabbage. Maybe it just mine they get into. Or maybe the other gardeners spray. In any case, I’ll be covering up soon.

Added later:
Here are some more photos of this pretty little butterfly.

cabbage white 4 cabbage white 3 cabbage white 1 cabbage white 2

cabbage white butterflies (Pieris rapae)


butterflies (Lepidoptera)

10 Comments. Leave new

  • I have seen the odd one flying around so far this year but I am sure there is more to come soon. Last year there seemed to always be one around. I am spraying with BT this year, its organic and only kills larvae. I beleive it is even certified organic.

  • Kathy,

    Guess what, that is not a Cabbage White. It is a native US species and somewhat rare, a West Virginia White, Pieris virginiensissee my page at This species is dying off due to Garlic Mustard, it lays eggs and the caterpillars can not eat it, end of cycle. Mustards are it’s usual fare.

  • I never notice before, glad to know those are called cabbage white butterflies.

  • I have floating row covers to put up as well – no hoops though. I have seen the cabbage moths dancing around frantically in the garden.

  • Hi Kathy, I know they can be a bit problematic but they are beautiful, you just have to look out for the larvae.

    Happy Gardening


  • I have seen a few as well. I usually just let them be (although I don’t have many). We have the parasitic wasps that patrol the broccoli looking for the little worms. I wouldn’t want to steal their food.

  • In Russia this butterfly is called Kapustnitsa, from the word Kapusta that means Cabbage. It reminds me of my childhood.

  • HI Randy, I added some more photos of the same white butterfly. I think from different angles you can see the black dots and wing tips. I read that in the early spring the cabbage white’s markings are very pale. What do you think? This butterfly was out in a very big wide open field nectaring on dandelions. I looked at your photos and was kind of thinking that the last photo seems maybe different than the others which have very delicate wings with more prominent veining and hairy rather than velvety body? Thanks for the link!

  • Kathy,
    Yes the other photos do show the butterfly to be a Cabbage White. I was wracking my head on how in your area a West Virginia White could be in your garden. If you ever need any butterfly answers just drop me a line.

  • Thanks Randy. I hope to be seeing lots of butterflies this summer!


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