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The Cabbage Butterfly

cabbage butterfly

Photo -  Didier Descouens 

Cabbage Butterfly, Pieris brasicae, is also called the “cabbage white” or “cabbage moth” (erroneously)…  but is a butterfly in the family Pieridae.

An irritating but pretty little white or creamy butterfly, sporting a couple of black spots on its wings loves making lace of kale leaves, broccoli, cabbage and other yummy veggies in the Brassica family.

There are some gardeners who like to spray things and who even say what they use is organic, but please be careful here… and decide if you really want to eat the contents of that spray on your veggies.

Yes, sprays are quicker and deadlier, but let’s consider the reasons we grow our own food.  To rid it of chemicals; so does it really make sense to use any chemical (even if it says it is organic) on your food when there are alternatives?

If we took the time to watch how this pretty little butterfly acts and saw what it does when looking for a place to call home and lay eggs, we would see that it appears to land 3 times on a plant before it actually settles to lay eggs ….

How can we capitalize on that?  

We could surmise that the butterfly needs more time to choose a spot and gets easily distracted so we could further confuse it by planting non-brassica plants around our kale…

if those other plants differ in colour, size or shape, the butterfly will be confused enough to find another spot to lay eggs….

...the experts call this companion planting.

(photo - www.growfoodslowfood.blogspot.ca)

Take for instance, the difference in size, texture and colour of beet leaves  (above) - they are redder, smoother from a completely different family-

the “Chenopidaceae” family

- and because it is not of the brassica family, the picky little butterfly will go elsewhere.  

Many of the plants in this family are not too tasty to pests so go ahead and plant them among your cabbages, kale, broccoli etc… and because they all mature at different rates, your table will always have a variety of delectable food.      

Another thing you can do, is  plant flowers like white Cosmos among your veggie plants… They sway delicately in the breeze and mimic the movement of the butterfly… it will think that territory is taken and move on. 

The Cabbage Butterfly does not seem to care as much for strong-smelling herbs and plants - so putting them around your brassicas should also  confuse it. 

Besides Cosmos, try Marigolds and Zinnias.  Remember that these flowers attract the good insects that eat the larvae of the Cabbage Butterfly.  So will birds.


Broccoli, kale, radish, cabbage, cauliflower, brussels sprouts, turnip, bok choy, and mustard greens.

If they smell strong and are hairy, they are less tasty to the butterfly.


Beets, chard, sorrel, amaranth, spinach and quinoa.



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