Keep the cabbage whites away

This plastic model of a cabbage white butterfly is purported to keep real butterflies from laying eggs on nearby plants. Photo by Vik.

No, this is not a racist posting.  It’s about cabbage white butterflies.  I recently posted about this butterfly in my newly planted vegetable garden.  Cabbage white butterflies, Pieris rapae, are one of the most common pests of vegetable gardens.  The caterpillar, also known as the imported cabbageworm, feeds on many plants in the mustard family.  According to John Capinera’s Handbook of Vegetable Pests, vegetables attacked include broccoli, Brussels sprouts, cabbage, cauliflower, collards, kale and radishes, and others.

Our entomologist in Overton, Texas, Scott Ludwig, caught a report of another unique control method for this pest.  I can’t vouch for its effectiveness, but the idea appears to have a biological basis.  And it looks like a lot of fun.  White cutouts resembling the cabbage white are placed in the garden.  Because the cabbage white female tends to avoid laying eggs on a plant that is already being frequented by another female, the sight of another large female moth is apparently enough to deter egg laying on nearby plants.

A very quick online search did not turn up any research basis for this claim, so attempt it at your own risk.  If it does work, it would be an example of pest control that any organic gardener would love.  You will have to figure out how to make your own model, and how many are needed per plant.  The photo above, by the way, shows the cutout working very well next to a pepper plant.  Unfortunately, pepper plants are not hosts of the cabbage white.

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