Small white

species of butterfly

The small white (Pieris rapae) is a small to mid-sized butterfly of the 'yellows' & 'whites' Pieridae family. It is also commonly known as the small cabbage white or just the cabbage white.

Small white
ChristianBauer Pieris rapae adult.jpg
Scientific classification
Binomial name
Pieris rapae
Linnaeus, 1758
A female small white


It is common across Europe, North Africa and Asia and has also been accidentally introduced to North America, Australia and New Zealand where they have become pests on cultivated cabbages and other mustard family crops.


Copulation refusal action

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.


Like its close relative the large white this is a strong flyer and the British population is increased by continental immigrants in most years. Like other 'white' butterflies it hibernates as a pupa. Like the large white, it is sometimes known as the cabbage white' or cabbage butterfly.


It has two flight periods, April–May and July–August.


Its caterpillars can be a pest on cultivated cabbages. . It also lays eggs on wild members of the cabbage family such as the charlock Sinapis arvensis and hedge mustard Sisybrium officinale. The eggs are laid singly on foodplant leaves.


Known in the United States as "imported cabbage worms", the caterpillars are green and well camouflaged. Unlike the large white they do not store the mustard oils from their foodplants and so are not distastful to predators like birds.


  • Asher J. et al. The millennium atlas of Britain and Ireland Oxford University Press
  • Evans W.H. 1932. The identification of Indian butterflies. 2nd ed, Bombay Natural History Society, Mumbai, India.