© Peter J. Bryant.

Cabbage White Butterfly

Pieris rapae

Lepidoptera: Pieridae

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© Peter J. Bryant.
© Peter J. Bryant.
© Peter J. Bryant.
San Joaquin Freshwater Marsh, Irvine, Orange County, CA. 12-22-05. © Ron Hemberger

Peters Canyon, Orange, Orange County, CA. 8-17-08. © Ron Hemberger

Fullerton Arboretum, Fullerton, Orange County, CA. 3-31-09. © Ron Hemberger

Irvine Regional Park, Orange, Orange County, CA. 6-30-10. © Ron Hemberger

Chrysalis, view from top, on Garden Nasturtium. University Hills, Irvine, CA. 9-20-07. © Joan Avise.

Chrysalis, view from side, on Garden Nasturtium. University Hills, Irvine, CA. 9-20-07. © Joan Avise.

Characteristics: White, with one (male) or two (female) rounded black spots on dorsal forewing. Black apical suffusion on dorsal forewing, and dark suffusion on dorsal wings nearest body.

Similar Species: Checkered White (Pontia protodice)

Larval Foodplants: Many native and introduced species of the Mustard family (Cruciferae) including the following: garden vegetables--cabbage, cauliflower, kale, mustard greens, radish; other -- nasturtium and mustard (Brassica sp.). The green larvae are economically important pests on cruciferous crops, particularly cabbage, and chemical pesticide treatments or treatments with a microbial insecticide (formulated from a bacterial species, Bacillus thuringiensis) are often required to bring populations down to economically tolerable levels.

Other Remarks: The Imported Cabbage Worm Butterfly ("Cabbage White") is the white butterfly seen every day almost everywhere in lowland Orange County. Gravid females are often seen ovipositing on cabbage, nasturtium, etc. Native to Europe, this species was introduced into Canada and the eastern United States around 1860. It quickly spread, reaching California around 1883 (Wright, 1906), although the butterfly may have already occurred in California prior to that time, having been introduced by the Spanish. It occurs throughout the year, most commonly in the lowlands, although I encountered an individual once on Santiago Peak, elevation 5687 feet. In the hills north of Villa Park Dam, the Checkered White (Pontia protodice) outnumbers the Imported Cabbage Worm and might be actively competing with it if both utilize the same foodplant species in this area. In most areas, however, rapae is more abundant than protodice when both species occur together. Kerr (1918) considered rapae to be very common even at this early date.

From Orsak, L. J. (1977). The Butterflies of Orange County, California. Center for Pathobiology Miscellaneous Publication #3. University of California Press, New York. 349pp.

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