Cabbage White (Pieris rapae) (Linnaeus, 1758)

Diagnosis: The upperside of the wings are clear white with black wing tips, one black spot (two in the female) on the forewing, and a black patch on the leading edge of the hindwing. The underside of the hindwing is a pale mustard-yellow colour. Wingspan: 32 to 47 mm.

Range: An almost ubiquitous species of the northern hemisphere, the Cabbage White was first introduced into North America in Quebec in the 1860s. It dramatically spread across the continent in the next few decades. It now ranges in Canada from coast to coast and is found well into the boreal forest in many regions, north to Kuujjuarapik (Great Whale River) in Quebec and to Arviat (Eskimo Point) in Nunavut.

Specimen collection data

Description of this image follows
Cabbage White
(Pieris rapae), larva.
W. Lukey

Similar Species: Best distinguished from other whites by the black spots on the upperside and the yellow hindwing below.

Early Stages: The larva is a bluish green with faint yellow stripes on the side and back. It is commonly found in gardens on a wide variety of members of the mustard family, including cabbage, cauliflower, and broccoli.

Abundance: This is an abundant butterfly in many parts of Canada, particularly in urban areas and farmland. Its bright white colour and fondness for gardens make it one of the butterflies familiar to anyone even mildly interested in nature.

Flight Season: The species is multi-brooded and in southern Ontario can be found from mid-April through to mid-October. Adults become more common as the summer progresses. The season is more restricted farther north.

Habits: This is a butterfly of all habitats, including bogs, meadows, woods, and backyard gardens.

Description of this image follows
Cabbage White (Pieris rapae).
Ottawa, Ont. P.W. Hall

Remarks: Because of its fondness for cultivated members of the mustard family, the Cabbage White is considered a pest in many parts of its range. However, PWH has fond memories of this butterfly as, at the age of seven, he spent an afternoon chasing several around a school yard, starting a lifetime of interest in butterflies.

© 2002. This material is reproduced with permission from The Butterflies of Canada by Ross A. Layberry, Peter W. Hall, and J. Donald Lafontaine. University of Toronto Press; 1998. Specimen photos courtesy of John T. Fowler.