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Guide to Parsley Pests

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Healthy, pest-free parsley

Healthy, pest-free parsley

The Great Parsley

Steeped with a rich culinary history, parsley was once believed to by grown only by witches and pregnant women. Now that it is cultivated throughout the world by both men and women, the old myths of European folklore seem downright hilarious.

Pesky Pest Problems

Regardless of its history, one aspect that all gardeners face with parsley is the pests. Surprisingly, there are quite a number of them that can inflict serious damage and even destroy entire crops. Heck, I'm sure that sometimes gardeners wish they could use the magic of witches to dispel these pesky creatures. All jokes aside though, this article is focused on common parsley pests and how to remove them safely and naturally.

Signs of Pests

Parsley acts as the perfect host plant for a variety of pests. While they all feast on this leafy herb, their signs of damage will vary.

Pests and Their Holes

  • Hole in leaves/missing leaf tips - Parsley worm and Armyworm
  • Seedlings/young shoots sheered at base - Cutworm
  • Small winged & wingless insects on leaves - Aphids
  • Lanky, yellowed and stunted growth - Carrot Root Flies

Common Parsley Pests

Below you'll find a list of pests that commonly have been known to cause damage in parsley. Along with a pest description are suggestions for natural and organic removal.


These green/brown caterpillars are the larval stage of the moth species Pseudaletia unipuncta. Normally growing to a length of 1-2 inches, these caterpillars spend their days hiding in the soil at the base of parsley plants and come out to feed only during nocturnal hours. If leaves have holes or are missing altogether, inspect the parsley plants with a flashlight during dark hours for proof of armyworms.

How to Remove Them

Fortunately for gardeners, armyworms are well controlled by nature. Ladybugs, wasps, spiders, and a wide array of parasitic organisms feed and manage armyworm populations. In small numbers, the damage sustained by these pests is minimal, but large numbers need attention. Hand removal of the caterpillars during dusk or dawn is the easiest way to eliminate them. Throw in a bucket of hot water or use them for fishing bait

Army Cutworm

Not to be confused with the armyworm, the army cutworm is also another green/brown caterpillar that affects parsley. As the larval stage for the miller moth, army cutworms are non-climbing caterpillars that feast on seedlings and young shoots just below the soil surface.

How to Remove Them

Cutworms are hard to remove due to their soil dwelling nature, but at least there is a technique is stop them from eating your precious parsley seedlings. To prevent against cutworm damage, a shallow barrier (1 inch deep) can be placed around each plant. Folded newspaper or old plastic containers create the perfect non-penetrable barrier for protection against cutworms.

Parsley worm

Parsley worm

Parsley Worm

This larval caterpillar of the black swallowtail butterfly gets its name from its tendency to find refuge in parsley plants. Growing to around two inches in length, this caterpillar with black stripes and yellow dots consumes the leaves of growing plants.

Helpful Parsley Partners

Although parsley worms are considered pests in their caterpillar stage, they are actually beneficial in the long run. The adult butterflies are not only gorgeous, they will also help pollinate your garden flowers. So if you do find parsley worms, seclude them to one or two plants. Share some parsley, receive some butterflies!

Carrot Aphid

This particular aphid is commonly associated with carrots, but since parsley is closely related, these small leaf dwelling insects will also consume the herb's foliage. Aphid damage is caused from the piercing of leaves to draw out the sap. The damage is at its greatest when population numbers are high.

How to Remove Them

Aphids can easily be controlled by applying a homemade garlic water solution. Spray each parsley plant thoroughly with the garlic solution once a week. The aphids will normally vanish after one spray.

Aphids under magnification.

Aphids under magnification.

Carrot Root Fly

Again, because of its close association to carrots, parsley too, can be affected by carrot root flies. Low flying female flies lay their eggs in the soil, upon which the eggs hatch and turn into a creamy-white, 1 cm long, legless worm. These worms consume root matter and are the normally the main cause for stunted parsley growth.

How to Remove Them

Mix one part of 35% hydrogen peroxide with ten parts water. Water the soil around the parsley plants thoroughly with the mixture. Hydrogen peroxide is listed as an organic treatment. It rapidly breaks down in the soil, forming water and oxygen. The single oxygen molecule released in the reaction will kill the worms upon contact. Apply up to twice weekly.

Take Care of Your Plants

Overall, there might seem like a lot of pests to contend with, but good gardening practices will always help keep them at bay. Remember to rotate crops, till your soil, and cover those seedlings with mesh.

This content is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge and is not meant to substitute for formal and individualized advice from a qualified professional.

Comments on May 02, 2019:

Very helpful. I'll isolate the plant and watch for the Swallowtail butterfly. I use parsley extensively but it grows abundantly in my location so sharing is not a concern. Thanks!

Audrey Hunt from Pahrump NV on June 14, 2014:

Thanks for these 'natural' tips for keeping parsley pests under control. I love parsley. Question. Why am I covering the seedlings with mesh? Thank you. - Audrey

Jill Spencer from United States on June 14, 2014:

I'm hoping to see the swallowtail caterpillar soon on our parsley, which we planted for them. I hope I don't see the others! An informative & clear read. Thanks!

Brenda on April 16, 2013:

Thank for your info. Very helpful