Al Crisalli Jr. took this photo of a Cabbage White butterfly as it paused to nectar-feed on a lavender blossom. This very common butterfly is actually native to Europe but was accidentally introduced into Canada in the 1860s and fairly rapidly colonized almost all of North America.
The Cabbage White (Pieris rapae) is also known as the “Small White” and the females lay their eggs on both the wild and cultivated members of the cabbage family (Brassicaceae). Because the young caterpillars are voracious eaters, this is one of the few butterfly species whose caterpillars can actually be a serious crop pest, though interestingly, they tend to disperse their damage around a plant, nibbling here and there rather than concentrating on one area, which is how tomato hornworms tend to feed.
This behavior is thought to make it more difficult for predators to figure out exactly where the Cabbage White caterpillars are, since there may not be any concentrated “ground zero” of chewing damage on leaves for the predator to focus their attention.
Adult Cabbage Whites will visit many different flowering plants to feed on nectar, and these common butterflies can be found in gardens and yards throughout the Tehachapi Mountains. They are graceful fliers and pairs of males and females, or battling males, will sometimes flutter and flit through the air right next to each other in a madcap, headlong flight, somehow managing to stay right together though they aren’t actually touching each other.
NATURAL SIGHTINGS is a regular feature of the Tehachapi News edited by Jon Hammond which showcases photos of the natural beauty that enhances the quality of life in Tehachapi. If you have a good quality image of plants, animals, insects, trees, birds, weather phenomena, etc., taken in the Tehachapi area, you may submit it to the Tehachapi News for possible publication. Submissions can be dropped by the News office in the form of a print or CD, or sent by email to: email@example.com.