Myths, Symbolism and Meaning of White Butterflies

American White Butterfly: White and Fluffy Pest

In Lousiana, U.S., if a White Butterfly makes a sudden appearance in the home means that good luck will follow, especially if it flies around a particular person.

In Maryland, U.S., the appearance of a white butterfly in the home or flying around one’s head is an omen of death.

The Native American Zuni Indians of the Southweat believe that when white butterflies are seen, it indicates the summer season will be near, or that hot weather is coming. They also believe that when a white butterfly flies from the Southwest, rain may be expected (Zuni tribe, Southwest)

The Native American Blackfoot tribe believes that when a persons is sleeping, their dreams are carried to them by white butterflies.

One superstition says that if a white butterfly enters your house and flies around you, it is an omen of death *(but death in many cultures and traditions actually reprsents «transformation» — or the ending of one cycle and beginning of a new one.)

Many Native Americans believe that when a person watched a white butterfly for a long length of time, that it can induce sleep because of its silent and graceful motion. The dreams occuring from this sleep will be somewhat hypnotic and pleasant.

In Chinese symbology, a white butterfly symbolized the soul of a departed love one. A White butterfly also means angels are watching over you and that you are being protected.

If the first butterfly of the summer season is white, it will be rainy summer.

If a white butterfly comes, summer follows. If a white butterfly flies from the southwest, expect rain.

Some say that if the first butterfly one sees in the year is white, there may be news of a death.

He said when a white butterfly crosses your path or enters your home, it will bring good luck and is a sign that you will have a good life.

If the first butterfly you see in the year is white you will have good luck all year

White butterflies are symbols of spiritual change.

In the Phillipines, seeing a white butterfly means that there is a message coming.

Up to the 1600s it was against common law in Ireland to kill a white butterfly because they were believed to hold the souls of dead children.

If the first butterfly you see in the year is white, you will have good luck all year.

The Japanese have a popular folklore story and legend about the white butterfly.

To catch and keep a white butterfly is considered lucky—but it is considered even more lucky to set it free!

Keeping Insects

Caring for a praying mantis, butterflies, stick insects and beetles

Cabbage White butterfly

The Small White is a common European butterfly. This species is also called The Small Cabbage White. It’s latin name is Pieris rapae and it’s a small white butterfly with black dots at the tips of the wings. This butterfly species is especially cool because it is so easy to raise. It’s a great pet for children. Also in schools it is a great teaching tool to learn more about nature.

The Small White is found all over the world: across Europe, North Africa, Asia, and Great Britain. Right now it also occurs in North America, Australia and New Zealand even though originally it’s not from there. People accidentally introduced this species to those places.

Small Cabbage White butterfly

Appearance of the The Small Cabbage White

The small cabbage white butterfly is white with black wing tips. The wings also have a small black dot. This species also looks a lot like the Great White or Great Cabbage White butterfly (Pieris brassicae), but as the name suggests, this species is smaller.
The caterpillars of Pieris rapae are light green with very short fluffy hairs all over its body. The bigger species, Pieris brassicae, has caterpillars that have black spots all over their body.


The Cabbage White butterfly eats cabbage when its still in its caterpillar stage. As an adult butterfly it eats nectar from flowers. In captivity you can feed it sugar water.

You can feed the caterpillars with leaves of cabbage, this can be green cabbage, red cabbage, Brussels sprouts, Bok Choy or kale. The best is organic vegetables, because regular cabbage could contain too much pesticides for the caterpillars.

Adult buttterflies drink nectar or sugar water with their long tongue. If you do not release the butterflies, you should feed them with sugar water. Mix 1 part sugar or honey with 7 parts water and stir until all sugar is disolved. Put the sugar water in a plastic cup and cover it with a thin mesh, for example a mosquito net. The water level should reach to around 1 cm under the mesh. Place this cup inside the butterfly environment. The butterflies will sit on the mesh and stick their tongue into the sugar water. They can drink without them falling into the sugar water. Replace the water every day as it will spoil.

Behavior of the small white

The caterpillars of this species are very docile and don’t move much. If they are on their food plant, cabbage, they will only move to reach the next bite. If they do not have any food, they will walk around actively abeid slowly trying to find a new leaf.
The Small White butterflies are very active. They fly around during the day and rest during the night. Especially in warm environments these butterflies really like to fly and could end up destroying their wings if you place them in a too small container.

See also:  Humpback whale - Whale and Dolphin Conservation

Environmental requirements

The Cabbage White is a very easy butterfly species to keep. The caterpillars, pupa and butterflies need to be kept at temperatures around 20 °C. In the night the temperature could drop to 15 °C without problems. The day temperatures could be as high as 35 °C. So there is a wide range of temperatures that are OK for keeping this species. For humidity it also does not have a lot of requirements, just not too humid. Mold grows at high humidity and mold close to the pupa or caterpillars is deadly. If you notice mold you should keep the humidity down, by not adding water or by increasing the temperature in the enclosure a bit.

Housing Cabbage White caterpillars and butterflies

You can house the caterpillars of this species very easily. They need a plastic or glass container with a good lid. In the box or the lid there should be plenty of air holes for proper ventilation and oxygen. Place some paper on the bottom of the container for easy cleaning. Just lay the fresh cabbage on top of this. Gently brush the caterpillars on top of their food, or place a piece of their old food with the caterpillar on it on top of the new food. The caterpillars will walk to their food without problem. Provide the caterpillars with fresh cabbage every day.

You can keep the Cabbage White pupa in a similar container. Keep the pupa on a damp piece of kitchen paper, the paper should never be wet but just a bit moist. Make sure the container has plenty of ventilation. Keep it at the proper temperature, as described below.

You can keep the Cabbage White butterflies in a huge cage. A cage with mesh sides is best, this gives a lot of ventilation and prevents the butterfly from flying into the sides of the cage. A glass cage or terrarium also works, but the butterfly will damage its wings as it flies into the glass. The best is to release the butterflies into nature as soon as they emerge from their pupa. This is only possible if the Small Cabbage White occurs naturally in your country and area. You can do a lot of damage to nature by releasing new invasive species like the Cabbage White. In some countries its illegal to release non-native insects. Please check the law for your country before releasing these butterflies into the wild.

The pupae of Cabbage White. You cannot easily hang them on a thread because it can harm the pupae. Just keep them on a piece of paper inside a container.

Reproduction and breeding

It’s easy to breed Small Cabbage White butterflies. If you have raised the caterpillars succesfully and the pupa eclosed into adult butterflies you can start to breed with them. Just keep male and female butterflies together in a big enclosure. Make sure they have plenty of food, a temperature above 20 °C (best is 25 °C) and a big enclosure. The butterflies will mate by themselves. Place a cabbage leaf in the enclosure, on this leaf the female will deposit her eggs. The eggs are small and yellow.
How to distinquish male and female Small White butterflies? That is easy. The females are bigger than the males. The females also have a lot more black markings on their wings. The females have larger black tips at the end of the wings and two larger black spots on the middle of their wings. The males have only one small black dot and a small marking on the tip of the wing.

Hyphantria cunea
(mulberry moth)


Hyphantria cunea (mulberry moth)



  • Last modified
  • 19 November 2019
  • Datasheet Type(s)
  • Invasive Species
  • Pest
  • Natural Enemy
  • Host Animal
  • Preferred Scientific Name
  • Hyphantria cunea
  • Preferred Common Name
  • mulberry moth
  • Taxonomic Tree
  • Domain: Eukaryota
  • Kingdom: Metazoa
  • Phylum: Arthropoda
  • Subphylum: Uniramia
  • Class: Insecta

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Picture Title Caption Copyright
Title Larvae
Caption Fall webworm, Mulberry moth (Hyphantria cunea); larvae on skeletonized leaf. Beijing, China. October 2013.
Copyright ©A.R. Pittaway-2013
Larvae Fall webworm, Mulberry moth (Hyphantria cunea); larvae on skeletonized leaf. Beijing, China. October 2013. ©A.R. Pittaway-2013
Title Larval web
Caption Larval web of fall webworm, H. cunea, on apple stem.
Copyright NOVARTIS Crop Protection AG, Basel Switzerland
Larval web Larval web of fall webworm, H. cunea, on apple stem. NOVARTIS Crop Protection AG, Basel Switzerland
Title Larval damage
Caption Fall webworm, Mulberry moth (Hyphantria cunea); larval damage, skeletonized leaf. Beijing, China. October 2013.
Copyright ©A.R. Pittaway-2013
Larval damage Fall webworm, Mulberry moth (Hyphantria cunea); larval damage, skeletonized leaf. Beijing, China. October 2013. ©A.R. Pittaway-2013
Title Adult male
Caption Fall webworm, Mulberry moth (Hyphantria cunea); adult male. Bartlesville, Oklahoma, USA.
Copyright ©Mark Dreiling/ — CC BY-NC 3.0 US
Adult male Fall webworm, Mulberry moth (Hyphantria cunea); adult male. Bartlesville, Oklahoma, USA. ©Mark Dreiling/ — CC BY-NC 3.0 US
Title Adult female
Caption Fall webworm, Mulberry moth (Hyphantria cunea); adult female. Bartlesville, Oklahoma, USA.
Copyright ©Mark Dreiling/ — CC BY-NC 3.0 US
Adult female Fall webworm, Mulberry moth (Hyphantria cunea); adult female. Bartlesville, Oklahoma, USA. ©Mark Dreiling/ — CC BY-NC 3.0 US


Preferred Scientific Name

  • Hyphantria cunea Drury

Preferred Common Name

Other Scientific Names

  • Hyphantria textor (Harris)

International Common Names

  • English: American white moth; blackheaded webworm; fall webworm; redheaded webworm
  • Spanish: gusano de bolsa
  • French: chenille à tente estivale; chenille blanche; écaille fileuse; noctuelle d’automne

Local Common Names

  • Denmark: hvid bjørnespinder
  • Germany: Amerikanischer Webebär; Amerikanischer weisser Bärenspinner; Spinner, Weisser Baeren-; Webebär, Amerikanischer; weiser Bärenspinner; weisser Bär
  • Italy: falena tessitrice
  • Japan: Amerika-siro-hitori
  • Norway: hvit bjøernespinner
  • Sweden: vid bjöernspinnare

EPPO code

  • HYPHCU (Hyphantria cunea)

Taxonomic Tree

Notes on Taxonomy and Nomenclature


Brownish-grey, attains 40 mm when fully developed, and has 12 small warts surmounted by characteristic tufts of hair. There are two forms, those with red heads and those with black heads.

The pupa has 12 characteristic appendages at the posterior end.

Moth with a wingspan of 25-30 mm; forewings are white or have black spots arranged in a number of rows; hindwings are also white with a small black spot on the leading part.


Distribution Table

The distribution in this summary table is based on all the information available. When several references are cited, they may give conflicting information on the status. Further details may be available for individual references in the Distribution Table Details section which can be selected by going to Generate Report.

Last updated: 23 Apr 2020

Continent/Country/Region Distribution Last Reported Origin First Reported Invasive Reference Notes
Azerbaijan Present Introduced 1984 Gaziev et al. (1999); EPPO (2020)
China Present Yang ZhongQi et al. (2015); EPPO (2020)
-Anhui Present EPPO (2020)
-Beijing Present Liu HaiJun et al. (2005); EPPO (2020)
-Hebei Present Qiao XiuRong (2001); EPPO (2020)
-Henan Present EPPO (2020)
-Inner Mongolia Present Introduced Schmutzenhofer et al. (1996)
-Jilin Present Introduced Schmutzenhofer et al. (1996); EPPO (2020)
-Liaoning Present Ji Rong et al. (2003); Schmutzenhofer et al. (1996); EPPO (2020)
-Shaanxi Present EPPO (2020)
-Shandong Present Wei JianRong et al. (2003); EPPO (2020)
-Shanghai Present EPPO (2020)
-Shanxi Present EPPO (2020)
-Tianjin Present, Widespread EPPO (2020)
Georgia Present Loladze et al. (2003); EPPO (2020)
India Present CABI (Undated) Present based on regional distribution.
-Manipur Present CABI Data Mining (2001)
Iran Present Rezaei et al. (2003); EPPO (2020)
Japan Present, Widespread EPPO (2020)
-Honshu Present EPPO (2020)
Kazakhstan Present Isin et al. (2008); EPPO (2020)
Kyrgyzstan Present, Localized EPPO (2020)
North Korea Present, Widespread EPPO (2020)
South Korea Present, Widespread EPPO (2020)
Turkey Present, Localized EPPO (2020); Sullİvan et al. (2011)


Austria Present, Few occurrences EPPO (2020)
Bosnia and Herzegovina Present EPPO (2020)
Bulgaria Present, Localized EPPO (2020)
Croatia Present, Widespread EPPO (2020)
Czechia Present, Localized EPPO (2020)
Czechoslovakia Present CABI Data Mining (2001)
Denmark Absent, Formerly present EPPO (2020)
France Present, Localized EPPO (2020)
Germany Absent, Formerly present EPPO (2020)
Greece Present EPPO (2020)
Hungary Present, Widespread EPPO (2020)
Italy Present, Localized EPPO (2020)
Lithuania Absent, Eradicated EPPO (2020)
Moldova Present, Localized EPPO (2020)
North Macedonia Present EPPO (2020)
Poland Present, Few occurrences EPPO (2020)
Romania Present, Widespread EPPO (2020)
Russia Present, Localized EPPO (2020)
-Russian Far East Present, Few occurrences EPPO (2020)
-Southern Russia Present, Widespread EPPO (2020)
Serbia Present Vajgand et al. (2005); EPPO (2020)
Slovakia Present, Widespread EPPO (2020)
Slovenia Present, Localized EPPO (2020)
Spain Present CABI Data Mining (2001)
Switzerland Present, Few occurrences EPPO (2020)
Ukraine Present, Widespread EPPO (2020)

North America

Canada Present, Widespread EPPO (2020)
-British Columbia Present EPPO (2020)
-Manitoba Present EPPO (2020)
-New Brunswick Present EPPO (2020)
-Nova Scotia Present EPPO (2020)
-Ontario Present EPPO (2020)
-Quebec Present EPPO (2020)
-Saskatchewan Present EPPO (2020)
Mexico Present, Localized EPPO (2020)
United States Present, Widespread EPPO (2020)
-Alabama Present EPPO (2020)
-Arkansas Present EPPO (2020)
-California Present EPPO (2020)
-Colorado Present EPPO (2020)
-Connecticut Present EPPO (2020)
-Delaware Present EPPO (2020)
-Florida Present EPPO (2020)
-Georgia Present EPPO (2020)
-Idaho Present EPPO (2020)
-Illinois Present EPPO (2020)
-Indiana Present EPPO (2020)
-Kansas Present EPPO (2020)
-Kentucky Present EPPO (2020)
-Louisiana Present EPPO (2020)
-Maine Present EPPO (2020)
-Maryland Present EPPO (2020)
-Massachusetts Present EPPO (2020)
-Michigan Present EPPO (2020)
-Minnesota Present EPPO (2020)
-Mississippi Present EPPO (2020)
-Missouri Present EPPO (2020)
-Nebraska Present EPPO (2020)
-New Hampshire Present EPPO (2020)
-New Jersey Present EPPO (2020)
-New Mexico Present EPPO (2020)
-New York Present EPPO (2020)
-North Carolina Present EPPO (2020)
-North Dakota Present EPPO (2020)
-Ohio Present EPPO (2020)
-Oklahoma Present EPPO (2020)
-Oregon Present EPPO (2020)
-Pennsylvania Present EPPO (2020)
-Rhode Island Present EPPO (2020)
-South Carolina Present EPPO (2020)
-South Dakota Present EPPO (2020)
-Tennessee Present EPPO (2020)
-Texas Present EPPO (2020)
-Virginia Present EPPO (2020)
-Washington Present EPPO (2020)
-West Virginia Present EPPO (2020)
-Wisconsin Present EPPO (2020)


Risk of Introduction

H. cunea is a classic quarantine pest, because of the great concern about its introduction into eastern Europe after the Second World War. It was one of the main preoccupations of EPPO in the early years of the Organization. Now, 40 years after its first introduction, it has probably reached the limits of its geographical range in Europe and phytosanitary measures are no longer considered necessary. Its status as an A2 quarantine pest is under reconsideration. In the more northerly countries of Europe, the temperature requirements of the species for overwintering are not available (Braasch, 1976); the insect could not reach the stage necessary for diapause, although a mass outbreak might occur in the year of introduction of larvae from outside.

For other parts of the world with a warm temperate climate (parts of South America, Australasia or Asia), H. cunea could be a quarantine pest. It is listed as a quarantine pest by IAPSC, probably in relation to North Africa.

Plants, plant products, accompanying packing materials and vehicles from countries where H. cunea occurs should be thoroughly inspected for the presence of larvae and other stages, since all may be present at any time of year.

Fumigation with HCN will destroy adults, larvae or pupae, even if hidden in cracks. Vehicles may also be treated (OEPP/EPPO, 1990).

Hosts/Species Affected

Host Animals

Animal name Context Life stage System
Homo sapiens

Host Plants and Other Plants Affected

Plant name Family Context
Acer (maples) Aceraceae Wild host
Acer negundo (box elder) Aceraceae Wild host
Acer platanoides (Norway maple) Aceraceae Wild host
Ailanthus altissima (tree-of-heaven) Simaroubaceae Other
Alnus (alders) Betulaceae Wild host
Arbutus menziesii (Pacific madrone) Ericaceae Wild host
Carya (hickories) Juglandaceae Other
Carya illinoinensis (pecan) Juglandaceae Main
Carya ovata (shagbark hickory) Juglandaceae Main
Celtis australis (European nettle wood) Ulmaceae Other
Corylus avellana (hazel) Betulaceae Other
Diospyros virginiana (persimmon (common)) Ebenaceae Main
Ficus carica (common fig) Moraceae Other
Fraxinus (ashes) Oleaceae Wild host
Fraxinus excelsior (ash) Oleaceae Wild host
Hops Other
Juglans nigra (black walnut) Juglandaceae Main
Juglans regia (walnut) Juglandaceae Other
Liquidambar styraciflua (Sweet gum) Hamamelidaceae Main
Malus domestica (apple) Rosaceae Main
Morus (mulberrytree) Moraceae Other
Morus alba (mora) Moraceae Main
Pinus densiflora (Japanese umbrella pine) Pinaceae Other
Platanus (planes) Platanaceae Wild host
Platanus occidentalis (sycamore) Platanaceae Wild host
Populus (poplars) Salicaceae Wild host
Prunus avium (sweet cherry) Rosaceae Main
Prunus cerasus (sour cherry) Rosaceae Main
Prunus domestica (plum) Rosaceae Main
Prunus salicina (Japanese plum) Rosaceae Other
Pyrus communis (European pear) Rosaceae Main
Salix (willows) Salicaceae Wild host
Taxodium distichum (bald cypress) Taxodiaceae Wild host
Tilia cordata (small-leaf lime) Tiliaceae Wild host
Ulmus americana (American elm) Ulmaceae Other
Vitis vinifera (grapevine) Vitaceae Other

Growth Stages


List of Symptoms/Signs

Sign Life Stages Type
Leaves / external feeding
Leaves / webbing
Whole plant / external feeding

Biology and Ecology

Top of page In Krasnodar territory in southern Russia, just north of the Caucasus Mountains (Yaroshenko, 1975), emergence from overwintered pupae begins in late April or early May, and is completed in 4-6 weeks. Mass flight lasts for 7-10 days at average temperatures above 18°C, and activity is greatest at 20-28°C. Flight ceases at temperatures of 15°C and below. The most favourable conditions are 70-80% RH and temperatures not exceeding 22-25°C. The sex ratio is usually 1:1, females living for 4-8 days and males for 1-2 days less. Adults emerge in the evening and rest initially on branches, twigs and leaves before flying to preferred food plants. They are able to fly several kilometres. Females each lay 293-1892 eggs, mostly during 1-2 days, on the lower surface of the leaves on the upper and outer parts of trees; even heavy rain does not dislodge the eggs. There are two generations annually and occasionally a partial third. Mulberry is the most favourable host for female fecundity and larval development; however, most larval nests of the first generation are found on Acer negundo, and those of the second generation on fruit trees. In Romania, it was demonstrated that, although H. cunea is polyphagous, normal development occurs only on the preferred food plants, i.e. mulberries, apples, cherries and plums (rather than grapes, strawberries, roses or Tilia).

In Hungary, there are two generations per year and the larvae pass through seven instars. Optimum sunshine hours are 1950-2050 annually, with an average temperature of 17°C during the vegetative period and RH 65-70%, with 300-350 mm precipitation; 9°C is considered the threshold for development. Once accumulated temperatures above this level exceed 280 degree days, larvae hatch (and accurate forecasts can be made to within 1-2 days). In Russia, hatching of eggs occurs mainly during the morning (between the hours 07:00-11:00) and evening (17:00-01:00) (Fedosov, 1989). Pupae are cold resistant if well hidden in bark, where 82-84% of them hibernate. Others overwinter in the soil to a depth of 10 cm.

In Korea, adults generally emerge between the hours of 15:00 and 24:00, the peak being 19:00-20:00. Copulation occurs only once a day, for a few minutes, before sunrise. Eggs are laid in groups of about ten. Larvae can withstand up to 15 days starvation, although the resultant reproductive capacity of the adult will be adversely affected.

In Nova Scotia (Canada), females lay about 500 eggs, all in one mass, on leaves of deciduous trees and shrubs. Larvae construct a colonial web and feed together within it. Diapause is facultative and depends on climate. On average, males live for about 8 days. In Alabama (USA), there are two generations per year, one generation in spring and one in the late summer, and the species passes through 11 larval instars (Williams et al., 1987). For more information, see Chalcote and Gentry (1973), Yaroshenko (1975), Boehm (1976) .

Means of Movement/Dispersal

H. cunea can spread by natural adult flight and this has certainly been the main mode of spread within countries where the pest was introduced. International trade can facilitate movement to new areas. H. cunea is liable to be carried on vegetative host-plant material as well as on packing materials and in vehicles. The facility of the larvae to withstand starvation for up to 2 weeks means that they can easily be transported on vehicles to different areas and survive to initiate new infestations. Mass migrations due to exhausted food plants or the search for new sites often end in urban areas where the pest invades wood piles, houses, roads and vehicles (which can transport it to new and uninfested areas) (Giovanni et al., 1986). Transportation of H. cunea also occurs relatively often in wood logs where it inhabits cracks or holes in the bark (Shu and Yu, 1984). There is a certain risk of entry as eggs and larvae imported by amateur entomologists.

Notes on Natural Enemies


Detection and Inspection

Similarities to Other Species/Conditions

Prevention and Control

Due to the variable regulations around (de)registration of pesticides, your national list of registered pesticides or relevant authority should be consulted to determine which products are legally allowed for use in your country when considering chemical control. Pesticides should always be used in a lawful manner, consistent with the product’s label.

Both mechanical (destroying nests) and chemical means are used for control. In Russia, diflubenzuron gave adequate control of H. cunea (Sazonov et al., 1984) as well as fenvalerate, cypermethrin and permethrin which induced 100% larval mortality in laboratory experiments (Sikura et al., 1988). However, chemical control with insecticides is not without problems. In Italy, where mulberry is the preferred host of H. cunea (Montermini and Oliva, 1984), the application of insecticides as well as Bacillus thuringiensis to the trees killed Bombyx mori, the silkworm, which is fed with mulberry leaves (Ferrari and Trevisan, 1987).

There has been much research on biological control. The most used and researched antagonistic organisms are subspecies of Bacillus thuringiensis. Preparations of B. thuringiensis kurstaki were reported to be most effective in Hungary and Korea (Jasinka, 1984; Choi et al., 1986). Other pathogenic organisms are the fungi Beauveria bassiana (Jasinka, 1984) and B. globulifera and the egg parasite Trichogramma dendrolimi (Shu and Yu, 1985).

Entomophagous nematodes (Steinernema feltiae) can be also used to reduce H. cunea populations (Yamanaka et al., 1986).


Chalcote VR; Gentry CR, 1973. Mating behaviour of fall webworms and attraction of male moths to trap baited with virgin females. Journal of Economic Entomology, 66:1006-1007.

EPPO, 1990. Specific quarantine requirements. EPPO Technical Documents, No. 1008. Paris, France: European and Mediterranean Plant Protection Organization.

EPPO, 2014. PQR database. Paris, France: European and Mediterranean Plant Protection Organization.

Johnson WT; Lyon HH, 1994. Insects that feed on Trees and Shrubs (2nd edition). Ithaca, USA: Comstock, 166.

OEPP/EPPO, 1957. Fall webworm (Hyphantria cunea) in 1956. EPPO Publications Series A, No. 19.

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