top of page

Cabbage White

Common Name: Cabbage White.

Scientific Name: Pieris Rapae.

What to look for?  Cabbage White is a medium sized, off-white butterfly. When the wings are open, the dorsal side in the male displays a creamy white coloration with a single black spot on the primary wings, whereas the female is rather pale yellowish, with two black spots placed somewhere around the center. When the wings are closed, the ventral side exhibits a yellowish tinge along with some black speckles. The caterpillar is green with a thin yellow line in the middle of the back and a thin yellow line along each side.

Where can they be found at Carillon Stonegate Pond? The Cabbage White will be one of the first butterflies that appear and will usually be found here from early spring into late fall. Look for them around the milkweeds and other wildflowers around our pond banks and in our flower gardens.

How big are they? The Cabbage White has a wingspan of approximately two (2) inches. The Cabbage White as a caterpillar can grow to approximately three-fourths of an inch in length.

What are their flight patterns? The flight pattern of Cabbage Whites can be characterized as rapid and erratic. They usually stay within three feet of the ground.

How else do they behave? Cabbage White are among the first butterflies you see in spring, and among the last you see in fall. Their cue to overwinter is determined by temperature rather than day length. Cabbage White males patrol for females.

What’s for dinner? Butterflies and moths have a different diet during their larval caterpillar phase than they do as winged adults. Adult Cabbage Whites prefer nectar from a very wide array of plants, including mustards, dandelion, red clover, asters, and mints. Cabbage White caterpillars dine on host plants that are usually members of the mustard family, including cabbage, cauliflower, broccoli, and radishes.

Where do they take up residence? The non-native Cabbage White resides across most of the U.S. and central Canada. In Illinois, they are found in all counties.  The Cabbage White is native to Asia, Europe, and North Africa. They are found in moist meadows and fields where host plants thrive.

When and where do they breed and nest? Remember the life cycle of a moth or butterfly: (1) eggs, (2) larval state as caterpillar, (3) pupa state in chrysalis or cocoon, and (4) butterfly. With an average lifespan of three (3) weeks, Cabbage Whites continuously mate such that there are several broods of Cabbage Whites from spring until fall. Female Cabbage White butterflies choose a host plant and place their cream-colored eggs singly on the underside of a leaf. Most eggs hatch four to eight days. Cabbage white larvae, called cabbage worms, molt five times before entering their pupal stage. About 2.5 weeks after hatching, the cabbage white larva begins to pupate. He attaches himself to the underside of a leaf or stem and spins a silk pad. The cabbage worm spins silk strands to attach himself to the silk pad. A brown chrysalis forms inside the exoskeleton. Pupae can hibernate during winter while attached to the host plant. In warm weather, emergence occurs 30 to 45 days after the egg hatched. They begin mating by the time they are several days old. There are approximately three broods in northern part of range and some eight broods in the south.

Where do they migrate? Cabbage Whites do not migrate. Pupae can hibernate or overwinter during winter.

What is their conservation status? There is no concern.

Do they make any interesting sounds? No.

Interesting Facts About the Cabbage White:

  • The lifespan of a Cabbage White butterfly is approximately three (3) weeks!

  • The Cabbage White has such a plain appearance that it is often mistaken for a moth.

  • They are among the first butterflies you see in spring, and among the last you see in fall.

  • It has been said that the Cabbage White is one of just a few species of butterfly that can be reliably identified while driving 70 mph.

  • In the U.S., the Cabbage White caterpillar is known as the “imported cabbageworm”.

For more information on the Cabbage White and sources of information used in this blog (these are the several of the sources that I am using to learn as I blog), please visit Butterflies and Moths of North America, Butterfly Identification, North American Butterfly Association, and University of South Florida Butterfly Atlas.

The Carillon at Stonegate community is very fortunate to have a variety of wetland, forest and prairie environments conducive to a variety of birds and other wildlife, insects and plants. Our community and the Kane County Forest Preserve do an exceptional job in maintaining this natural environment – both for the benefit of the birds and wildlife and for our residents to enjoy.


Take a hike and see what you can find – and identify!

bottom of page