Male and female cabbage whites are white with dark wingtips. Females have two black spots in the center of the forewings; males have one. The dark markings may be faint, especially in spring. The underside is yellow-white.
Larvae (called cabbageworms) are green with yellow lines along the top and sides.
Habitat and Conservation
This nonnative butterfly has become so common that we scarcely think of it as “exotic” anymore. Although pretty to behold, and butterflies generally cheer us up, especially in early spring, the cabbage white is also an agricultural pest.
The great 19th-century French entomologist J. H. Fabre studied a close relative of this butterfly and marveled at the egg-laying female's ability to select not just plants in the cabbage family, but certain species that seem to be special favorites. He noted that a botanist would have to examine flowers and seedpods to make such fine identifications, but the mother butterfly instinctively "knows this group to perfection." Later, entomologists would learn that butterflies "taste" plants with sensory organs on their legs.