How to avoid cabbage worms. Growing cabbage may be a pretty pleasant endeavor. When cabbage is harvested after the winter only to find that cabbage worms have been chewing on it, it is disappointing. It’s crucial to monitor your cabbage crop, identify pests, and act quickly to get rid of cabbage worms. They can significantly damage your entire crop if you don’t control them.
Another factor to be wary of is the fact that they don’t just attack cabbage plants. They also consume Brussels sprouts, mustard greens, and radishes. Knowing what to do is your first line of defense against these infamous worms.
Cabbage Worms: What Are They?
The larval stage of both the little white butterfly, often known as the cabbage white butterfly, and the enormous white butterfly is the cabbage worm. They are common in the world’s temperate zones and were first discovered in North America in 1860.
It spread rapidly to other regions of the continent, and by 1886, it had made considerable inroads into the states along the Rocky Mountain and Gulf coasts. Although it sometimes affects other plants, such as brassica crops, especially those that are members of the mustard family, the cabbage worm is primarily a pest of cabbage.
The imported cabbage worm and its close relative, the cabbage looper, are commonly found where there are brassicas. They have multiple life cycles each year and are particularly dangerous in areas with consistent, temperate weather.
Recognizing Damage from Cabbage Worms
We can identify cabbage worms and the damage they do by keeping an eye out for cabbage worms on our plants or cabbage butterflies hovering at the base of plants.
The remains of the insects’ meals can be utilized to locate them. In the areas where they consume, they leave behind spherical, dark greenish-brown excrement. In this case, there are probably going to be holes in the leaves, cabbage heads, or whatever crop you are growing.
You might think this is not a big concern because cabbage heads develop in layers of thick leaves. Worms may, however, bore through heads by devouring a series of randomly shaped holes in leaves. Another indication that you have a cabbage worm issue is the presence of eggs. They often have ridges down the sides, are elongated, light or yellowish, and have a point at the top.
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How to Avoid Cabbage Worms
There are numerous risk-free natural treatments and precautions you may take to prevent cabbage worms.
- Plant defenses. Garlic, allium, thyme, tomatoes, onions, sage, borage, nasturtium, tansy, and rosemary are known to avoid cabbage worms.
- Bring in predators of insects. Grow flowering plants and herbs to attract neighborhood predators. To get rid of these worms, you can draw in other insects, including wasps, yellow jackets, ground beetles, and spiders. The braconid wasp will eat little caterpillars all day long.
- Luring avian predators to your area. If you can attract certain birds to your yard, such as house sparrows, skylarks, and goldfinch skylarks, which are some of their predators, you may be able to enlist their help.
- Alternate harvests. Crop rotation will help to reduce insect populations in the future. This suggests that, on occasion, you cultivate a different species of plant in that region of your garden.
- Eliminate plant debris. Remove any outdated or dead plants right away. In its pupal stage, the caterpillar will spend the winter among such plant debris.
- Remove worms by hand once a week. Manual worm control can slow an outbreak down (but if your infestation is anything like the one I had on my kale last season, you will never win). Wear gloves and pick them off at least once every week. (You might smash them or put them in a jar with soapy water).
- Cover your plants with netting. Put a thin layer of nylon cloth over the leaves of your plants to stop butterflies from depositing their eggs there. (Do this ahead of time, since the net may prevent worms from being consumed by their natural predator).
- Use organic insecticides like cornmeal. There are many natural and organic applications. Sprinkle dry cornmeal or rye flour over moist leaves to kill the worms. They eat it, swell up, and finally die. Another choice is diatomaceous earth.
Biocontrol to avoid cabbage worms
What biological strategy may be used to control cabbage worms? The most popular and effective natural pest control strategy is the use of Bacillus thuringiensis kurstaki. It is often referred to as Bt or BtK in the business sector. By spraying this bacteria on your plants, you may prevent caterpillars and worms from eating your plants, but not the plants themselves.
There is also a powdered form of BtK if you’d prefer not to use the spray. The bacteria that the caterpillar consumes immediately develop a poison that reduces the worm’s desire to eat sprayed plants. As a result, it stops eating and quickly perishes from starvation. Do this only if you can see the worms or their yellow eggs, since doing otherwise might result in the death of some beneficial butterfly larvae (like monarch caterpillars).
Neem oil may also be used to control cabbage worms. Given this, spraying your garden on a daily basis with a neem oil solution may help your plants become less tempting to pests. Neem oil often won’t get rid of cabbage worms if your plant is already infected.
Using Insecticides to Avoid Cabbage Worms
Apart from BtK, there aren’t many organic insecticides that can kill cabbage worms while they’re feeding. Only for covering and smothering cabbage butterfly eggs can neem oil be useful. Only early in the day, before dawn and peak pollinator activity, should neem be sprayed on flowering plants. An option for this time frame is just before nocturnal pollinators start to appear.