Now that the strangest summer in living memory has ended, many new gardeners are still enjoying the food produced by their COVID victory gardens. The summer pests faced by all gardeners are also enjoying the bounty. One, the cabbage white butterfly (Pieris rapae), is fluttering about in many a garden on these foggy or sunny early-fall days. Non-gardeners often find them charming, but if you are growing food crops, you will want to learn a bit about this butterfly in order to save some of the crops you are harvesting now as well as the ones you plant for fall and winter.
Very few butterflies damage plants we eat, but the larvae of this one will chow down heartily on all crops in the cabbage family. That includes broccoli, cauliflower, Brussels sprouts, collards and kale (known as “cole crops”), as well as turnips and radishes — all crops that Bay