We have three types of white butterﬂy and, beautiful as they may appear in ﬂight, it would be hard to find a gardener or commercial cabbage grower to say anything good about them. Caterpillars are voracious eaters of cabbage plants. In addition to eating brassica crops, the caterpillars of the large white eat other garden plants that contain mustard oils, including nasturtium, and mignonette.
Large and small white butterﬂies are common in towns, gardens and agricultural areas, while the green veined white is their country cousin frequenting water meadows and uncultivated areas.
Butterﬂies have a difficult time between egg and adult, being assailed, on all sides by predators, parasites, and disease, not to forget in recent times the constant use of pesticides, which in the long term may be slowly killing human beings. However human nature being what it is the commercial cabbage grower when faced with the thought of acres of cabbage being eaten by caterpillars, will mount the sprayer, and forget about the person who sits down to our traditional dinner of bacon, cabbage, and potatoes. Don’t let this spoil your appetite as everything we eat has some funny type of ingredient, as well as what we drink.
The use of pesticides is not confined to commercial growers as even people with small patches of cabbage will also spray against pests, instead of the more laborious old-fashioned way of dealing with the problem. However, let’s hope we all die of natural causes when our time comes, and then neither the butterﬂies, or pesticides will enter the equation.
On a lighter note, many people have spent most of their lives observing the behaviour of butterﬂies, capturing them and preserving them, even risking their lives in tropical jungles in pursuit of this
activity. Now and again, in Athenry we may be lucky on the occasion to see a beautifully coloured visitor who is no threat to our cabbage patch. However, be it a humble white or multicoloured beautiful specimen of butterﬂy that decides to land in our garden, will want to live up to the name of being elusive or the cat that commutes between ours and the next door neighbour’s garden, will make sure that never again will it trouble a cabbage patch or indeed any other type of patch.
Of course, seeing that we have consumed large quantities of cabbage with our bacon and spuds over the years, the chances are high that we also consumed a few juicy caterpillars along the way. But don’t feel bad about that as we can console ourselves in the thought, each one we might have eaten did not get a chance to grow into a butterﬂy to create more caterpillars to attack our favourite vegetable.
Yours in Nature
Editor’s note: Click on the Author’s name below for more of his articles!
Written by Tony Kilcommons
Published here 25 Oct 2022 and originally published 1998
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