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Cabbage worms are green caterpillars that can cause large infestations which can lead to the loss of entire crops, especially in warmer climates. They will eat voraciously, they eat just about anything leafy including cabbages, broccoli, lettuce and many other plants. In this article I will tell you all about the cabbage worm and how to get rid of them. I will also discuss at length, the different methods available to combat these pests.
The cabbage worm is actually not a worm at all but rather a caterpillar. The adult form of this pest is the large white butterfly which we are all familiar with, it is just that in its earliest stages of life, it looks very different.
The Solutions For Cabbage Worms:
What are Cabbage Moths and Cabbage Worms?
“Cabbage worms” is a generic name for several sucking insects, including the larva of a number of leaf hoppers, the larvae of a species of weevil, as well as the larva and adults of other beetles in the family Noteridae (cabbage root borers). The adult moth is only 1/2 to 3/4 inch long (12-19 mm), with a wingspan measuring 2 to 3 inches. It has two black spots on each forewings and a whitish band in front. Two black spots are present on each hindwing.
As their names suggest, cabbage worms feed on cabbage plants, including broccoli, cauliflower, Brussels sprouts, collard greens and kale. They are very destructive pests that can devastate a cabbage crop in a matter of days. Cabbage worms thrive in cool weather, and they are most prevalent in spring and fall.
Also known as the brassica family, this plant is in the mustard family and has been used as a food source since before recorded history all over the world. The cabbage worm, which is a type of caterpillar, usually appears when the plants are about six inches tall and often attack plants that are already stressed from transplanting, drought or other conditions.
Cabbage worm larvae come in a variety of colors depending on their species, ranging from green to black to pink to white. Some species have stripes or spots on their bodies.
However, that isn’t all! They also produce a gross and disgusting side effect: they secrete a foul-smelling liquid that they feed on.
The cabbage moth develops in the first two weeks of June, when the days are lengthening and temperatures are rising. The eggs hatch in the last week of June, when conditions are ideal.
At this time, the caterpillars are highly mobile and burrow into the soil beneath cabbage plants or into new cabbage transplants, hoeing away at roots and damaging young seedlings.
Some cabbage worms are the larvae of the cabbage looper, which is a type of moths that lay eggs on cabbages and other cruciferous plants. The cabbage moth can be as small as 1/2 inch long with a wingspan of 11/2 inches long. It has brown wings with four vague dots on each one. The female cabbage moth lays between 50 to 150 eggs during her life span, which usually lasts for less than a month.
The white butterflies are often referred to as Cabbage Butterfly, the Large White, the Cabbage White and the Small Cabbage White. These are medium-sized butterflies. The wings of these butterflies are white with a distinct row of black spots along the front and orange spots on each hind wing. The wingspan is 2 inches to 3 inches across.
However, there is a similar species of cabbage butterfly that has a wingspan of 2 inches to 3 inches across. It has gray or brown wings with several black and white spots.
The large cabbage moth, which can cause problems because of its large size, is similar in appearance to the small cabbage moth in that it sports white wings with a number of yellow-orange dots along the middle and hind wingtips. These caterpillars are known for their voracious appetite for cabbages, as they devour an entire head of cabbage in only about four days.
Cabbage loopers closely resemble butterfly cabbage moths. They are gray in color with two rows of black and white spots down their forewings and hind wings with orange rings around the edges. They have a wingspan of about 2 inches to 3 inches across.
The cabbage looper moth is greenish-gray and can be spotted with black or brown stripes on its wings. Its yellow-orange eyespots, which are also found on the cabbage moth, are located in the center of the wing.
Both cabbage worms and moths are larvae that can cause problems for both gardeners and farmers.
Cabbage Worm Life Cycle
Adult females emerge in late June and lay several hundred eggs on the underside of host plants. Several days later (usually about seven days) the tiny hatching larvae emerge and rush to the top side of the leaf, where they begin to eat away. Cabbage worms are often mistaken for butterflies because of their large size and similar colors.
While cabbage worms cannot fly, they have three sets of long prolegs (see photo below), which allow them to travel quickly over short distances.
They lay up to 200 eggs, sometimes on several plants in the garden. Most eggs hatch in five to six days. The tiny larvae initially eat the leaves, then later migrate to the center of the plant and feed on or near ground level. They are full grown by early September and drop down to pupate in the soil. There is one generation a year and these hatch in 7 to 10 days, at which time they have reached their most active stage.
The larvae feed heavily for a month or so, then pupate in the soil for about two weeks. The adult butterflies emerge in late June and mate during the next two weeks. They are most active on sunny afternoons and their numbers seem to be smaller on rainy days. After mating, females lay eggs on host plants (usually cabbage) and males die several days later. These eggs hatch in a few days and the cycle repeats itself.
During late spring and summer, these large, fast-moving white cabbage worms can defoliate a large area of host plants quickly. How do you combat this destructive garden pest? Let's take a look at some different ways to combat cabbage worms with non-toxic methods.
There are 3 to 5 generations per year, and in warm weather, each generation is larger than the one before it. They eat other insects as well as your plants. The adult butterflies feed on nectar from a variety of flowers including black-eyed susan, goldenrod and coneflower.
How Do You Know If You Have Cabbage Worms And Its Damages
In the larval stage, cabbage worms will make holes in the cabbage's leaves. These holes will appear like they would be in a specific pattern, and the holes would be close to each other. If you have cabbage worms, the holes will appear to be in an irregular pattern; if left alone, they may cause serious damage to the leaves.
As they grow, they chew large, irregular holes in the leaves. The holes will appear uneven and are generally smaller than if they were in the earlier stages of development. The holes will cause large spots to be present on the leaves, and this can lower the quality of the leaves.
As the worm feeds, it secretes a brown substance that will cause the leaves to turn yellow. A large amount of this secretion can cause the entire leaves to turn brown, leading to a lower yield and quality of the cabbage.
It is better to control cabbage worms in the early stages of development because they are easier to eradicate at these times. If you find cabbage worms at an older stage of development, it is important that you take immediate action; otherwise, they might cause serious damage to your crop.
The dark-green pellets can be found in the center of the leaves. You might also find white eggs that are scattered on the leaves. These eggs can be found near the bottom of the plant, and they will turn to darker colors as they develop.
If you notice that there are small holes in your plant, you might want to check out further damage on your cabbage plant. The holes indicate where cabbage worms were present; if left alone, these holes will multiply and become larger.
How To Get Rid Of Cabbage Worm
Now that you know more about their lifecycle, here's how to get rid of them once they've made your plants look bad.
Especially if you are only starting to learn how to grow cabbage, adopting these remedies will be easier than you think. Well, they are easy to implement but not so easy if you still have problems getting rid of them (as you may encounter in your growing journey).
This includes hand-picking cabbage worms and caterpillars and dropping them in a bucket of soapy water or dousing them with Bacillus thuringiensis, a microbial insecticide.
The cabbage worm's favorite food are purple or red varieties of cabbages such as red savoy, red kraut, and lollo rosso. Growing these varieties will deter the hungry larvae from dining on your plants. However, if you already have a bad infestation and you have to dispose of the cabbage worms manually, you can also have a field day with them.
Make it a routine to collect the caterpillars and dispose of them by dropping them in a bucket of soapy water.When you’re out on the hunt, keep in mind that the larvae are very good at hiding.
Floating Row Covers
I also know some gardener friends that nab cabbage worms using a black plastic bag, dip the worms in soapy water and throw it away. This technique is the easiest and the fastest way to repel caterpillar pests away from your cabbage plants, including cabbage worms. Use floating row covers to protect your cabbages from these pests and have them consume only their natural food source. You can install these covers over young cabbage plants that are still in their nursery beds or transplanted into garden rows. Of course, you can also employ this technique when you already have fully-grown cabbage heads in the garden.
Plant Purple & Red Varieties
Did you know that pests are more scared of red and purple vegetables? Yes, actually red and purple are the most offensive colours in the plant kingdom to pests. A purple cabbage will be less attractive to aphids or caterpillars, because these insects recognise them as visible warning signals of danger. Red cabbages are usually more appealing to whitefly populations. Because they are bright in colour and satiny in texture, these plants can easily be ignored by insects and other animals that actively seek out edible food items from which they can gain nutrition.
One reasonable theory is that green or even yellow plants are only in the program of plant life for the purpose of helping animals such as ourselves find them, since they are not part of the food chain. This is why bright red and purple vegetables have always been around ever since humans began to grow crops.
That would almost make sense, wouldn't it? But that's not the whole story. In fact, cabbage worms aren't very attracted to either red or purple cabbage varieties, so using them as a trap crop could actually be counter productive. The reason for this is that cabbage worms are not after 'food' in the normal sense of the word. The larvae are actually 'trash collectors' who ingest other creatures they find on their host plants.
Furthermore, studies show that anthocyanin, the pigment that gives red and purple vegetables their colour, is not very nutritious. This isn't to say that anthocyanin is completely useless, however. It's been known for some time that it has strong insecticidal properties as well as repelling other pests such as fleas and whiteflies.
So if you're going to grow purple cabbages or red ones, it would make sense to choose red or purple varieties regardless of whether you use them in your pest control program or not.
Polyculture And Companion Planting Are Ways To Deter Cabbage Moths
Growing a wide variety of plants in the cabbage family can help decrease pest and disease problems when raising cabbage. Cabbage moths are one of the major pests that attack members of this family. They are grayish brown to black flies with white eye rings and red heads. They lay pale green, oval or cone-shaped eggs on the undersides of leaves. The tiny caterpillars hatch from these eggs and quickly bore into the middle or lower leaves where they eat away, leaving only a hollow shell behind.
This is a hardy insect that will overwinter in large numbers, often in cabbage family members that were not planted for winter storage. Planting other non-winter crops helps keep the population down and can help avoid serious infestations. Companion planting is another way to deter cabbage moths from laying eggs only on your Brassica crops.
Additionally, variety and polyculture – the term for mixing many plants from different families together – can help deter pests and diseases. Some of the things that will attract cabbage moths to your garden are aromatic herbs and flowers, parsley, fennel, tansy, wormwood and yarrow. The moth larvae like to eat charlock or wild mustard, lamb's quarters, corn salad or miner's lettuce (CLAYTONIA), rocket (arugula) and/or shepherd's purse.
Meaning, it may not be wise to plant your cabbage family members in the same bed as these plants. Rows of non-cabbage family plants are recommended – a good mix of different lettuces, green onions, herbs, and flowers. Fennel root can be dug up and fed to chickens or rabbits that wander into the garden seeking it.
I also highly recommend growing a variety of cabbages and other brassicas. Cabbage moths are more likely to lay eggs on only one variety of cabbage or Brussels sprouts in the same garden, whereas a diverse assortment is less tempting to them.
On the other hand, some companion plants can serve as trap crops for cabbage worms. Take corn salad or miner's lettuce, for example. The larvae are quite fond of this weed, but the adult moths prefer to lay eggs on Brussels sprouts and Savoy cabbages. Growing either of these two as trap crops around rows of corn salad will help deter cabbage moths from laying eggs in your other crops.
To make things easy, grow one or two different kinds of cabbages; savoy and red cabbage are the best ones to grow around here.
However, be sure to periodically remove cabbage worms from your plants. They will part the leaves and feed on the inner leaves first, but then they will eat the outer leaves as well. When you see them, just pick them off and drop them into a bucket of soapy water or squish them with a finger.
You Can Use A Decoy Cabbage Moths
This tip is a quick one to get rid of cabbage worms without using toxic chemicals. Cabbage worms have a natural predator called the cabbage looper moth. It is a brownish black moth with yellow stripes. Get these moths to lay their eggs on you cabbage plants.
Apparently, cabbage moths are territorial and will stay away if there is a cabbage moth laying eggs on your cabbage leaves. Also, this female will eat the eggs being laid so the worms are unlikely to hatch.
The most common place for the cabbage looper moth to lay their eggs is on the leaf edges. This is probably because there is more moisture here, thus making it easier for them to hatch.
There are printable templates available online to help you easily identify the cabbage worm eggs so that you know when to look for cabbage looper moths.
Use Beneficial insects Such As Parasitic Wasp
Parasitic wasps lay their eggs inside the cabbage worm. As the larvae develop, they kill the cabbage worm before emerging as an adult. These wasps are also available commercially, but be sure to read up on their use first.
Therefore, these beneficial insects can be used to control the cabbage moth, since they are natural enemies of this pest.
Generally, there are dozens of species of parasitic wasps that attack many different insect pests. Cabbage Moth control with parasitic wasps is very successful and effective.
Once their eggs hatch, the wasp larvae feed on the cabbage worm for a period of time. By the time the larvae of the parasitic wasp are ready to pupate, they have killed their host, and lay their own eggs within it.
Did you know that you can buy a Cabbage Moth Kit that contains everything you need to start raising beneficial parasites?
The kit includes cabbage moth pheromone lure and a host of parasitic wasps. Once you get your kit, follow the enclosed instructions to release the trap within a day or two.
Unlike other large wasps that you may be imagining, these do not sting people and are completely harmless.
Safer Brand 5163 Caterpillar Killer
Bacillus thuringiens is, also known as Bt, is a spore-forming Gram-positive bacterium that produces the insecticidal toxin thuringiensin, used in biological control of insects. This agent is available commercially as the microbial insecticide called Bt toxin. It is a safe product with low toxicity that attacks the stomach of the insect larvae and kills it
Namely, it kills caterpillars, midges, mosquitoes, aphids and other pests on a broad front. Many of these insects are transmitted by the crop plants that humans eat. It has been used in organic agriculture for decades.
Bt is ONLY effective against larvae. It is not necessary to spray all plants with this product, but only the parts that are infested with caterpillars, as needed. This application is done with a hand-held garden/pesticide sprayer. They are available at most home and garden stores.
It makes them stop eating and they do not survive, therefore, Bt is commonly used on cabbage. It is a cost-effective solution for organic gardeners as it does not linger in soil or water or rock cracks or washes down river to the sea.
It works as an insecticide, that is, it kills the insect by interrupting its digestive process. Bt is killed by a high heat treatment, but the use of high heat in organic agriculture is not generally recommended for this agent unless it has been exposed to conditions that have taken a toll on its effectiveness.
Bt is naturally found on leaves and in the soil. Your plants need this bacteria to protect themselves against caterpillars.
Over two decades of review, the EPA has found that Bt is a pesticide. For this reason, it is not allowed for use as a seed treatment on seeds and only on plants after they are established, which happens naturally upon plant pollination.
Use Neem Oil
Organic Neem Bliss 100% Pure Cold Pressed Neem Seed
Neem oil is a plant-based pesticide chemical that can be used for cabbage worm control. It is available as a spray or a granular powder. The spray is available in several formulations including contact, injection and dust.
Concentrated neem oil is toxic to most pests and should never be used as a spray or alone on your garden plants. You must be careful not to burn your plants or harm the soil with too much neem oil.
Neem oil is particularly effective at killing the nymphs of various types of pests like cabbage worm. It is a natural pesticide that is derived from the bark and seeds of the neem tree. It is nontoxic to people and does not affect other plants after applying to them.
When applied directly, the oil can be used on plants as well. It can also be used in insecticidal dust, soaps and sprays. In addition, neem oil works as a systemic insecticide because it can kill pest within the roots of plants it is applied to.
Neem oil can easily be purchased online and through the use of neem oil sprays at home. The oil used in these spray products is diluted to a certain degree before it is used on plants otherwise the chemical will be too toxic.
Therefore, routinely spraying your garden may not be as effective as using neem oil in a concentrated form. The concentrated neem oil creates a barrier around your plants that the pests can’t penetrate.
This makes your garden less susceptible to cabbage worm infestation. Do not use neem oil when there are bees or pollinators present near your garden.
However, if your plant is already infested, it may be worth applying neem oil to help eliminate cabbage worms. For smaller plants like cabbage plants, you can make a mixture of 2 tablespoons of neem oil and two cups of water.
That said, neem oil is a natural pesticide that is not as effective in killing some types of pests. Therefore, if you notice a number of pests within your garden, it may be worthwhile to check with an expert to determine the best way to trim your cabbage.
Used in conjunction with other control methods, neem oil can be useful for eliminating cabbage worm populations near your garden plants.
If you want to use neem oil in a spray on your garden, the concentration that you use should be as follows for a large, 200-square foot garden:
Spray 100 to 150 gallons of water over the area and cover plants with a tarp. Leave for at least 24 hours.
Because neem combats fungal diseases like powdery mildew and black spot, it is also useful as a fungicide.
Use Baking Soda For Cabbage Worms
Baking soda is a very inexpensive way to get rid of cabbage worms. So yes, it is worth trying. A sprinkling of baking soda on the bottom of the pot will get rid of cabbage worms. It's one of the easiest and cheapest ways to get rid of cabbage worms, though it is also one of the temporary ones.
Just put the baking soda in the bottom of your pot, and then make the soil for your orchid healthy.
Avoid getting any fertilizer on the baking soda, as that will contaminate it and render it useless. After about a month, be sure to replace the baking soda with another one, because it will start to dissolve. But since you fertilize your plants regularly, this won't be a problem.
It kills all types of worms and other insects including the cabbage worms which will be gone soon.
Use the plant sprayer to spray baking soda on the plants where the cabbage worms are. After you see that they are gone, spray it once a week in order to prevent them from reappearing.
In closing, I hope you learned some useful information about the best ways to get rid of cabbage worms. So if you have some cabbage worms, you know what to do. Be sure to follow the tips I gave you above.
Please don’t get discouraged (or annoyed) and just ignore me when I say please. Seriously, please, take this as your instruction because it really works!
Do you have a question or comment? Put them in the comment section below.