Pesky Pests: The Cabbage White Butterfly

I've encountered many pesky pests in my time and until recently I didn't count the cabbage white butterfly among them. If anything I thought of them as more of a plaything for our cat Jess, who likes nothing better to chase them as they flit about the garden.

However, my attitude towards them this year has changed because I've decided to grow cabbages for the first time*, red cabbages to be precise as I'm really missing the red cabbage and juniper berry concoction which used to be served up at work from time to time.

Owing to the drought and concrete like conditions up at the plot, I started my seeds off in modules at home. I'm pleased I did for another reason: it's allowed me to keep a good eye on the seedlings and to watch out for the cabbage white butterflies muscling in on them. Here you can see no less than 2 types of eggs: the clustered ones have been laid by a large whites and the paler, solitary ones by the small white. You'll also see that I've been a bit tardy in my vigilance as some of the eggs have already hatched out into tiny caterpillars. From my later observations egg to caterpillar can take as little as 24 hours, so regular inspection and egg/caterpillar removal is required before these critters can really get down to business.

I'll be transplanting these out in the allotment soon: I need to construct my protective hoops first, which will then be draped with horticultural fleece to keep the cabbage whites and that other pesky pest the pigeon at bay.

* = which shocked Threadspider considerably last week as she knows all about my 'no grow' attitude towards Brassicas owing to NAH's hatred towards everything in the cabbage family **

** = though shhhh, don't tell him that rocket is a Brassica as he loves the stuff


  1. Goodness, I never knew rocket was a brassica. I must stop eating it at once! I was about to say I share NAH's hatred of the brassica family, but I do quite like red cabbage cooked with apple at Christmas. And I like coleslaw.

  2. Shocked, I was, shocked! And there's another pesky pest up there too-white fly. They are currently infesting my kale and anything else they can get their little fluffy feet on!

  3. I'm also growing cabbage for the first time this year. I've got mine in containers. I've let the cabbage white butterflies have their way with it, and so far, they haven't seemed that interested. It could be due to my dismal watering efforts, but only one of the plants is forming a nice, dense head, but then, how much sauerkraut can two people eat?

  4. I'm so pleased to discover the names of both types of caterpillars. That gives me something to take my mind off the squishing. Yuck.
    And yes, I've got white fly too! How do you keep those out?? More fleece?

  5. Victoria - I love coleslaw and also cauliflower and broccolli, but so far I've refused to go down the route of preparing different meals for NAH and myself. However, I do really miss these vegetables.

    TS - have you covered your kale with fleece now?

    MMD - ooh sauerkraut. Must make some...

    Lu - fleece does help, though I can imagine the whitefly queueing up to invade every time I pull it off to check on the plants. Lacewings and ladybirds munch on them too. I've got loads of ladybirds up at the plot at the moment so I might sneakily insert some into the tunnel when I plant them out. How about making some sticky yellow fly traps as well?
    Whitefly are one of those pests attracted to that colour...

  6. I did know that Rocket was a Brassica but it was really bought home to me when I started picking off caterpillars! We have seen lots of white butterflies the last few weeks. I am like you I love broccolli, my husband doesn't and as he does most of the cooking...

    LU I have found a product called 'plant invigorator' is very good at killing whitefly. It is easy to find on the net and it feed the plants!

    Best wishes Sylvia

  7. Hello!

    i am a fellow gardener living in japan, i have been reading your blog for a couple weeks.
    I just wanted to say hi and get to know more people who share the love for gardening

  8. tried the wee patch out with cabbage. due to soninlaws' puppy trampling seedlings & a stray cat eating them (!), i ended up with a mere 3...

  9. I have given up on nearly all the brassicas because of cabbage moths and aphids....I do still grow tuscan kale but the cabbage moths have played havoc again. Those I can leave to winter over, thus killing the caterpillars and when the plants revive for my spring crop it's not so bad. I really should try the fleece...just don't like the look of it, but which is worse...lacy leaves or white fleece?

  10. I've got red cabbages. They haven't grown much because I haven't watered them. On the other hand, the cabbage whites haven't been laying eggs on them in the way they have on green leaves other years. (Though maybe it's the year rather than the colour?) Some summers, the profusion of cabbage white caterpillars has so disgusted me I've abandoned plants to them. (I like the butterflies though.)


  11. Sylvia - that sounds like a good product to add to the armoury

    Fer - welcome! I do like the look of your blog. It must be quite hard to do balcony growing in Japan?

    Petoskystone - 3 sounds like it could be a good number to have...

    Joan - welcome :) I too don't like the look of fleece much, but I reckon needs must!

    Esther - I like the butterflies too, but not what they're doing to my cabbages!


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