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Wednesday, September 28, 2022
Caterpillars of pretty white butterflies are voracious eaters
A male cabbage white
butterfly.
A male cabbage white butterfly. Wikipedia

Charlotte Letkemann
Special to The Lake Report

You may have noticed a lot of quick-flying little white butterflies around lately.

They are European cabbage white butterflies, which originally came over from Europe in the 1800s, perhaps in the form of eggs or caterpillars with other goods coming to North America.

They started wreaking havoc wherever plants in the cabbage family were growing as the caterpillars of these butterflies are voracious eaters. And, as they are the colour of the leaf on which they are feeding, they can do a lot of damage before anyone realizes it.

About two weeks ago I found at least 12 green caterpillars of various sizes on the kale plants growing in a large pot on my deck.

The leaves were in very poor condition, having been chewed on by these destructive creatures before I realized what was happening.

After some research, I realized these were the larva form of the pretty, little white butterflies I’d been seeing almost everywhere throughout the summer.

The tiny offspring of these butterflies are called cabbage white caterpillars. They like to feed on cabbage leaves, along with other vegetables in the brassicaceae (or mustard) family, like broccoli, cauliflower, kale and brussels sprouts.

So, if you see a dainty white butterfly with black markings fluttering around in your yard, you might want to head over to your garden and check on your vegetables.

Without intervention, the leaves of the veggies you painstakingly cultivated all season will soon be riddled with pin-sized holes — tangible evidence that the caterpillars have been feasting at your garden’s expense.

The cabbage white caterpillars are also known as imported cabbage worms – an invasive species that originated in Europe, Asia and North Africa.

Surprisingly, these caterpillars are not actually white — they’re green. The name refers to their love of cabbage leaves and metamorphosis into white butterflies when they reach adulthood.

They tend to be kind of velvety because they have small hairs on them.

The butterflies lay their eggs on the underside of the leaves and when those eggs hatch the larvae feed on the leaves of your vegetables. That is where the damage happens.

Their life cycle is only 32 to 45 days but they can do a considerable amount of harm in a short time.