How to Get Rid of Cabbage Worms

Updated on December 12, 2017
OldRoses profile image

Caren White is a Master Gardener and instructor at Home Gardeners School. She has been a volunteer at Rutgers Gardens for over a decade.

Cabbage worms and eggs.
Cabbage worms and eggs. | Source

When you were planting your butterfly garden, you added some parsley for those pretty little cabbage white butterflies, didn't you? If you are growing any kind of brassicas such as cabbage, cauliflower, broccoli, kale or kohlrabi, you might want to rethink inviting them into your yard. They lay their eggs on not just your parsley but also your brassicas and the resulting caterpillars, or cabbage worms, dine on their foliage and, in the case of broccoli and cauliflower, bore inside the heads that you are looking forward to eating.

Know Your Enemy

Cabbage worms are actually three different species of butterfly and moths. The little cabbage white butterflies are actually imports from Europe. They weren’t seen in North America until 1860 and since then have become established in Canada and the United States. These produce the bright green with faint yellow stripes caterpillars that you see on all cole crops.

The caterpillars that move like inchworms are called cabbage loopers and are produced by darkly mottled night-flying moths. They move like inchworms because they have no legs in the mid-sections and so they must first move the legs on their front end and then catch up their rear sections forcing their middles to rise up like an inchworm.

The third kind of cabbage worm is the larvae of Diamond Back moths. They are tiny green caterpillars that are less than half an inch long and prefer dining on turnips and mustard greens.

All three butterflies and moths can lay hundreds of eggs in their short lifetimes. Diamond back larvae are not usually seen until later in the season in northern gardens because they cannot overwinter in the soil like the others. Instead, the moths are blown north in the spring and start their reproductive lives later.

Floating Row Covers
Floating Row Covers | Source

Under Cover

One of the best ways to prevent your brassicas from being eaten by cabbage worms is to prevent the butterflies and moths from laying eggs on them. You can do this with the use of floating row covers. They are “floating” because you just lay them loosely over your plants. The thin polyester material allows light and rain to get in but keeps insects out.

Hand Picking

If you have a small garden, you can search your plants frequently and pick the eggs and caterpillars off your plants. If this is too icky, try wearing gloves.

Use Poultry

Chickens, ducks and other poultry think caterpillars are delicious. If you raise poultry, or have a neighbor who is willing to lend you their poultry for a few hours, you can set up a temporary pen around your garden and allow them to help themselves to an all you can eat buffet.

The enemy of my enemy is my friend

The best way to rid your garden of cabbage worms is to invite in their enemies such as tachnid flies, parasitic wasps, paper wasps and shield bugs. You can do this by planting flowers and herbs that are favored by these insects as well as providing them with shelter and nesting areas.

And don’t forget the birds! Like their poultry cousins, they love caterpillars. Consider adding a birdbath to your garden to invite them in for a dip and a snack.


Cabbage worms can damage or even destroy your brassicas. You can deal with them yourself or invite some of their enemies into your garden to deal with them for you.

Questions & Answers

    © 2014 Caren White

    Comments

      0 of 8192 characters used
      Post Comment

      • OldRoses profile image
        Author

        Caren White 3 years ago from Franklin Park, NJ

        Hi Steph and welcome to Hub pages! I don't have chickens, but I do have a cat who is a fussy eater. He won't eat any fish. Thanks for reading and commenting. I look forward to reading your hubs.

      • Steph Tietjen profile image

        Stephanie Tietjen 3 years ago from Albuquerque, New Mexico

        I like your work. When I fed these worms to my chickens, they ate them, but weren't too enthusiastic--grasshoppers and snails get their rave reviews. Like people that have different tastes, it seems it is so for chickens as well. I still feed them whenever these worms come around.

      • OldRoses profile image
        Author

        Caren White 3 years ago from Franklin Park, NJ

        I have heard about flour. Supposedly when the larvae eat it, it clogs them up inside and kills them but I couldn't find any scientific proof that flour works so I didn't include it in my hub. I only include things that are scientifically proven or that I know from experience work. If I have occasion to try the flour and it works, I'll amend my hub. Thanks for reading.

      • OldRoses profile image
        Author

        Caren White 3 years ago from Franklin Park, NJ

        I haven't seen the eggs yet, only the "worms". Yuck! Thanks for reading.

      • OldRoses profile image
        Author

        Caren White 3 years ago from Franklin Park, NJ

        I had only seen the damage. Now I know what to look for. Thanks for the vote and the pin.

      • blueheron profile image

        Sharon Vile 3 years ago from Odessa, MO

        My gardening friends tell me that plain white flour works to control cabbage worms. You just head out to the garden with a flour sifter and sift flour onto them. I haven't tried this, but this is what I was told when I remarked that I'd given up trying to grow cabbage.

      • ologsinquito profile image

        ologsinquito 3 years ago from USA

        Very interesting. I have seen these little eggs as well.

      • FlourishAnyway profile image

        FlourishAnyway 3 years ago from USA

        So that's what they are! I have seen these. Voted up and more, sharing and pinning. They are pesky.

      working

      This website uses cookies

      As a user in the EEA, your approval is needed on a few things. To provide a better website experience, dengarden.com uses cookies (and other similar technologies) and may collect, process, and share personal data. Please choose which areas of our service you consent to our doing so.

      For more information on managing or withdrawing consents and how we handle data, visit our Privacy Policy at: "https://dengarden.com/privacy-policy#gdpr"

      Show Details
      Necessary
      HubPages Device IDThis is used to identify particular browsers or devices when the access the service, and is used for security reasons.
      LoginThis is necessary to sign in to the HubPages Service.
      Google RecaptchaThis is used to prevent bots and spam. (Privacy Policy)
      AkismetThis is used to detect comment spam. (Privacy Policy)
      HubPages Google AnalyticsThis is used to provide data on traffic to our website, all personally identifyable data is anonymized. (Privacy Policy)
      HubPages Traffic PixelThis is used to collect data on traffic to articles and other pages on our site. Unless you are signed in to a HubPages account, all personally identifiable information is anonymized.
      Amazon Web ServicesThis is a cloud services platform that we used to host our service. (Privacy Policy)
      CloudflareThis is a cloud CDN service that we use to efficiently deliver files required for our service to operate such as javascript, cascading style sheets, images, and videos. (Privacy Policy)
      Google Hosted LibrariesJavascript software libraries such as jQuery are loaded at endpoints on the googleapis.com or gstatic.com domains, for performance and efficiency reasons. (Privacy Policy)
      Features
      Google Custom SearchThis is feature allows you to search the site. (Privacy Policy)
      Google MapsSome articles have Google Maps embedded in them. (Privacy Policy)
      Google ChartsThis is used to display charts and graphs on articles and the author center. (Privacy Policy)
      Google AdSense Host APIThis service allows you to sign up for or associate a Google AdSense account with HubPages, so that you can earn money from ads on your articles. No data is shared unless you engage with this feature. (Privacy Policy)
      Google YouTubeSome articles have YouTube videos embedded in them. (Privacy Policy)
      VimeoSome articles have Vimeo videos embedded in them. (Privacy Policy)
      PaypalThis is used for a registered author who enrolls in the HubPages Earnings program and requests to be paid via PayPal. No data is shared with Paypal unless you engage with this feature. (Privacy Policy)
      Facebook LoginYou can use this to streamline signing up for, or signing in to your Hubpages account. No data is shared with Facebook unless you engage with this feature. (Privacy Policy)
      MavenThis supports the Maven widget and search functionality. (Privacy Policy)
      Marketing
      Google AdSenseThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
      Google DoubleClickGoogle provides ad serving technology and runs an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
      Index ExchangeThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
      SovrnThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
      Facebook AdsThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
      Amazon Unified Ad MarketplaceThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
      AppNexusThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
      OpenxThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
      Rubicon ProjectThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
      TripleLiftThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
      Say MediaWe partner with Say Media to deliver ad campaigns on our sites. (Privacy Policy)
      Remarketing PixelsWe may use remarketing pixels from advertising networks such as Google AdWords, Bing Ads, and Facebook in order to advertise the HubPages Service to people that have visited our sites.
      Conversion Tracking PixelsWe may use conversion tracking pixels from advertising networks such as Google AdWords, Bing Ads, and Facebook in order to identify when an advertisement has successfully resulted in the desired action, such as signing up for the HubPages Service or publishing an article on the HubPages Service.
      Statistics
      Author Google AnalyticsThis is used to provide traffic data and reports to the authors of articles on the HubPages Service. (Privacy Policy)
      ComscoreComScore is a media measurement and analytics company providing marketing data and analytics to enterprises, media and advertising agencies, and publishers. Non-consent will result in ComScore only processing obfuscated personal data. (Privacy Policy)
      Amazon Tracking PixelSome articles display amazon products as part of the Amazon Affiliate program, this pixel provides traffic statistics for those products (Privacy Policy)