Cabbage White - the unpopular butterfly

Cabbage White - the unpopular butterfly

Anyone who has ever tried to grow brassicas of any kind will be aware of the devastating impact on their crops of the caterpillars of the Large White or Cabbage White butterfly. It is one of the most widespread species of butterfly found in the British Isles and can be found almost anywhere, including Orkney and Shetland.

What's more, this species is also known to migrate to the British Isles from the continent, augmenting the resident population in the process!

The large or cabbage white is a common, large butterfly that is often spotted flying slowly over cabbage patches in gardens and allotments, and over farmland. Adults fly between April and October. The foodplants of the caterpillars of this butterfly are members of the cabbage family, known as 'Brassicas', hence its Latin name, Pieris brassicae.

It is a white butterfly with prominent black tips to the forewings. The underside of the wings is cream. The female has two black spots and a dash on each forewing. As its name suggests, the large white is larger than the other white butterflies.

The mostly white wings of the cabbage white reflect a lot of ultraviolet light, which we cannot see but the butterflies themselves can. To human eyes, they may seem plain and drab compared to other butterflies, but to each other, the females are a gentle lavender hue, while the males shine with a brilliant royal purple. The brightest males are the most attractive to females.

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