Cabbage butterflies


I like butterflies, especially the big 747 models with snazzy colors, like the monarchs and the swallowtails. But I also have a nice feeling about the simple dull colorless ones; they give a pleasant fluttery feeling to the day when you see them, and they seem pretty harmless. (As Bart Simpson once said: “No one ever suspects the butterfly.”)



For example: now and then I see cabbage butterflies, AKA cabbage moths, AKA Pieris rapae. You know them: the white ones that swirl and dart through the garden like animated dinner napkins.



My parents used to grow basketball-sized cabbages, and the cabbage butterflies loved them. They don’t eat them, you see; they lay their eggs in them. Then their children (green oozy-looking caterpillars) eat the cabbage.



My mother hated those caterpillars. She had a giant salt-shaker of some infernal pesticide, which she used on the cabbages the way you’d sprinkle Parmesan on your spaghetti. It certainly didn’t kill all the caterpillars, and I marvel that it didn’t kill all of us. (One of our neighbors saw her strewing poison on her cabbages once, and wrote a letter to the local paper about “my neighbor lady who sprinkles poison on her vegetables.” He also said something like “I’d rather eat a bug once in a while than poison my own food.”)



(We thought he was crazy. Forty-five years later, I see that he was ahead of his time.)



Mom’s poison didn’t seem to reduce the population of cabbage butterflies, as I recall. And what’s a summer day, after all, without a few cabbage butterflies wheeling and pirouetting in the sunlight? 



I suspect that, if I’d been born a butterfly, I’d have been a cabbage butterfly: not extraordinarily beautiful, but with my own quiet charm.



And I do like cabbage once in a while.



About Loren Williams
Gay, partnered, living in Providence, working at a local university. Loves: books, movies, TV. Comments and recriminations can be sent to

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