You may have noticed a small white butterfly flittering through your garden, bouncing across your path while on your bike or spiraling around the side of the road. Chances are it was a small cabbage white butterfly (Pieris rapae). It’s probably the most widespread and abundant butterfly on the planet! Over the last 2,000 years it has spread across the world from its natural range in Europe, Asia and North Africa to every continent except Antarctica. How did it become so successful? Well, in part because it eats many of the foods growing in our gardens – particularly, those found in the mustard family like broccoli, kale, brussel sprouts and of course, cabbage.
We’ve recently launched a citizen science project focused on the cabbage white butterfly — called the Pieris Project — to help us better understand how species adapt to environmental change.
As the cabbage white spread across the world, it encountered many new environments along the way. You can imagine those now living in South Dakota may be different from living in Siberia or Australia. How have the butterflies adapted to these very different environments? This is exactly what the Pieris Project wants to find out. But we need your help.