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Cabbage Worms

By January 26, 2014 December 8th, 2015 Pests & Troubleshooting, Uncategorized

Cabbage worms are one of the most common pests found in Front Range gardens. If you see holes in the leaves of your broccoli, cauliflower, cabbage, collards, or kale, then you probably have cabbage worms.

What are Cabbage Worms or Loopers?

Cabbage worms (or cabbage loopers) are small, green, velvet-like caterpillars, which eat holes in your leaves. They grow to be about an inch long in their larvae stage. They grow into white butterflies with one to four black spots on their wings, which you will see flying around your garden all season! The larvae are voracious eaters, so even one or two worms on a plant can cause severe injury.

Cabbage Worm

3 Ways to Tell if Your Garden has been Infested with Cabbage Worms

1.  Do you have holes in the leaves of any of these plants?

    • Broccoli
    • Cauliflower
    • Brussels sprouts
    • Collards
    • Kale
    • Cabbage

2.  Can you spot dark green droppings on your crops? If you see such droppings, check the underside of the leaves for eggs or worms.

3.  Do you see more white butterflies in your garden than usual? At this point, your plants most likely have been impacted by the larvae.

How to Prevent and Eliminate Cabbage Worms

To prevent the worms, cover your garden beds with floating row cover. This will inhibit the white butterflies from laying eggs on your crops.

Remove the eggs and the worms, which will most likely be on the underside of the leaves, simply remove and dispose of them away from your crops.



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  • Nancy says:

    One other suggestion: interplant your cole crops with flowering aromatic plants like dill, fennel, and cilantro. This also repels rabbits to some degree as well. I have also noticed a type of wasp crawling on my cabbage plants – I believe they feed on the eggs and or larvae. We don’t spray pesticides in any part of our yard, and I believe this helps set up a healthier environment that encourages beneficial insects to live there. I always have a little damage to my cole crops, but I’ve never had a devastating infestation.

    • Thanks for the suggestion Nancy. This is a very good idea. The wasps are probably parasitic wasps, and they’re definitely eating the larvae. Please keep sharing your suggestions!

  • Ruth says:

    The eggs are laid as single, yellow, tiny eggs, so can be hard to find. I always find them on the underside of the leaves, never above. And the young larvae are tiny as well! They are emotionally easier to crush when small!

  • Crystal says:

    I found two on my cabbage and now that I know they are butterfly larvae, I am going to raise them. This way I know they won’t come back to eat my cabbage, and I can allow them to live. Plus, I’ve raised monarchs before, so this will be a nice experience.

  • Laura says:

    Are cabbage worms native to North America? If they are native I’d rather leave them be: let them eat what they want as long as they leave me enough to eat. If they are invasive and pose an ecological problem, I would be less hospitable. Thanks if you can answer this. (Weirdly, all information I can find online is only about how to kill or “control” them… which seems like a pretty aggressive go-to response without knowing their ecology.)

    • bryantm251 says:

      I’m unsure if they’re native. I appreciate the general attitude of pacifism toward the insect world, BUT, don’t assume they’ll leave you enough at all!

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