Hi, my name is: Cabbage White Butterfly, lovely to meet you…

Describe yourself: I am quite a striking white butterfly, Pieris rapae, with two lovely grey/black spots on my wings. Don’t confuse me with Pieris brassicae which is a little smaller and has a slightly different black pattern on its wings or with other unrelated moths with similar appearance.  I’m probably the most common butterfly in your home garden. In my youthful (but destructive) days, I am a silky, blue-green colour… very attractive, if I say so myself!

Hobbies: I love laying eggs all over your plants and watching my beautiful larvae destroy your garden!

Likes: Cabbages, broccoli, brussels sprouts, chinese cabbages, cauliflower, celery, beetroot, rocket and watercress.

Dislikes: Really smelly herbs, like dill, sage and coriander. I can’t stand other Cabbage White Butterflies on my turf! My larvae hate birds, being handpicked off plants, Assassin Bugs, Green Mantids, Paper Wasps, Lacewings and Ladybirds. I hate insecticidal soaps (like home made chilli soap), or store bought stuff. I can’t stand Bacillius thuringiensis bacteria (Dipel) … this stuff makes me sick!

You’ll know you’ve met me when: My larvae munch through the leaves of your favourite cabbage (and related) plants. They leave massive holes in the outer leaves, and heaps of delightful green poo around the place!

If you want to dump me, you could try to:

  • Spray your plants’ leaves with water and knock me and my mates right off our perch!
  • Pay your neighbours’ kids to come round and wipe me off with a stick!
  • Collect me in a bucket and feed me to the chooks!
  • Encourage or release some of my well known enemies like Assassin Bugs, Lady Birds and Lacewings.
  • Release some Bacillius thuringiensis bacteria to kill me and all members of my family. (It hurts no others!) You can buy this pre-packaged in your local nursery
  • Cover your edible crops with fine mesh or similar. Then my beautiful mum can’t land and lay her eggs.
  • Scatter eggshells around the garden… I get confused and lay my eggs on them!
  • Cut up some old with plastic bags, and tie small “bow ties” to the top of thin bamboo stakes. A few of these around the garden look just like Cabbage White Butterflies, and will scare us off!
  • Plant smelly herbs to confuse me such as sage, dill and coriander.
  • Plant land cress Barbarea verna (it has a lot of common names like “early yellow rocket” 1 and sometimes confused with Barbarea vulgaris) somewhere else in the garden.  This plant attracts the butterflies to lay their eggs.  When the caterpillars hatch, they can die from being parasitised by some insects, particularly a wasp, Cotesia rubecola which was introduced into Australia in 1960 and New Zealand in 1993 to control cabbage whites 2,3.  Or when you see caterpillars on the plants you could pull them out, bag and bin them.


  1. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Barbarea_verna
  2. Cameron PJ. Walker GP. Field Evaluation of Cotesia rubecula (Hymenoptera: Braconidae), an Introduced Parasitoid of Pieris rapae (Lepidoptera: Pieridae) in New Zealand. 2002. Environmental Entomology, Volume 31 (2): 367–374,   https://doi.org/10.1603/0046-225X-31.2.367
  3. Dempster, JP. 1967. The Control of Pieris rapae with DDT. I. The Natural Mortality of the Young Stages of Pieris. Journal of Applied Ecology 4 (2): 485–500. doi:2307/2401350

Banner image:  By John Tann from Sydney, Australia – Cabbage white butterfly, CC BY 2.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=38233633