Need help collecting small cabbage whites for research

  • Creator
  • #40755


    Hello fellow butterfly enthusiasts,

    I am a graduate student from the University of Notre Dame over in the US. Recently come colleagues and we created a citizen science project ( that enlists the help of the public to catch a few cabbage whites from across the world. That’s where we need your. We have a few from NZ, but we would like to have specimens from as many diverse locations as possible from across your beautiful country (both Islands). Having been to NZ, I know this is nearly every few kilometers =) We are hoping you can help us create something that looks similar to what we have achieved here in the US – see our map here

    Why do we want these butterflies?
    Interestingly, we are actually looking to do something similar to what was recently done with the monarch (, but instead of looking for genes involved in migration we are looking for genes involved in local adaption to climate and also to reconstruct the invasion of the small cabbage white – where did it come from? has it invaded multiple times, from multiple locations? We will be sequencing the genome and measuring the morphology that everyone sends us (including the ones you send!).

    We have a video about our project on our crowdfunding site here: In short, this research will help us learn about how species will respond to environmental changes, such as climate change, and also better understand the role evolution plays in species invasions.

    If you have any questions/comments/suggestions feel free to email me, we would love to hear them! (email me –

    Sean Ryan – Pieris Project founder
    PhD candidate
    University of Notre Dame

Viewing 6 replies - 1 through 6 (of 6 total)
  • Author
  • #43413


    Just received this project update: Guess the photos won’t show up here, but you can no doubt see them on their website.


    It’s been a long time coming, but we are finally sending out a project update! Sorry for the delay, things have been crazy, in a good way. We’re still receiving butterflies – now over 1,200 from all over the world ( We could not have had such a successful year without your help. Thank you again!

    A call to catch
    As spring arrives in North America, we are gearing up to get the word out about collecting again this year – we are trying to get specimens from all 50 US states as well from as many countries in Europe and Asia as possible. If you could help collect and send a few again this year, your efforts would be invaluable to our research. Also, if you know anyone who might be interested in joining, be sure to spread the word 😉
    Our Progress
    Sean has now extracted DNA from >500 butterflies that were sent in (at least 1-5 from each participant!) and we will be sequencing thousands of genetic markers for each butterfly in the coming weeks. Thanks to our successful crowdfunding campaign and a few small grants we have raised over $15,000 to do all the genetics work and make some Backyard Genomics Kits to send out to schools from across the US.

    Anne has begun photographing all the butterflies you have sent in. We will use these photos to look at how the morphology (shape, size, color patterning) of this butterfly varies across the world. Most importantly, Anne will do chemical analyses on the wings to see whether the amount of white pigment in their wings is greater in butterflies found near agriculture (due to the caterpillars getting more nitrogen in their diet). Soon we will have links with more info on each of these different projects and activities on our website so that you can learn more about them if you are interested. We’ll also have a more regular (monthly) update.

    Reaching Out to Middle Schools

    We have also received some funding so that we can develop teaching modules that can incorporated into the science curriculum at middle schools. Our grand and ambitious plan is to partner with at least one school in every state; what we are calling our “50 schools 50 states initiative.” If you know of any schools
    that may be interested, let us know.

    Lainey and Matt are nearly done putting the finishing touches on our Backyard Genomics Explorer Kits. So for those that are to get one from our crowdfunding campaign, it should be in the mail soon!

    Thank you again for making this project a success!

    Follow our progress and posts on Facebook and Twitter.

    The Pieris Project team



    Hi Sean,
    OK, Due to we have next three wet days, I have to wait until weekend and next week before I hunt for butterflies. I hunt butterflies during fine sunny days.

    I will contact you in 2-3 weeks time when I have butterflies to send to you.





    Hello Clinton,

    Yes, we would love if you could send us small cabbage white butterflies (Pieris rapae) from wherever you can find them. We are trying to get 5-20 individuals from as many different places as possibly from across NZ.

    If you can put them in individual glassine envelopes with date and location caught and send them in a crush-proof container to:

    Pieris Project (attn: Sean Ryan)
    186 Galvin Life Sciences
    University of Notre Dame
    Notre Dame IN, 46556

    That would be wonderful!

    Our email address is pierisproject at

    We have all our instruction and details on our website as well

    Also, if you could go to our “sign up” page we can add you to our monthly update email (once a month we send out an update about our research progress in case you are interested, but you can also check the box not to receive it if your not interested).

    Let me know if you have any other questions and thank you so much for your help with our research.




    Do you want cabbage white butterflies ???

    I will hunt them for you. I have a net and I am skillful in hunting butterflies.

    Can you please give me your address and email address so I can send you dead cabbage white butterflies.





    We are trying to get about 5-20 butterflies (males and females) from as many different locations in NZ as possible.

    If you collect a few and place them in glassene envelopes (or we have a video on how to make a butterfly triangle on our website that would be ideal. (We also have lots of other info on this web page as well.)

    For each envelope we are asking people to write the date collected and location (preferably GPS, but closest approximation is also fine). Store 1 butterfly per envelope (we don’t want the legs to get mixed up) and place in the freezer overnight (so that they won’t be shipped alive). If possible, we also strongly encourage shipping them in a crush-proof container: could be a plastic tupperware or even a CD case inside an envelope, or just ship in a cardboard box. This is because we will be photographing them to look at their morprhology and doing chemistry of their wing pigments (quantifying how much white pigment they have) so we don’t want them squished if possible.

    If you want to know more about why we are collecting these, we have a short video on our crowdfunding website

    If you have any other questions please feel free to email me. Also, if you “sign up” on our website we can add you to our monthly email update about our project – how our research is going and what we are finding.




    Hi – how would you like these collected and sent to you?

Viewing 6 replies - 1 through 6 (of 6 total)

You must be logged in to reply to this topic.