Cabbage butterfly

cabbage-butterfly_webThis 5 cm large butterfly is a common sight in the garden. It has white wings with black tips and dots. There are several species of cabbage butterfly that look and behave very similar. Other names of those butterflies are large white butterfly or small white or simply white butterfly depending on the species.

The larvae of the cabbage butterfly are caterpillars and they feed on leaves. They prefer all plants of the cabbage family and nasturtiums. Those plants contain a lot of mustard oils and eating them make the caterpillars smell and taste less appealing for predators like birds.

There are a variety of shapes of caterpillars depending on their stage of development and species. We often find smooth skinned bright green and yellowish/greenish ones that are covered in black hairs. They are up to 5 cm long and 0.5 cm thick.

These caterpillars are a serious pest because they feed voraciously. Some birds prey on them but they don’t seem to be a very popular food. Predatory wasps and spiders reduce the amount of caterpillars.

It’s very important to monitor the impact of caterpillars in the garden. Affected plants show leaf damage. One can often find black droppings as a telltale sign.

A medium (5 mm mesh) netting keeps the caterpillars away from the plants, especially when they are young. Companion planting confuses the butterfly when trying to lay eggs.  In case of a more serious advent of caterpillars we treat the plants with a bacterial spray that stops the caterpillar activity.