Cabbage worms are a common nuisance for home gardeners, wreaking havoc on cabbage, broccoli, kale, and other cruciferous vegetables. These pests, which include cabbage loopers and imported cabbage worms, can quickly decimate your crops if left unchecked. However, with a few simple strategies, you can effectively control cabbage worms and protect your harvest.

Here’s how:

Identifying Cabbage Worms

Cabbage worms are the larvae of small white butterflies known as cabbage moths. These pests lay their eggs on the leaves of cabbage plants, where the larvae hatch and begin feeding. You can identify cabbage worms by their green color, segmented bodies, and voracious appetite for cabbage leaves. Look for

  • small holes in the leaves
  • dark droppings (frass)
  • chewed edges

as signs of cabbage worm infestation.

Managing Cabbage Worms

Handpicking

One of the simplest and most effective methods for controlling cabbage worms is to hand pick them off your plants. Check your cabbage plants regularly and remove any worms you find by hand. Be sure to dispose of them in a bucket of soapy water or squash them to prevent them from returning to your garden.

Row Covers

Prevent cabbage moths from laying their eggs on your plants by covering them with floating row covers. These lightweight fabrics allow sunlight, water, and air to reach your plants while keeping pests at bay. Be sure to secure the edges of the row covers tightly to prevent moths from gaining access to your crops.

Natural Predators

Encourage natural predators like birds, parasitic wasps, and predatory insects to help control cabbage worms in your garden. Planting flowers such as dill, fennel, and yarrow can attract these beneficial insects to your garden, providing natural pest control.

Biological Controls

Consider introducing biological controls such as Bacillus thuringiensis (Bt), a naturally occurring bacterium that targets cabbage worms specifically. Bt is available in various formulations, including sprays and dusts, and is safe to use around pets and beneficial insects.

Companion Planting

Planting aromatic herbs and flowers like thyme, mint, and marigolds around your cabbage plants can help deter cabbage moths and mask the scent of your crops, making them less attractive to pests.

Crop Rotation

Rotate your crops annually to disrupt the life cycle of cabbage worms and reduce the likelihood of infestation. Avoid planting cabbage and other cruciferous vegetables in the same location year after year to prevent the buildup of pests and diseases in the soil.

By implementing these strategies, you can effectively control cabbage worms and protect your cabbage crops from damage. Remember to monitor your plants regularly for signs of infestation and take action promptly to prevent further damage. With a little effort and vigilance, you can enjoy a bountiful harvest of healthy and pest-free cabbage from your garden.