Cabbage Worm

Cabbage Worm Location
The Imported Cabbage Worm came to this country from Europe, via Quebec, arriving in Massachusetts about 1869, and quickly spread to all parts of the United States.



Vulnerable Plants
It attacks all members of the cabbage or mustard family (this includes cauliflower) and also feeds on nasturtium, sweet alyssum, mignonette and lettuce.

Cabbage Worm Appearance and Habits
The insect winters in the pupa stage, a gray, green or tan angular chrysalid hanging downwards from some object near the cabbage patch. In early spring, the pupa hatches into a white butterfly with three or four black spots on each wing, a wingspan of 1 1/2″ to 2″. They lay yellow, bullet-shaped eggs singly on the undersides of leaves. In about a week, velvet-smooth green caterpillars, with alternating light and dark longitudinal stripes, hatch and start feeding, depositing pellets of dark green excrement as they eat huge, ragged holes in the leaves. They feed for 2 to 3 weeks, then pupate, there being three to six generations in a season.

How to Control Cabbage Worms
Plant tomatoes, onions, garlic, and sage around cabbage to deter the worm.



Cover plants with a lightweight nylon net to keep the butterflies from laying eggs.

Till the soil several times between plantings to destroy eggs and pupa.

Hand-remove larvae. Destroy old stalks as soon as the crop is harvested, and make sure to destroy weeds like Wild Mustard, Pepper Grass, Shepard’s Purse, on which the first-generation worms develop.

A number of natural enemies reduce the caterpillar population, among them common yellow jackets and braconid wasps. Braconid wasps are attracted by strawberries.

The cabbage worm may drown during heavy rains.

Other methods include spooning spoiled milk into the cabbage head, or spraying with a mixture of salt, flour, and water, which will make the caterpillars bloat and die.

Pictures of a Cabbage Worm



Cabbage Worm (Life Cycle, page 52): A. adult butterfly; B. full-grown worm (larva); C. egg, enlarged 10 times; D. chrysalid; E. typical damage by worms, adults laying eggs

{ 1 comment… read it below or add one }

Joan August 27, 2010 at 9:05 am

Hi Lars,

Your site is great! Full of useful information for organic garden beginners.

For cabbage worms, I use water alone to solve the problem; but you must be free to watch the butterfly from time to time. After white butterfly’s visit, pour rain water over the whole cabbage immediately; so that all the eggs will be shown; and you can whip them off before any development. If you use spray, the eggs laid in between of the heart of the cabbage will not be able to reach. Overall, it is fun to control all the organic garden pests by yourself.

Thanks again for sharing your information.

Joan Chang

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