Metamorphosis

At the end of last summer, the caterpillars of the large white butterfly (Pieris brassicae or cabbage white) left their food plants in the garden and went marching en masse. Most of them marched right out of the garden: they climbed sheds, walls and fences, seemingly knowing where they were heading. But one of them choose to stop and pupate in a stone outhouse where I keep ladders and various bits and bobs.

Throughout the winter, I’ve been careful not to knock the chrysalis off. And for the last few weeks I’ve been watching for “it” to happen: for the butterfly to emerge. Today was the day.

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This was the pupa on 12th May: it was starting to change colour and plump up
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This was first thing this morning (19th May). The wings are clearly visible, squished up against the side and the whole thing looked fit to burst – which it was!
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Here it is, freshly emerged – the empty case that the butterfly crawled out from is towards the bottom, just left of centre

I know it is “just” a cabbage white, and something of a pest, but I am awestruck by the complexities of nature and very happy that this one survived the winter 🙂

 

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Not every white butterfly is bad!

If you grow cabbages, or any other brassicas, you probably don’t much like white butterflies. The large white (Pieris brassicae) and small white (Pieris rapae) are the so-called cabbage white butterflies. They do lay lots of eggs that hatch into voracious cabbage munching caterpillars.

However, their relative the green-veined white (Pieris napi), which looks very similar to them at first glance, won’t harm your cultivated cabbages and brassicas. Its caterpillars only like to eat the wild plants in the cabbage family.

Green veined white butterfly (Pieris napi) on choisya flowers - the strong vein markings on the underwing distinguish it from the "cabbage whites"
Green veined white butterfly (Pieris napi) on choisya flowers – the strong vein markings on the underwing distinguish it from the “cabbage whites”
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Green veined white