Is the Cabbage White a Moth or a Butterfly?

So, is the Cabbage White a moth or a butterfly? The answer is that the Cabbage White is indeed a butterfly.

If you’ve ever spent time in a garden, chances are you’ve come across a delicate white insect fluttering among the flowers. The question arises: Is the Cabbage White a moth or a butterfly? We’re here to shed some light on the matter and help you understand the identity of this fascinating insect.

A Cabbage White Butterfly

The insect in question is commonly known as the Cabbage White, scientifically named Pieris rapae. It is a member of the family Pieridae.

Butterflies and moths are both part of the order Lepidoptera, but they have distinct characteristics that set them apart. Understanding these differences will allow us to appreciate the unique beauty of the Cabbage White butterfly.

Difference between Cabbage White Butterfly and Moth

The main difference between the Cabbage Moth (Mamestra brassicae) and the Cabbage Butterfly (Pieris rapae) lies in their classification and physical characteristics.

The Cabbage Moth belongs to the family Noctuidae, which consists of moths. While the Cabbage Butterfly belongs to the family Pieridae, which includes butterflies.

In terms of appearance, the Cabbage Moth typically has a wingspan of about 3-4 centimeters (1.2-1.6 inches) and displays various shades of brown, gray, and white. It has more subtle and mottled markings on its wings, allowing it to blend in with its surroundings.

Cabbage Moth
A Cabbage Moth

On the other hand, the Cabbage Butterfly has a wingspan of approximately 5-6 centimeters (2-2.4 inches) and is predominantly white in color. Its wings often have black spots towards the tips, adding a touch of contrast.

Their behavior and life cycles also differ. The Cabbage Moth is primarily active during the night, making it a nocturnal insect. Butterflies are typically diurnal, which means they are active during the day, while moths are mostly nocturnal, preferring to fly at night. If you’ve observed the Cabbage White fluttering gracefully around your garden in broad daylight, it further confirms its identity as a butterfly.

One of the most apparent differences between butterflies and moths is their appearance. Butterflies tend to have slender bodies, while moths often have plumper bodies. The wings of butterflies are usually more colorful and vibrant, with intricate patterns and distinct markings.

Moths, on the other hand, often have duller colors and less defined patterns. The Cabbage White butterfly fits the description of a butterfly with its slender body and delicate, white wings that display subtle black spots towards the tips.

Cabbage White – Countries and Habitat

The Cabbage White butterfly is widespread and found in many parts of the world. Here’s an overview of its range and preferred habitats:

White Butterfly
  1. Europe: The Cabbage White is native to Europe and is found throughout the continent. Including countries such as the United Kingdom, France, Germany, Italy, Spain, and many others. It thrives in a range of habitats, from gardens and parks to meadows, fields, and urban areas.
  2. Asia: The Cabbage White has also spread across Asia, where it can be found in countries like China, Japan, India, and Russia. It is adaptable and can thrive in diverse environments, from urban settings to agricultural landscapes and natural habitats.
  3. Africa: The Cabbage White has successfully established populations in parts of Africa. It can be found in countries such as South Africa, Egypt, Morocco, and Ethiopia. In these regions, it is commonly encountered in gardens, agricultural areas, and open grasslands.
  4. Americas: The Cabbage White has been introduced to the Americas and has become naturalized in many countries across North, Central, and South America. In North America, it is widespread and can be found in the United States, Canada, Mexico, and other countries. In South America, it has been reported in countries such as Brazil, Argentina, Chile, and Colombia.

Habitat wise, the Cabbage White is adaptable and can thrive in various landscapes. It is commonly found in open areas with access to flowering plants for nectar, such as gardens, parks, meadows, and agricultural fields.

 A cabbage infested with caterpillars

It has a particular affinity for plants from the Brassicaceae family, including cabbage, kale, broccoli, and mustard, which serve as host plants for its caterpillars.

Overall, the Cabbage White butterfly has successfully colonized a wide range of countries and habitats, displaying its adaptability and ability to thrive in diverse environments across the globe.

How Do I get rid of Cabbage Whites?

If you’re dealing with an abundance of Cabbage White butterflies in your garden and would like to minimize their presence, here are a few suggestions to help you manage them:

Top Tips for Dealing With a Cabbage White Problem

  1. Physical barriers: One effective method is to use physical barriers to prevent Cabbage Whites from accessing your plants. You can cover susceptible plants with lightweight netting or floating row covers. This physical barrier will block the butterflies from laying their eggs on the plants, reducing the population of caterpillars.
  2. Handpicking: If you have a small garden or a few affected plants, manually removing the eggs, caterpillars, or pupae can be an option. Regularly inspect the undersides of leaves and remove any eggs or caterpillars you find. Be sure to dispose of them away from your garden to prevent their return.
  3. Companion planting: Planting companion plants that deter Cabbage White butterflies can help reduce their presence. Some plants, such as strong smelling herbs like sage, rosemary, and thyme, are known to repel these butterflies. Consider interplanting them among your vulnerable crops.
  4. Biological controls: Introducing natural enemies of Cabbage White butterflies can be an effective and environmentally friendly method. Certain parasitic wasps and flies are natural predators of cabbage caterpillars. You can encourage their presence by planting nectar-rich flowers or using biological control products available in some gardening stores.
  5. Crop rotation: Practicing crop rotation is beneficial for many reasons, including pest management. By rotating your crops, you make it harder for Cabbage White butterflies to locate their preferred host plants.
  6. Organic insecticides: If the infestation is severe and other methods haven’t provided sufficient control, you may consider organic insecticides labeled for caterpillar control. Organic products are derived from natural sources and can help manage the population of Cabbage White butterflies. Follow the instructions carefully and use them sparingly to minimize their impact on beneficial insects and the environment.
Spraying Cabbage Leaves with butterfly and moth treatment

Remember, it’s important to strike a balance between managing pests and maintaining a healthy ecosystem. Consider using a combination of these methods and always prioritize environmentally friendly solutions to minimize harm to beneficial insects and other wildlife.


In summary to our original question- Is the Cabbage White a Moth or a Butterfly?

The Cabbage White is a beautiful and delicate butterfly. Its slender body, white wings with subtle black spots, diurnal behavior, and adherence to the butterfly lifecycle make it an unmistakable member of the butterfly family.

Next time you spot one fluttering in your garden, take a moment to appreciate the wonders of nature and the intricate world of butterflies.

Frequently asked questions about the Cabbage White.

What do Cabbage White butterflies eat?

Cabbage White butterflies, like many other butterfly species, primarily feed on nectar from various flowers. They have a preference for nectar-rich plants such as asters, daisies, and milkweed.

However, it’s important to note that the caterpillars of Cabbage White butterflies have a different diet. They feed on the leaves of plants from the Brassicaceae family, which includes cabbage, kale, broccoli, and mustard.leaf damage

How long does the Cabbage White butterfly live?

The lifespan of a Cabbage White butterfly can vary depending on environmental factors and predation risks. On average, the adult Cabbage White butterfly lives for about two to four weeks.

However, this duration can be influenced by conditions such as temperature, availability of food sources, and natural predators. The butterfly’s short lifespan is primarily dedicated to mating and reproducing.

Are Cabbage White butterflies native to North America?

No, Cabbage White butterflies are not native to North America. They were originally found in Europe, Asia, and parts of Africa. However, over time, they have been introduced to various regions worldwide, including North America.

Their ability to adapt to different environments has allowed them to thrive in these new habitats.

Today, Cabbage White butterflies are a common sight in many parts of North America and have become naturalized in those areas.

Which season is the cabbage white caterpillar and butterfly active?

The specific timing of Cabbage White caterpillar and butterfly activity can vary depending on geographical location, local climate, and environmental conditions.

However, the general trend is that the caterpillars are active during the warmer months of spring and summer. This is when host plants are abundant. The adult butterflies are active during the day and can be seen throughout the active season of the caterpillars.

Tom Watson