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General Information

Common name: Cabbage white butterfly
Scientific name: Pieris rapae

Synonyms: Cabbage butterfly, Cabbageworm, Imported cabbageworm, Small white butterfly (CABI, 2000)

Host plants

Cruciferous crops, spinach, garlic mustard, common nasturtium.


Africa, Asia, Australia, Europe, USA


The larva chews the leaves, hearts, and curds of crucifers.

The young larva is hatched on the outer leaves and feeds superficially leaving the upper leaf surface intact. As it grows older, it makes holes in the leaves and eats through small veins. It continues feeding into the center of the head damaging the edible portion of the plant. When there is a heavy infestation, all the leaf tissues are eaten leaving the veins and large stem.

The larva's waste matters contaminate and stain the produce.


The eggs are pale yellow in color, about 1 mm long, and bullet-shaped. These are laid singly on the lower surface of the outer leaves of the plant.

The newly hatched larva has a pale-yellow head and body with fine clear hairs arising from the small white spots. As it matures, its head and body are velvety-green with short hairs. The body has a broken yellow line or series of yellow spots which are found on both sides. The larva has five pairs of prolegs. A matured larva fastens itself to the lower leaf surface by silk bands. It can reach up to a length of 3 cm long.

The pupa is attached to some parts of the plant or other nearby objects. It is 1.8 to 2.0 cm long with a pointed anterior spine. Its color varies depending on where the pupa is situated because it camouflages with its environment.

The adult butterfly is white. Its body is covered with dense white hair which is more prominent on the male butterfly. The butterfly's wings are white with a black area near the tip of each forewing and have a small black spot on the front edge. The back wings are dull-yellow, dusted with black. It has a wingspan of 4 to 6 cm. The adult is active during the day and is often seen flying on crucifers and on flowering weeds to feed.
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