Pieris brassicae (large cabbage white)
- Taxonomic Tree
- Notes on Taxonomy and Nomenclature
- Distribution Table
- Habitat List
- Hosts/Species Affected
- Host Plants and Other Plants Affected
- Growth Stages
- List of Symptoms/Signs
- Biology and Ecology
- Natural enemies
- Notes on Natural Enemies
- Detection and Inspection
- Similarities to Other Species/Conditions
- Prevention and Control
- Links to Websites
- Distribution Maps
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PicturesTop of page
IdentityTop of page
Preferred Scientific Name
- Pieris brassicae (Linnaeus, 1758)
Preferred Common Name
- large cabbage white
Other Scientific Names
- Mancipium brassicae Linnaeus
- Papilio brassicae Linnaeus
- Pontia brassicae Linnaeus
- Pontia chariclea Stephens
International Common Names
- English: cabbage caterpillar; cabbage white; cabbage worm; great white butterfly; great white cabbage butterfly; large garden white butterfly; large white butterfly; large white cabbage butterfly; white butterfly, large
- Spanish: aruga de la col; gran mariposa blanca de la col; gusano de las hojas de hortaliza; oruga verde de la col
- French: grand papillon blanc du chou; piéride du chou
- Portuguese: lagarta da couve
Local Common Names
- Denmark: kalsommerfugl, stor; stor kalsommerfugl
- Finland: kaaliperhonen
- Germany: Grosser Kohlweissling; Weissling, Grosser Kohl-
- Israel: lavnin hakruv hagadol
- Italy: cavolaia; cavolaia maggiore
- Netherlands: Grote Koolwitje; Koolwitje, grote
- Norway: kalsommerfugl, stor
- Sweden: kalfjaeril
- Turkey: lahana kelebegi
- PIERBR (Pieris brassicae)
Taxonomic TreeTop of page
- Domain: Eukaryota
- Kingdom: Metazoa
- Phylum: Arthropoda
- Subphylum: Uniramia
- Class: Insecta
- Order: Lepidoptera
- Family: Pieridae
- Genus: Pieris (Lepidoptera)
- Species: Pieris brassicae
Notes on Taxonomy and NomenclatureTop of page
See Notes on distribution for information on other subspecies and closely related species.
DescriptionTop of page
Bright yellow, bottle-shaped, 1.4 mm high, ribbed vertically and laid upright in clusters of 40-100. Change to bright orange prior to hatching.
Newly-emerged larvae are yellow with shiny black heads. After the first moult the colour changes to yellowish-green with yellow lines running the length of the body. On the back and sides there are numerous hair-topped tubercles, which give the larva a rugose texture.
Fully-fed larvae are 45 mm long, basically olive-green (more greyish dorsally) with a pronounced yellow dorsal line, either side of which are dorso-lateral black spots and squares. The whole body is covered with fine, hair-bearing tubercles, many of which are also black. The head is bluish-grey with black patches.
Length 20 mm. Pale green (non-diapausing) or greyish-white (diapausing) and dotted with black and yellow markings. The ventral surface is flattened. There is a lateral ridge along either side, and a similar ridge extends from the forward-pointing head up over the head, thorax and abdomen. Several blunt spikes are also found on the abdomen. Found on walls, fencing, tree-trunks and stones, or under roofs and branches, and attached to the substrate by a silken girdle and pad. The final colour matches the substrate.
Wingspan 55-70 mm, with females being larger than the males. The wing uppersides of both sexes are usually gleaming white, with a pronounced black tip to the forewing. This is augmented in the female (which has a larger black tip) by a pair of post-discal black spots, with a black smear along the inner margin below the lower spot. The undersides of both sets of wings are pale yellow dusted with grey, except for the centre and base of the forewings, which are white. In females, the black dots of the forewings also appear on the undersides. The head, thorax and abdomen are black with grey hair-like scales.
There is a little variation: in ab. flava the ground colour is sulphur-yellow; in ab. carnea it is tinged pink; in ab. coerulea the yellow of the hindwing underside is replaced by bluish green; in ab. striata Rocci the apical black patch is continued inwards as rays along the veins; and ab. albinensis is devoid of any black scales (Maitland-Emmet and Heath, 1989).
In the subspecies from the Canary Islands (P. brassicae cheiranthi), the black markings are enlarged, with the underside of the hindwings and underside forewing tips being bright yellow.
P. brassicae catoleuca from the Levant differs from the nominate subspecies in being larger, in having the black spots of the forewing undersides slightly co-joined by a bridge of black scaling in the female and in lacking the black scaling on the undersides of the hindwings.
DistributionTop of page
In 1994, P. brassicae was reported as having established itself in the western Cape, South Africa (Claassens, 1995).
P. brassicae was recorded for the first time from Delhi in February 1996. Its very high incidence was unusual, as it is primarily a pest in mountainous areas (Bhalla et al., 1997).
The subspecies P. brassicae catoleuca is found in the Levant (Larsen, 1974; Benyamini, 1990).
In Nepal, India and Tibet (Xizhang) and Yunnan, China, this species occurs as subspecies P. brassicae nepalensis.
P. brassicae is replaced in the highlands of Ethiopia and northern Tanzania by the closely related Pieris brassicoides, which flies above 2000 m altitude (Carcasson, 1981).
In the eastern Palaearctic this species is replaced by Pieris canidia.
Distribution TableTop of page
The distribution in this summary table is based on all the information available. When several references are cited, they may give conflicting information on the status. Further details may be available for individual references in the Distribution Table Details section which can be selected by going to Generate Report.Last updated: 12 May 2022
|Continent/Country/Region||Distribution||Last Reported||Origin||First Reported||Invasive||Reference||Notes|
|Egypt||Present, Few occurrences|
|Ethiopia||Absent, Unconfirmed presence record(s)|
|China||Absent, Unconfirmed presence record(s)|
|-Tibet||Absent, Unconfirmed presence record(s)|
|-Yunnan||Absent, Unconfirmed presence record(s)|
|Hong Kong||Absent, Unconfirmed presence record(s)|
|-Delhi||Present, Few occurrences|
|-Jammu and Kashmir||Present|
|Japan||Present, Few occurrences|
|Estonia||Present||Original citation: Gri?akova et al. (2006)|
|Finland||Present, Few occurrences|
|-Central Russia||Present, Widespread|
|-Eastern Siberia||Present, Localized|
|-Russia (Europe)||Present, Localized|
|-Western Siberia||Present, Localized|
|Serbia and Montenegro||Present|
|United Kingdom||Present, Widespread|
HabitatTop of page
Habitat ListTop of page
Hosts/Species AffectedTop of page
Larsen (1974) recorded this species as feeding on Capparis in Lebanon. Records of Malus domestica (apple), Pisum sativum (pea) and Solanum melongena (aubergine) are very doubtful.
Feeding, growth, development and oviposition preferences of P. brassicae have been studied on cole crops in the laboratory in India. Final-instar larvae preferred sarson [Brassica rapa subsp. trilocularis], cabbage and Brassica juncea (Indian mustard) to cauliflower, whereas toria [Brassica rapa subsp. dichotoma] was less preferred. Adults oviposited only on cruciferous plants, no eggs being laid on wheat, gram (Cicer arietinum) or pea. The maximum number of eggs were laid on cauliflower, followed by cabbage and Indian mustard. The larvae completed their development in 26.60-28.03 days. Development was faster on Indian mustard, toria, cauliflower and cabbage than on sarson. The greatest number of adults emerged on cabbage and the growth index was highest on this food plant. It is concluded that, in India, cabbage is most susceptible to attack by P. brassicae, followed by cauliflower, Indian mustard, sarson and toria (Tiwari and Kashyap, 1988).
Host Plants and Other Plants AffectedTop of page
Growth StagesTop of page
SymptomsTop of page
List of Symptoms/SignsTop of page
|Leaves / external feeding|
Biology and EcologyTop of page
A mass migration of P. brassicae was recorded in Kashmir, India, on 28 May 1988. It was estimated that at least 75,000 to 80,000 butterflies passed one site in a northerly direction at altitudes of 3800-4000 m in 1.5 days, this being only a small proportion of the total population (Jamdar, 1991).
This butterfly was very abundant in the UK in 1992. The timing of systematic counts, anecdotal reports of exceptional local abundance and frequent counts at a coastal site, cast doubt on the importance of immigration in contributing to the large populations. Emergence within the UK was suggested (Pollard, 1994).
In northern Europe, including England, there are two generations per year, with adults first appearing in late April and May. The second brood usually appears in late July and August. Further south in Europe there is usually a third brood in October, and there may be as many as four broods in Malta (Valletta, 1972). The adults are attracted to blue and purple flowers and, during a migration or population explosion, can be seen in large numbers on lavender, Salvia, Buddleia and similar plants.
This species ascends to 3000 m altitude in the Alps of Europe (Vorbrodt and Müller-Rutz, 1911) and to over 2000 m in Lebanon (Larsen, 1974).
In Israel, adults can be found from February until December (Benyamini, 1990). In Malta it can be seen all year round, although it is rarer during the dry summer and the colder months of December and January; however, the local population is massively re-enforced by large numbers of immigrants during spring and autumn (Valletta, 1972).
At Barapani, Meghalaya, India, there are four generations of this species, with two overlapping generations at low and mid altitudes and two or three generations at high altitudes. The winter generations have a longer life cycle than those during the summer and rainy seasons. Higher temperatures directly influence different stages. A temperature range of 15.2-30°C was found to be ideal for multiplication during May-June. However, other abiotic parameters did not influence the life cycle (Thakur and Deka, 1997b).
The larvae are gregarious for most of their life, only becoming semi-independent towards the end of the final instar. When fully grown they leave the host to find a place to pupate on or under some protective surface off the ground. This may be some distance away from where it fed.
All larvae readily regurgitate a thick, repellent, green liquid from their guts to deter predators and parasitoids.
Natural enemiesTop of page
|Natural enemy||Type||Life stages||Specificity||References||Biological control in||Biological control on|
|Agrothereutes adustus||Parasite||Razmi et al. (2011)|
|Bacillus thuringiensis aizawai||Pathogen||Arthropods|Larvae|
|Bacillus thuringiensis caucasicus||Pathogen||Arthropods|Larvae|
|Bacillus thuringiensis colmeri||Pathogen|
|Bacillus thuringiensis entomocidus||Pathogen||Arthropods|Larvae|
|Bacillus thuringiensis galleriae||Pathogen||Arthropods|Larvae|
|Bacillus thuringiensis indiana||Pathogen|
|Bacillus thuringiensis kurstaki||Pathogen||Arthropods|Larvae|
|Bacillus thuringiensis subsp. dendrolimus||Pathogen||Arthropods|Larvae|
|Bacillus thuringiensis thuringiensis||Pathogen||Arthropods|Larvae|
|Bacillus thuringiensis tochigiensis||Pathogen|
|Bacillus thuringiensis wuhanensis||Pathogen||Arthropods|Larvae|
|Brachymeria coloradensis||Parasite||Razmi et al. (2011)|
|Episyrphus balteatus||Predator||Adults; Arthropods|Nymphs|
|Eurytoma goidanichi||Parasite||Arthropods|Larvae; Arthropods|Pupae|
|Eurytoma verticillata||Parasite||Arthropods|Larvae; Arthropods|Pupae|
|Granulosis virus||Pathogen||Arthropods|Larvae||Barkat et al. (2014)|
|Pteromalus puparum||Parasite||Arthropods|Pupae||Pakistan; Poland||cabbages|
|Trichogramma evanescens||Parasite||Eggs||Netherlands||Brussels sprouts|
|Trichogramma maidis||Parasite||Eggs||Netherlands||Brussels sprouts|
Notes on Natural EnemiesTop of page
The two main natural enemies of this species are Cotesia glomerata (larvae) and Pteromalus puparum (pupae). In some areas of Europe, up to 100% of the early stages may be destroyed by these parasitoids alone (Sengonca and Peters, 1991). Although Cotesia rubecula will develop in P. brassicae, its preferred host is Pieris rapae (Harvey et al., 1999)
Ecological studies on the natural enemies of both larvae and pupae of P. brassicae in Himachal Pradesh, India, showed that the parasitoids Cotesia glomerata and Hyposoter ebeninus, the predatory syrphid Episyrphus balteatus and the entomopathogens Bacillus sp., Entomophthora sp. and Serratia marcescens, caused mortality of 31% (Sood and Bhalla, 1996).
In a survey of the distribution, injuriousness and natural enemies of P. brassicae on cruciferous crops in Pakistan, this pierid was the most serious pest of brassicas in the Sialkot area. Cotesia glomerata, Diadegma pierisae and Pteromalus puparum were the commonest parasitoids in most areas (Mushtaque, 1989).
During a long-term study of Nosema mesnili infections in natural populations of P. brassicae in north-western Russia, a regular massive occurrence (once every 4-8 years) of another microsporidian, Thelohania mesnili, was observed (Sokolova and Issi, 1997).
Studies in cabbage crops in the Ukraine showed that parasitism of larvae and pupae of P. brassicae by Cotesia glomerata and Pteromalus puparum was as high as 60-65% and 25-30%, respectively, at 10-15 m from a source of flower nectar, but these figures were more than halved at 50 m (Yastrebov, 1991).
A study carried out between 1980 and 1983 to determine the natural enemies associated with eggs, larvae and pupae of P. brassicae collected from cultivated crucifers in Valdivia, Chile, found no natural enemies at the egg stage. However, 82.24% of the larvae were parasitized by Cotesia glomerata and an Apanteles sp. Both of these braconids were attacked by hyperparasitoids of the genera Hemicallidiotes, Isdromas and Perissocentrus. Various bacteria infected 15.63% of the larvae. In the pupal stage, the natural enemies and their average rates of parasitism were: Pteromalus puparum 6.75%, the ichneumonid Pimpla fuscipes 23.37% and the fungus Beauveria brongniartii 5.82%. During the period of the study, 0.74% of the immature stages of P. brassicae became adults (Neira et al., 1989).
ImpactTop of page
P. brassicae is an oligophagous insect that feeds on members of family Brassicaceae (Lal and Ram, 2004; Younas et al., 2004; Hwang et al., 2008; Hasan and Ansari, 2010; 2011). Damage to cabbage heads has been reported to be as high as 70-98% (Prasad, 1961; 1963).
Hasan and Ansari (2010; 2011) reported P. brassicae (L.) to be one of the most destructive and cosmopolitan pests of cruciferous crops in India, where it causes 40% of the damage to cruciferous crops per year. In Himachal Pradesh, India, P. brassicae completes three generations in a year, the duration of which vary from 32-64 days. The first two generations during February-May inflict severe damage to cabbage and cauliflower. High temperatures and more sunshine hours, accompanied by low relative humidity and rainfall, favour population build-ups (Sood and Bhalla, 1996).
In a field study in 1991-92 at Upper Shillong, Meghalaya, India with cabbage cv. Pride of India, 68.5% of the marketable yield was affected by attack by larvae of P. brassicae. Larval population and yield correlation indicated that the damage was significant 22-25 days and 40-47 days after sowing (Thakur, 1996).
It was estimated that at Izmir, Turkey, damage caused by P. brassicae to cabbages in 1985 and 1986 averaged 40.45%, and to cauliflowers 27.06% (Atalay and Hincal, 1992).
In Sierra Nevada, western USA, Shapiro (1975) reported that Pieris spp. were serious pest of cruciferous crops and caused 41% annual losses in crucifers.
Detection and InspectionTop of page
Similarities to Other Species/ConditionsTop of page
Adults are similar in both appearance and behaviour to Pieris rapae; however, the latter is generally much smaller, with the black tip to the forewing upperside being confined to the extreme tip and not extending down the outer edge. The larva of P. rapae is very different, in being solitary and predominantly green.
Prevention and ControlTop of page
Due to the variable regulations around (de)registration of pesticides, your national list of registered pesticides or relevant authority should be consulted to determine which products are legally allowed for use in your country when considering chemical control. Pesticides should always be used in a lawful manner, consistent with the product's label.
ReferencesTop of page
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Smith C, 1990. Beautiful butterflies: a colourful introduction to Nepal's most beautiful insects., Bangkok, Thailand: Craftsman Press.
Thakur N S A, Deka T C, 1997. Bioefficacy and economics of different insecticides against Pieris brassicae (L.) on cabbage in midhills of North-East India. Indian Journal of Plant Protection. 25 (2), 109-114.
Thomas JA, 1989. The Hamlyn guide to the butterflies of the British Isles., London, UK: Hamlyn Publishing Group.
Valletta A, 1972. The Butterflies of the Maltese Islands., Valletta, Malta: Progress Press.
Vorbrodt K, Müller-Rutz J, 1911. The Lepidoptera of Switzerland. (Die Schmetterlinge der Schweiz)., 1 Bern, Switzerland: K J Wyss Verlag.
Zúñiga-Reinoso Á, Mardones D, 2014. First record of exotic species Pieris brassicae (Linnaeus, 1758) (Lepidoptera: Pieridae) in the region of Atacama, Chile. (Primer registro de la especie exótica Pieris brassicae (Linnaeus, 1758) (Lepidoptera: Pieridae) en la Región de Atacama, Chile.). IDESIA. 32 (3), 117-118. http://www.scielo.cl/scielo.php?script=sci_arttext&pid=S0718-34292014000300015&lng=es&nrm=iso&tlng=es DOI:10.4067/S0718-34292014000300015
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10/11/14 Text updated by:
Dr. D. M. Firake, ICAR Research Complex for NEH Region, Umiam, Meghalaya, India
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