Cabbage White Butterfly – More Than Just A Pest

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Do you recognize this butterfly?

Chances are you have seen a cabbage white butterfly flying around somewhere.  Here are some interesting facts about this common butterfly.

I have seen them flying around in an open meadow or just out in the backyard as the kids were playing.  It always felt to me like they were everywhere and it turns out they are.  These are one of the most common butterflies in the USA and are also common in New Zealand.  Cabbage white butterflies are distinctive and easily spotted as their whiteness stands out against the green of leaves.

Cabbage White Butterfly Identification

It is small, about 2 inches wide and 1 1/2 inches long.

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Females have two black spots on each wing.  Photo via Flickr.

The butterfly has a blackish body and white wings with black tips and black dots on the wing.  Males have one spot on each wing and females have two spots on each wing.

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They live in open spaces, such as fields and parks, and are common in gardens.

What Is The Lifecycle Of The Cabbage White Butterfly?

Just some quick background on the lifecycle of butterflies.  Most of us probably remember learning this when we were kids, but just in case you forgot here you go.  Butterflies, similar to all insects, undergo metamorphosis.

They are born from an egg as a caterpillar.  The eggs are laid on plants in the brassica family, which are common vegetable such as broccoli and cauliflower.

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The destructive cabbage white butterfly caterpillar.

The larva or caterpillar of a cabbage white butterfly are not as recognizable as the adult butterfly.  They are green with a light yellow stripe.  The caterpillar eats a lot of the plant it is born on.

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After time, they form a chrysalis, inside of which they change into an adult butterfly.  The chrysalis is most often located in the soil or on woody vegetation.

The adult mates and lays eggs to begin the lifecycle again.

cabbage-white-rockies-pin blog bugs butterfly cabbage white insects Nature nature facts New Zealand rocky mountains The Cabbage White Butterfly In The Rocky Mountains

This is the most common butterfly in the USA and one of the most common in the Rocky Mountains.

The larva or caterpillar feeds heavily on plants and crops.  It eats so much that it is actually considered a pest in some areas, such as in California, because it damages crops.

This butterfly is originally from Europe and was introduced to the USA in the 1800s.  It is thought to have come as caterpillars in a shipment of cabbages.

cabbage-white-pin blog bugs butterfly cabbage white insects Nature nature facts New Zealand rocky mountains The Cabbage White Butterfly In New Zealand

As I just stated, this butterfly is originally from Europe.  It’s hypothesized that it first came to New Zealand around 1929-30.

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It can now be found all over New Zealand.  This butterfly most likely spread all over the world due to the transportation of food.  It probably was on the leaves of the plants as they were moved.

This butterfly prefers plants in the cabbage family, such as broccoli, cabbage, and cauliflower.   Unfortunately, it eat so much of its host plants that gardeners consider it a pest.

Unlike other butterflies in New Zealand, the cabbage white undergoes a period of diapause.  This is a time in the lifecycle of the butterfly where it halts growth and rests.  This is a common strategy of insects in more temperate climates that have cold winters.  The insects/butterflies go into diapause to survive winter and then resume activity in the spring.

The post Cabbage White Butterfly – More Than Just A Pest appeared first on Jake’s Nature Blog.

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