Observation of the week – May 29 to June 4, 2021

Our fourth OOTW for the 2021 Butterfly Blitz is a species that I can’t believe we’ve never featured before – the Cabbage White, seen in this observation by Kristie (@sassarella1979) and her daughter Taya.

Cabbage White butterflies seem like they’re everywhere. They are probably the butterfly species seen the most frequently and by the most people in Ontario and across North America. Even my four-year-old daughter knows them by name.

Taya takes knowing butterflies by name to a whole new level. This year she has been naming each of the butterflies that she and her mom work together to observe. This particular Cabbage White was called Jem Stone, and Taya thought she was hilarious.

Kristie and Taya first joined the Butterfly Blitz in 2020, and the pair are becoming more confident in their butterfly handling and identification this year. Kristie says: “We have decided to try capturing butterflies more this year after watching your video posts on how to do so safely. Taya loves seeing the butterflies up close and observing their bodies and characteristics.

Some people are quick to dismiss Cabbage Whites as being uninteresting – because they are so common, and because they are an introduced species. But I believe that there is something interesting about every insect. Here are a few facts about the Cabbage White that might make you look differently at the next one you see.

Cabbage Whites can live in almost any habitat, if plants in the mustard family (Brassicaceae) are present. This includes garden plants like Cardamine species and Sweet Alyssum as well as common vegetables like cabbage, cauliflower, and kale. If you have ever found (or accidentally eaten!) a caterpillar on your broccoli, it was likely a Cabbage White.

Cabbage Whites are thought to be originally from the Mediterranean area of Europe and northern Africa, but they have colonized areas across the world from the subtropics to the Arctic. Evidence shows that all Cabbage White butterflies in North America are the descendants of a single female that was accidentally introduced to Quebec in 1860.

One of the reasons that Cabbage Whites are so successful is that they are extremely adaptable. Cabbage Whites from northern Russia allow their bodies to freeze solid to get through the winter, but those from Ontario produce antifreeze like molecules to prevent themselves from freezing solid. This kind of flexibility is very rarely seen within one species.

Cabbage Whites have been the subject of thousands of different studies, and scientists have learned many things from them – from a better understanding of how plants and insects communicate using chemicals to the identification of protein in their body that can kill cancer cells. They’ve even had their whole genome sequenced.

The thing that I like the best about Cabbage Whites is that because they are so common, they provide an easy way for almost anyone to watch, learn from, and make friends with an insect in their neighbourhood. I know of at least one professional entomologist who credits Cabbage White with developing his interest in butterflies.

So, I love it when I hear Taya say that the Butterfly Blitz is fun and awesome because “We get to see the butterflies up close and really see how pretty and amazing they are!”. Connecting with nature can be so rewarding and easy to achieve if you’re not worried about what species you’re looking at. Channel your inner Taya and go find your own Jem Stone to make friends with!

Anotado por lltimms lltimms, 09 de junio de 2021 a las 11:46 PM

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Great story, Laura!

Anotado por lindseyjennings hace 5 meses (Advertencia)

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