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Small White Butterfly

Pieris rapae

Small White Butterfly, Small White, Cabbage White, Large Cabbage White Butterfly, Cabbage Caterpillars, Grootkoolvlinder (Afr.)

Pieris rapae caterpillar 1

by Sam Fraser-Smith. CC BY 2.0

A close up Pieris rapae small cabbage white butterfly larva or caterpillar
The Small Cabbage White Butterfly belong to the same genus as the Large Cabbage White. Both use the same genera of plants as a host to lay their eggs. Small Cabbage Whites are less damaging in comparison to their larger relatives. Pieris rapae is also migratory, flying from the British Isles to the continent to breed. Adults are white with black dots on the forewings. Unlike the Large White, these butterflies lay single yellow eggs beneath the host's leaves, as opposed to clusters.
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Caterpillars are pests of plants in the mustard family.
The butterflies are garden pollinators!


Adult: The butterflies are white with black tips/ spots on the forewings. The underside of the hind wings is pale greenish which serves as camouflage when the butterfly is resting. The wingspan can reach 6cm. Larvae: Caterpillars are bright green, with thin, faint yellow lines running longitudinally. There are also tiny black speckles that cover the whole body and yellow dots that run laterally down the body. Pupae: Cocoons are bright green, 'spiky', and look a bit like small packages made from leaves. Eggs: Yellow and are laid individually underneath leaves.


Foliage damage. Small caterpillars can bore into the hearts of cabbages. Rotting, inedible crops. Wet, greenish-brown excrement.











Europe, America, Northern Africa, and parts of Asia.

Biological treatment

By checking your Brassicas regularly, you should be able to detect any caterpillars before they cause much damage. The best is to look for when the butterflies fly consistently over plants, as this indicates they are attempting to lay eggs. Caterpillars and eggs can then be hand-picked off. Cabbages can be covered with netting to prevent eggs from being laid on the plants. Nasturtiums act as a brilliant buffer plant because they're highly attractive to pests such as cabbage caterpillars and aphids. Also, there are parasitic wasps that parasitise the pupae of this butterfly species. Some birds can eat these caterpillars too.

Chemical treatment

Insecticides such as fenvalerate are very successful for the control of cabbage white butterflies. Other insecticides such as deltamethrin, cypermethrin, malathion and fenitrothion can be used. On plants intended for eating, be sure the crop is listed on the pesticide label and follow the instructions carefully. If you decide to use persistent chemicals please research products carefully, or consult with your local garden centre.



Brassica oleracea (Capitata Group) 'Cabbages'

Cauliflower 'Violencia'

Brassica oleraceae (Botrytis Group) 'Violencia'

A close up of a green Tropaeolum majus plant with a red flower


Tropaeolum majus

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