Tuesday, August 9, 2011

How to Get Rid of Cabbage Worms

To understand how to get rid of a pest in the garden, I always like to start by trying to understand what it is I am actually trying to get rid of. In this case the cabbage worm. The cabbage worm is a generalized term used for four kinds of Lepidopteran. More specifically their larvae.

Lepidoptera is an order of insects, a very large order, that include such insects as the moth and butterfly. These insects, as they relate to cabbage worms, like to feed on cabbage and other cole crops. If you are growing broccoli, cauliflower, radish, or rutabagas, to name a few, you may find cabbage worms.

The four kinds of cabbage worm that are referred to are, the imported cabbage worm, the cabbage looper, the cabbage webworm, and the diamondback moth. If not handled early they can literally do tremendous amounts of damage that you might not be able to recover from in the same growing season.

As with many other harmful insects in the vegetable garden, you will want to start with finding out what their natural predators are. This will go a long way in making sure you keep your garden safe from harmful insecticides that could also wipe out beneficial insects as well. Natural predators to the cabbage worm are parasitic wasps, soldier bugs and lace wings.

To attract parasitic wasps, plant nectar rich flowers in the garden, thyme, dill, savory and other herbs. Dill, fennel and coriander are excellent choices to attract lace wings. For soldier bugs, milkweed, goldenrod and hydrangea work well.

Attracting beneficials may take some time, and if you are inundated with them, time may be something you do not have a lot of. There are a number of harmless sprays and recipes on the internet, such as pepper-gralic sprays. A Google Search on the words “Pepper Spray” will yield plenty. You can also purchase over the counter sprays such as Neem oil and Neem oil soap. They work well, but will need to be reapplied after rain or heavy waterings.

Finally, there is Diatamaceous earth. The downfall of DE is that it affects every insect in your garden. It does not distinguish between the good ones and the bad ones. Also, it requires multiple applications and is best applied during dry times throughout the day.

A recent poll I read had the cabbage worm as the number two culprit in home vegetable gardens. Rest assure there a variety of solutions out there, available to you, either for free or very low cost.

About the Author
Mike Podlesny is the owner of Mike the Gardener Enterprises, LLC, the exclusive home for the Seeds of the Month Club, which has appeared on NBC, ABC and MSN Money as a great way for consumers to save money.

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  1. I'm having fun fighting this guys at the moment - will definitely try some of the companion planting to get rid of them for next year - thanks very much Mike!

  2. good luck! Let me know how you make out.

  3. I'm planting a second wave of fall brassicas this week, but I was worried about the cabbage moths. I'll try the pepper spray. Thanks! http://mynjgarden.com

  4. Unfortunately, those cabbage loopers love my garden. I even tried keeping row covers on my plants. BT is the only thing that kills them. I have tried pepper spray, a water sprayer, etc.