Alabama Butterfly Atlas

Butterfly:  Wingspan 1 1/4 to 1 3/4 inches (3.2-4.8 cm).  A predominantly white butterfly with charcoal forewing tips and 1 or 2 charcoal black forewing spots.  Cabbage Whites are seasonally dimorphic.  Spring and late fall individuals are typically smaller, less yellow, and their black markings are reduced. 

ID Tip: One spot (male) or two black spots (female) on upper forewing. Ventral surfaces may be creamy of white.

Egg: Eggs are deposited singly on young host leaves or flowers/buds.  They are spindle shaped and turn from white to yellow as they age.

Caterpillar: Caterpillars are green and covered with fine white hairs, which give them a velvety look. A yellow line runs along the length of the body. Hairs aid in protection by secreting droplets of special chemicals called mayolenes that deter ant attacks. 

Chrysalis: The chrysalis is green or tan, depending on the time of year and the structure to which it attaches.  It is typically the overwintering stage.

European Cabbage Whites arrived in Toronto around 1860, found North America to their liking and made themselves permanent Alabama residents by 1881.  Today they are some of our most common butterflies.  Fluttering from early spring through fall or early winter, their cue to overwinter is determined by temperature rather than day length.  Cabbage Whites probably occur in every Alabama county, flourishing wherever plants in the mustard family grow.

Male Cabbage Whites typically search for females by patrolling the same small areas day after day. Males may also gather on wet roads or muddy areas to take moisture and minerals.  Broods are continuous as long as host plants are available.  They are often among the first butterflies to emerge in spring.

 

Distribution and Abundance

A dot on the county map indicates that there is at least one documented record of the species within that county. In some cases, a species may be common throughout the county, in others it may be found in only a specific habitat.

The sightings bar graphs depict the timing of flight(s) within each of three geographic regions. Place your cursor on a bar within the graph to see the number of individuals recorded during that period.

The abundance calendar displays the total number of individuals recorded within each week of the month. Both the graphs and the calendar are on based data collection that began in 2000.

The records analyzed here are only a beginning. As more data is collected, these maps and graphs will paint a more accurate picture of distribution and abundance in Alabama. Submit your sightings to albutterflyatlas@gmail.com.

Sightings in the following counties: Baldwin, Bibb, Blount, Chilton, Clay, Colbert, Covington, Dallas, DeKalb, Etowah, Jackson, Jefferson, Lawrence, Lee, Limestone, Madison, Marshall, Monroe, Perry, Randolph, Shelby, Talladega, Tallapoosa, Tuscaloosa

  • Sightings in the past 5 years
  • Sightings in the past 5 - 10 years
  • Sightings more than 10 years ago
County Distribution Map

View county names by moving the mouse over a county or view a map with county names

Jan Feb Mar Apr May Jun Jul Aug Sep Oct Nov Dec
4 4 2 22 50 24 61 13 13 27 19 66 20 61 40 14 12 9 97 56 40 10 24 10 6 2 5 13 7 14 19 19 2 2 8 2 4

Habitat

Almost any sunny area, including urban habitats. Often near cultivation.

Host and Nectar Plants

Many members of the Mustard family (Brassicaceae), generally cultivated plants, are reported.

These host plants have been verified in Alabama: Poorman’s Pepperwort/Virginia Peppergrass (Lepidium virginicum), Chinese Mustard/Mustard Greens (Brassica juncea), Broccoli (Brassica oleracea ‘Broccoli’), Cabbage (Brassica oleracea ‘Cabbage’).

 

For more information about the documented host plants and/or nectar plants, please visit the Alabama Plant Atlas using the following links:

Landscaping Ideas

Cabbage Whites frequently visit vegetable gardens if they include members of the mustard family such as cabbage, broccoli, or mustard greens.  Their caterpillars will also eat the ornamental cabbages that are often included in fall planters. Cabbage Whites reportedly avoid kale and purple cabbage.

Including a variety of nectar-rich flowers such as Black Eyed Susans (Rudbeckia spp.), Butterfly Milkweed (Asclepias tuberosa), asters (Symphyotrichum spp.), ironweeds (Vernonia spp.), Purple Coneflower (Echinacea purpurea), and Mistflower/Wild Ageratum (Conoclinium coelestinum) in your landscape will provide food for adult Cabbage Whites and many other butterflies throughout the growing season.