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How to Get Rid of Cabbage Worms


Cabbage worms are not worms but actually a category of caterpillars which grow to become butterflies. These green, velvety creatures are not harmful to human beings but do damage crops and gardens. Cabbage worms are increasingly becoming common in the United States and can be extremely destructive in their breeding season, when populations can expand by a lot. 

They are commonly found in plants such as broccoli, cauliflower and kale and other members of the cabbage vegetable family including Bok Choy Brussels Sprouts, Collards, Kohlrabi, Lettuces, Mustard Greens, Turnips, Radishes and Rutabaga. If you find a worm in your cabbage, it is not a big deal to be concerned. Plants can withstand the worm as it tries to eat through it. Most damage is caused in the fields during growth and germination seasons.

Identifying cabbage worms

They are also sometimes referred to as imported cabbage worm, but the technical term used is Pieris rapae. They measure up to a quarter of an inch in length and have short fine hairs on their bodies with faint yellow stripes running down its sides and back. Cabbage worms transform into white colored butterflies known as “cabbage white butterflies” with spotted wings.

Life Cycle

Female butterflies lay up to 200 eggs on the underside of leaves as spring comes along. These hatch in 7 days or so into young larvae. The newborns feed on the leaves and then move towards other food sources such as farms and gardens. Within a span of 25 days, the larvae can transform into fully grown butterflies. There are approximately 4 overlapping generations of cabbage worms and butterflies annually.

As the worms eat through the core of the cabbage vegetable, they tend to leave dark green fecal pellets hence contaminating the plants. These can be found on the leaves and the stem of the plants as well.

Getting rid of cabbage worms

These innocent little creatures are just following their natural life cycle to survive. However in doing so, they potentially destroy vegetation and crops and it becomes necessary to get rid of them. Here are 10 ways to get rid of cabbage worms:

  1. Lowest members of the food chain

Cabbage worms are tiny and unable to defend themselves against their many predators such as spiders, yellow jackets, parasitic wasps and beetles. They are also prey to birds as birds eat worms. As long as you have a lot of birds and other insects visiting your garden, cabbage worms should not be an issue for you.

  1. Using insecticides is not encouraged

Although insecticides are a fast and effective way to kill pest infestations, they are not encouraged when it comes to cabbage worms. You would end up doing more damage to your crops, than you would be able to kill caterpillars. Also, insecticides would kill worm hunters as well and this would only increase problems for you.

  1. Floating row covers

Install these to protect plants from female butterflies laying their eggs. These are large enough to let in air water and sunlight but too small for eggs to stick in place

  1. Pheromone traps

Use these to drive away potential female butterflies. Pheromone traps give out fumes that act as a deterrent for many insects.

  1. Animals on your farm

Chickens and ducks peck away at cabbage worms that you might even know about. These make natural hunters while growing up on a farm.

  1. Induce dehydration

In the past rye and flour was used to dry and dehydrate the cabbage worms which would eventually die due to lack of moisture. Pour flour over the worm to induce a dehydration effect.

  1. Hand pick them

If all the other remedies seem unhealthy or risky to your garden and crops, you can always hand pick the worms and eggs from the cabbage plants. However you might not be able to get all of them and the problem might not be completely solved.

  1. Growing other plants

There are other plants that discourage cabbage worms from appearing. Plants such as rosemary, tansy, nasturtium, borage, sage, onions, tomatoes, thyme, alliums and garlic naturally deter adult butterflies from laying their eggs. These also attract other predators to come join the party.

  1. Soil maintenance

Crop rotation is a good way to replenish the nutrients in the soil. It also reduces the need for fertilizers. An added advantage of crop rotation is that it prevents future pest infestations. Planting different crops in the soil can do wonders for your garden. Till the soil several times before planting a different crop to get rid of pupa and eggs. Also remove the remains of old and dead plants from the soil.

  1. Make Your Own Cabbage Worm Repellant Spray

You can make your own cabbage worm repellent spray using common household ingredients such as mineral oil, horseradish, cayenne peppers, onions, mint and garlic. Mix the ingredients in the blender with equal amounts of water and pour it in a spray bottle. Sprinkle the concoction generously over the target plants to kill the worms. You can also add a tablespoon of liquid soap to make it more effective. Spraying daily for a week should considerably reduce the worm population.

Use Solutions Pest & Lawn Products To Eliminate Cabbage Worms

While insecticides are not encouraged, if the cabbage worm problem gets particularly out of control, we recommend using insecticides that are more friendly to plant life and vegetation. For instance, we have eco-friendly products such as Essentria IC3 Natural Pesticide or Essentria G Granule Insecticide. There are other “green pest control” products you can use such as Cyonara Lawn and Garden RTU. Browse our inventory to see what would work best for you.

Final word

Always thoroughly clean your vegetable before cooking them to avoid accidental ingestion of worms. Boiling the vegetables kills them and removes all impurities but you still would not want to eat one, even though it is safe. For more special DIY pest control advice, dial us up at 800-479-6583, live chat with us online or shoot us an email at askapro@solutionsstores.com


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