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How to Get Rid of Cabbage Worms

Every gardener knows that a thriving garden is a product of hard work, patience, and vigilance. However, nurturing a crop of vibrant, healthy cabbages can sometimes feel like waging war against a seemingly endless guerrilla force of sneaky invaders – the notorious cabbage worms.

Cabbage worms are larvae of the cabbage white butterfly or the moths of the diamondback or cabbage looper varieties. These pests, usually green in color, can wreak havoc on your crop in a short amount of time if left unchecked.

They bite holes in the leaves of cabbage and its cruciferous kin, like Brussels sprouts, broccoli, and cauliflower, often leaving them unfit for consumption and ruining the aesthetic appeal. 

Simply put, knowing how to get rid of these pests can mean the difference between a successful harvest and a worm-ridden disappointment.

In this article, we’ll show you how to effectively get rid of cabbage worms. From preventive measures like cultivating strong plants and using row covers, to manual removal methods and traps, we’ve got you covered.

Key Takeaways:

  • Cabbage worms are larvae from various butterfly or moth species and cause significant damage to cabbages and their cruciferous kin.
  • Preventative measures such as cultivating strong plants and using row covers can help deter an infestation. 
  • Companion planting, particularly with aromatic herbs and flowers like marigolds, can serve as a natural deterrent.
  • Regular inspection and manual removal of eggs and caterpillars can help control worm populations.
  • Yellow sticky traps can capture adult moths before they lay eggs.
  • Organic control methods include using neem oil as an insecticide.
  • Safe control practices involve taking care not to harm beneficial insects and keeping a balanced ecosystem.
  • Be vigilant about preventative measures to ensure the healthy growth of your cabbages. 
  • Cabbage worms are most active in warmer months, and while not harmful to humans, they can ruin crops.’

Proactive Prevention and Planting Strategies Against Cabbage Worms

closeup image of a Cabbage attacked by worms

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To prevent cabbage worms, cultivate strong, healthy plants by providing appropriate growing conditions and amend your garden soil with organic matter.

Ensure that your plants have the right conditions to thrive, such as adequate sunlight and water, to make them less susceptible to cabbage worms.

Additionally, amending your soil with organic matter, such as compost or well-rotted manure, will improve soil health and provide essential nutrients to your plants. This will not only make them more resilient but also enhance their overall growth and productivity.

Using Companion Planting as a Preventive Measure

Companion planting can be an effective natural deterrent against cabbage worms. This method, utilized by generations of gardeners, involves planting certain species side-by-side to repel pests, attract beneficial predators, and enhance overall plant health.

Aromatic herbs such as thyme, rosemary, sage, and peppermint can mask the scent trails that attract these worms, while flowers like marigolds and nasturtiums can draw in helpful insects that control the worm population.

With thoughtful execution of companion planting, you can fortify your garden against the onslaught of cabbage worms, creating a robust and healthy ecosystem where your crops can thrive.

Hands-On Defense: A Guide to Manual Removal and Trapping of Cabbage Worms

small green worm on a person's finger

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Inspect your plants regularly and manually remove any eggs or caterpillars you find to control cabbage worm infestations. Here are some methods you can use to effectively remove cabbage worms and prevent further damage to your plants:

  • Manual removal of eggs and caterpillars: Take the time to inspect your plants regularly and remove any eggs or caterpillars you find by hand. This will help reduce the population of cabbage worms and prevent them from feeding on your plants.
  • Place yellow sticky traps: Another effective method is to use yellow sticky traps. These traps attract adult moths and capture them, preventing them from laying eggs on your plants.

Organic Control Methods

small spray bottle beside a cabbage

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If you’re looking for an organic way to control cabbage worms, try applying neem oil spray to smother the soft-bodied insects. Neem oil is derived from the neem tree and has natural insecticidal properties.

To use it, mix one tablespoon of neem oil with one gallon of water and spray it directly on the cabbage plants, making sure to cover both the tops and bottoms of the leaves. The oil will suffocate the cabbage worms and prevent further damage to your plants.

Make sure to apply the spray in the early morning or late evening when the sun is not too strong, as this will help prevent any potential sunburn on the leaves. Repeat the application every 7-10 days or as needed to keep the cabbage worms under control.

Implementing Safe Control Practices

When applying homemade or organic pest deterrents, it’s important to test them on a small area of the plant first to ensure they don’t harm your valuable crops.

Here are some safe control practices to help you get rid of cabbage worms:

  • Spray plants in the early evening to avoid sunburn and maximize the effectiveness of the treatment.
  • Check for beneficial insects before spraying to avoid harming them and disrupting the natural balance in your garden.

Remember, building a healthy ecosystem in your garden is key to reducing the need for sprays. Seek outside assistance if necessary to protect your plants and beneficial bugs.

Conclusion

Dealing with cabbage worms doesn’t have to be a constant struggle. By following the right preventive measures, employing natural deterrents, and being vigilant about manual removal, you can ensure your cabbages and other cruciferous plants grow healthily and abundantly.

Remember, the key to an infestation-free garden lies in fostering a balanced ecosystem that is unfavorable to pests, yet nurturing to your crops. So take up these simple, effective methods, and bid farewell to the havoc of cabbage worms in your garden.

FAQs

What does a cabbage worm look like?

Cabbage worms are small and green, very similar in color to the plants they inhabit, which makes them hard to spot. They are caterpillars in their larval stage.

Do cabbage worms turn into anything?

Yes, cabbage worms are the larval stage of the cabbage white butterfly or the diamondback and cabbage looper moths.

What time of year are cabbage worms most active?

Cabbage worms are most active in the warmer months, especially during spring and early summer.

Are cabbage worms harmful to humans?

No, cabbage worms are not harmful to humans. However, they can cause a lot of damage to plants in the Brassicaceae family, including cabbages, causing them to become inedible.

How can I attract natural predators of cabbage worms?

Planting flowers like marigolds and nasturtiums can attract beneficial insects, such as ladybugs, lacewings, and spiders, which are known predators of cabbage worms.

Can I use diatomaceous earth to control cabbage worms?

Yes, diatomaceous earth can be sprinkled over affected plants, which works by dehydrating and killing the larvae. It is a non-toxic powder made from fossilized marine phytoplankton and is safe for the environment.

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