Skip to content

Cabbage White Butterflies – Small White

September 12, 2017

My latest batch of cabbage white (small white) caterpillars did not winter with us after all!

All 9 emerged after their metamorphosis over the course of a week.

If you would like to read more about the caterpillars click HERE.

I’ve also written posts about Cabbage White caterpillars and butterflies for the large white!

They are just too beautiful for words, so in this post I’ve included several photos and even a video I managed to capture as one came out!


About 24 hours before they push their way out, the wings turn white with clearly defined spots and you can even see the little hairs on their bodies through the tissue paper thin chrysalis

I had no control over the music in the background. My girls were watching Ready Steady Wiggle! I sat for a good 2 hours watching for the one in the video (9 of 9) to push through so that I could record it. The one below was a surprise, and my camera wouldn’t cooperate, so I could only snap photos.

The wings only stay rumpled for about a minute before they’re mostly pumped up to dry!

They will hang upside down for well over an hour, getting used to their new wings.

This is an amazing, low cost activity to do with children or even to just do by yourself  for fun.

If you are interested in rearing your own cabbage white butterflies, all you really need to do (if you live in the UK) is plant a nasturtium. They grow like weeds from seed and the seeds are easy to find and very inexpensive.

The caterpillars are happy enough to live in a plastic bug container (with air holes), as long as they are kept out of direct sunlight and the nasturtium provides all the fresh food you need for them.

Note: It is important to collect the eggs before they hatch, or else you risk parasitic wasps laying eggs inside the caterpillars, which you won’t discover until they’re ready to pupate. (when they explode)

From → Garden, Scotland

  1. Trisha permalink

    I have an un-asphalted parking lot outside my kitchen window where wild mustard plants grow. Normally a guy comes a few times a year to cut the plants down (the car owners obviously don’t like them) but last year he couldn’t because of the quarantine, and lo and behold, a couple of weeks after lockdown started these big black-and-green caterpillars started climbing up the walls. One got in my window and hid behind my toilet paper roll to pupate, so I put it in a jar instead. This year, I’ve been checking the plants every few days for eggs and have raised 2 batches of large white butterflies. What surprised me was that mine eat at night and barely move during the day – you get taught from an early age how caterpillars basically never stop eating. I’ve never had a chance to see something like this as a child, so I’m happy to be able to do it now.

    • The ones in my garden that I’ve brought in the house never stop eating, maybe the behavior of yours is due to localized natural selection. Very interesting!

  2. Dan permalink

    Hi! I love you pics and story.
    I have 4 small whites in a plastic jar. 3 have pupated one hasn’t yet. It is winter. What am I supposed to do now? 😂

    • It’s the pupa that winter, not the caterpillars… just leave that last one to develop in its own time :)

  3. Thank you soooo much for this! So helpful and informative. I just found 7 of these guys on my wasabi plant and had no idea what to do with them. I actually tried feeding them lettuce at first but they were not having it at all. They’re now happily munching away on tuscan kale.

    I use to love raising caterpillars as a kid so this makes me very happy. Thanks for all the great detail in your post. Can’t wait to watch them grow and change!

  4. DianaBee permalink

    Thank you very much for your account of butterfly rearing. I have learnt a great deal from the pictures and the text. We have failed miserably to grow brassica plants this year but the experiment filled our small garden with butterflies, then eggs and then caterpillars. I found one caterpillar that had just attached itself to an upright in our garage last Sunday, he or she is still there in chrysalis mode and I’m keeping watch in hope a butterfly eventually emerges. It has certainly been fascinating to follow the process. While the brassicas are gone as a result of caterpillar damage there are plenty of flowers around to feed adult butterflies. I was searching today for information on how long the lifecycle lasts and have thoroughly enjoyed your site.

    • Thank you for taking the time to comment. It’s always so nice to find that people are finding these posts useful. I’ve been planting nasturtiums in my garden every year just to let the caterpillars have them. It’s so much fun observing their life cycles. :)

  5. Mark Cunliffe permalink

    A great blog – well done. My Grandson planted nasturtium seeds spring 2017 and we transferred one group of eggs to a small fish tank in September and then followed your journey. It’s now April 2018 and we will move the 19 pupa from the fridge to a warm light place in a couple of weeks.. Nasturtiums are coming up and my Grandson is expecting hundreds of Large whites filling the sky by August.

    • Thank you very much. It’s an amazing experience to have with children, isn’t it? Best of luck for your grandson’s butterflies waking up!

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.

%d bloggers like this: