Natural Ways To Control Cabbage Worms
The cabbage worm
The Cabbage Destroyer-AKA, Cabbage Worm
Harvesting and enjoying the fruit of one’s labor is such a rewarding and satisfying feeling every gardener growing their own food should experience. We browse through colorful seed catalogues all winter long, strategically planning what to plant, and where to plant it all. We can’t wait to start eating fresh salad’s every night picked right from the garden. There’s nothing like taking a nice stroll through the garden, picking a little of this and a little of that, preparing a delicious, healthy and very affordable meal for you and your family to enjoy.
There is no greater frustration and feeling of defeat when with those expectations arriving to your little oasis of food, to find that someone has already helped them self to a meal. Many of us will put up fences and scarecrows to guard our precious crops from deer, rabbits, birds, and other animals alike, however there are even much smaller intruders that can do just as much damage, and they are those little critters we call bugs, worms, insects, Garden Destroyers! Well not all of them are bad; some are actually very handy to have around to get rid of the bad ones. One particular bad one that is known for destroying many crops of cabbage, kale, and broccoli, is the cabbage worm.
Cabbage Worms are known to attack these plants hard!
· Brussels sprout
· Mustard Greens
Where did the cabbage worm come from?
The cabbage worm came from Europe and is believed to have arrived in Massachusetts about 1869, which then quickly spread throughout the rest of the United States. Members of the cabbage or mustard family are its main targets; however cabbage worms are also known to feed on nasturtium, sweet alyssum and lettuce. The cabbage worm is the larval form of the cabbage white butterfly, which its appearance is white with specs of three to four black spots on each wing. These pretty white butterflies lay little yellow eggs on the underside of leaves. Within a week’s time these eggs hatch little green caterpillars that immediately start munching away on your precious kale, cabbage, broccoli and cauliflower, leaving ragged holes in the leaves. They will continue feeding for 2-3 weeks, and then pupate, having between three to six generations in one season. If you haven’t noticed any damage to your plants, but see these little white butterflies flying around, start taking action! Make sure to check the underside of the leaves. This is where they like to lay those eggs, and even when they become worms they are so hard to see, they blend in so perfectly.
Controlling Cabbage Worms
Natural ways to control cabbage worms
You might be asking well how do I get rid of these cabbage worms, in a way that is safe and effective. If you are growing food you most likely do not want to be dumping chemicals on your food to get rid of the bugs right, we want to keep it as organic as possible. Well there are several methods you can do to control cabbage worms safely.
1. Plant tomatoes, onions, garlic and sage, and rosemary near your cabbage, kale, broccoli, cauliflower, and lettuce. These plants are known to deter cabbage worms, plus cabbage worms have other enemies beside you and me, there are plenty of other insects you can attract to the garden that attack these worms such as various spiders, ground beetles, yellow jackets and wasp. The braconid wasp will prey on these worms all day long, and is drawn to strawberries. So perhaps planting some strawberries would be a nice plant to have nearby as well.
2. Incorporate crop rotation of brassica plants will help lower future populations. Also be sure to remove old and dead plants from the garden. The worm will over-winter in the pupa stage attached to host plant debris such as this. Tilling the soil several times between planting will help destroy the eggs and pupa as well.
3. Hand picking them off will slow them down, but if you have infestations of them like I did on my kale last season you will never win.
4. You could cover your plants with light weight nylon so that the butterflies cannot lay their eggs on the plants leaves.
5. There are many sprays available on the market, but you should avoid using many of these insecticides for several reasons one the cabbage worm is known to build resistance to these chemicals and two, do you really want insecticides sprayed on your food? There are some natural and organic applications. I read that sprinkling cornmeal, rye flower or a mixture or 1 part salt to 2 part flour on damp leaves will kill the worms. After they eat they will bloat and die.
6. An organic spray that is very popular amongst many growers is BT, (Bacillus thuringiensis). BT is a natural bacterium in the genus Bacillus, and has been used as an insecticide for over 50 years which has been proven to be very safe for the environment and humans.
Remember to check underneath the leaves!
Remember to always check and spray underneath the plants leaves. There were so many occasions when I thought I had all of them removed, until turning a few leaves over. They blend in so well! If you see the white butterfly flying over your crops, take immediate actions, and start inspecting your plants and try to prevent any future infestations.
Chances are if you're reading this article you most likely are a gardener, and have experienced a few run-ins with these guys. I am curious to know of some more natural ways to get rid and prevent these worms. I lost nearly my entire crop of kale last year to these cabbage worms and want to avoid that as much as possible this year. Please share with me if you have any experience in dealing with the cabbage worms by leaving a comment below. Thanks, and may we all have a great growing season!