Small White butterfly

Pieris rapae

family - Pieridae (Whites)

Image of Small White butterfly

The Small White butterfly isn't that small in relation to other British butterflies: It is smaller than the Large White butterfly.

Small and Large Whites are known to British gardeners as Cabbage Whites; they are the only species that are garden pests in that they lay their eggs upon members of the cabbage family.

My personal observations of the Small White butterfly

months seen in my garden: most of the butterfly season

garden plants that attract this species:
Aubrieta, Buddleia, Candytuft, Ceratostigma, Chives, Choisya, Forget-me-not, Hebe, Helichrysum, Honesty, Hyssop, Lavender, Lobelia, Marigold, Michaelmas Daisy, Mint, Scabious, Sedum, Sweet Rocket, Verbena, Virginian Stock, Wallflower

Butterfly sightings 2005:

Small White butterfly on Wallflower, 25 March
Small White butterfly on Sweet Rocket, 25 March
Small White on Verbena bonariensis, 21 July
Mating pair of Small White butterflies, 21 July
Plenty in the garden on 23 and 26 July
Seen in my garden on 1 August
Also on 23 and 28 August, 2 and 17 September
Small White on Dandelion at Upton House, 2 October

Butterfly sightings 2004:

No images. I was admitted to hospital on 15 July for 4 months - missed most of the Small White butterflies!

top 9 memorable images of 2003:

thumbnail link Resting on Eleagnus. Top view. Male has 'black' wing tip, one black spot on the forewing and a black spot on the hindwing. July 27.

thumbnail link On Mint. August 30.

thumbnail link Female on blue Hyssop. Female is similar to male but also has an extra black & black dash on the forewing. August 30.

thumbnail linkFeeding on Verbena. August 8.

thumbnail link Feeding on French Marigold. September 24.

thumbnail link Resting on Sedum. Top view of male. September 24.

thumbnail link Female feeding on Michaelmas Daisy. September 3.

thumbnail link On pink Hyssop. August 23.

thumbnail link On Verbena. August 20.

A selection of images from previous years

1 September 2002 on Hyssop
15 August 2002 on Ceratostigma
15 August 2002, a courting pair near/on Buddleia 'Nanho Blue'
23 June 2002 on Buddleia alternifolia
10 September 2000 on Ceratostigma
26 August 1999, caterpillar on Cabbage


I find it hard to differentiate Small and Large White butterflies sometimes. Large White butterflies are slightly larger than Small White butterflies (obviously!) I try to look at the black marking at the tip of the forewing which is longer on the Large White butterfly.

Green-veined White butterflies are about the same size as Small White butterflies. The underside of the hindwing gives the clue to identification - the veins are outlined in the Green-veined White butterfly.

Reference Section

Size: 48mm (see list of butterflies by size)

First Generation flight period: March-May
Second Generation flight period: June-August
Third Generation flight period: September

Habitat: Gardens
Larval Food Plants: Cabbages, Nasturtium
Wild Nectar Plants: Field Scabious

Family Group: Pieridae - see list of butterflies by family

This page last updated: 9 December, 2005