Small White

Pieris rapae

The Small White is a small- to medium-sized butterfly species of the Yellows-and-Whites family Pieridae. It is also known as the Small Cabbage White and in New Zealand, simply as White Butterfly. The names "Cabbage Butterfly" and "Cabbage White" can also refer to the Large White.
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In appearance it looks like a smaller version of the Large White. The upperside is creamy white with black tips to the forewings. Females also have two black spots in the center of the forewings. Its underwings are yellowish with black speckles. It is sometimes mistaken for a moth due to its plain-looking appearance. The wingspan of adults is roughly 32–47 mm.
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The species has a natural range across Europe, Asia and North Africa. It spread across the Atlantic into Canada and the United States beginning somewhere around 1860. It spread to Hawaii by 1898, and Australia in 1929 around Melbourne and spreading across to Perth by 1943.

The nominate subspecies "P. r. rapae" is found in Europe while the Asian populations are placed in the subspecies "P. r. crucivora". Other subspecies include "atomaria", "eumorpha", "leucosoma", "mauretanica", "napi", "novangliae", and "orientalis".
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In Britain, it has two flight periods, April–May and July–August, but is continuously-brooded in North America, being one of the first butterflies to emerge from the chrysalis in spring, flying until hard freeze in the fall.

Its caterpillars can be a pest on cultivated cabbages, kale, radish, broccoli, and horseradish but it will readily lay eggs on wild members of the cabbage family such as Charlock and Hedge mustard. The eggs are laid singularly on foodplant leaves. It has been suggested that isothiocyanate compounds in the family Brassicaceae may have been evolved to reduce herbivory by caterpillars of the Small White.

Traditionally known in the United States as the Imported Cabbage Worm, now more commonly the Cabbage White, the caterpillars are green and well camouflaged. Caterpillars rest on the undersides of the leaves, thus making them less visible to predators. Unlike the Large White, they are not distasteful to predators like birds. Like many other "White" butterflies, they hibernate as a pupa. It is also one of the most cold-hardy of the non-hibernating butterflies, occasionally seen emerging during mid-winter mild spells in cities as far north as Washington D.C.

Like its close relative the Large White this is a strong flyer and the British population is increased by continental immigrants in most years. Adults are diurnal and fly throughout the day except for early morning and evening, although there is occasional activity during the later part of the night it ceases as dawn breaks.


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