by Patricia McDaniels, University of Tennessee Institute of Agriculture The geographic range and genetic diversity of the small cabbage white butterfly is detailed in a new study co-authored by Sean Ryan, formerly of the UT Department of Entomology and Plant Pathology within the UT Institute of Agriculture.
The caterpillar form of an unassuming, small, white butterfly is among the world's most invasive pests affecting agricultural crops, and a newly published paper by a consortium of scientists documents how humans have helped it spread for thousands of years.
Through close examination of genetic variation and similarities between existing populations, and comparisons of historical data regarding infestations of Pieris rapae in Brassicaceae crops—like cabbage, canola, bok choy and turnips—the researchers document how humans helped the small cabbage white butterfly spread from Europe across the world.
Led by Sean Ryan, formerly a postdoctoral researcher in the Department of Entomology and Plant Pathology at the University of Tennessee Institute of Agriculture, the team of scientists from eight institutions partnered with more than 150 volunteer citizen scientists from 32 countries to detail the pest's range and current genetic diversity.
An unassuming, small, white butterfly is among the world's most invasive pests affecting crops like cabbage, kale and broccoli.
A newly published study in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences (PNAS) documents how humans have helped Pieris rapae, the small cabbage white butterfly, spread across the globe for thousands of years.
Instead of asking people to swab their cheek, the butterfly research team asked citizen scientists to grab a butterfly net, then catch and send small cabbage white butterflies to the team for genetic testing.