Cabbage worms - How to control

forensicmomMay 8, 2010

I was really trying to NOT use any chemicals in my garden this year. I started broccoli, cauliflower and brussels sprouts from seed back in February and planted them in early March. They were growing great but before they started producing their veggies, the cabbage worms devoured them, stalk and all.

It assumed the rabbits got in there but the fence was still intact and I found cabbage worms on some of the leaves.

Can they totally destroy the crop in a few days? What can you do to prevent them?

I doubted they would grow back in time before the hot weather came and I needed the space, so I pulled them out.

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kandm(8b coastal alabama)

If you don't want to use chemicals, even organic ones then remember to use floating covers next year. As it is you can hand pick them and squish the eggs, use Bacillus Thuringiensis, aka BT or make some insecticidal soap. You must use a "real" soap aka one that has lye in it so that rules out dish soaps. I like to use Fels Naptha or Zote, they are both pretreatment laundry bar soaps that you can find in most Hardware stores.

Grate 1 tsp of the soap and add it to 1 quart of water. You can add some oil to this to help the mixture stick. Remember, don't try to substitute detergent or dish soap.

Good luck!

    Bookmark   May 8, 2010 at 8:54AM
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Yes, they can destroy your entire crop, no matter how big it is.

I'm not a chemical user, either, neighbor, 5 acres away, is the most careless "gardener" I know. I had to quit growing things like brussel's sprouts, etc. because he wouldn't eliminate the worms...and, he uses chemicals.

They spend the winter in the soil in a "caccoon". Find the moth that lays the eggs & kill it & everyone like it. You've got to be VERY attentive, if ya want a nice garden.

Read the life cycle of them & that will help you decide how to TRY and eliminate them.

Good luck!

ps...I NEVER had tomato worms until the careless "gardener" moved in. I still grow tomatoes, but...I'm out 2-3 times a day making sure I didn't miss any during the morning search.

    Bookmark   May 8, 2010 at 8:56AM
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digdirt2(6b-7a No.Cent. AR HZ8 Sun-35)

Cabbage Worm

Bt dust (Dipel) or Thuricide (liquid form) are the control of choice. It is a natural bacteria and both forms are organic approved.

Otherwise it is row covers from day of planting out.

If you search both terms - cabbage worm and cabbage looper - you'll find many discussions here on how to control them as well as discussions on Bt.


    Bookmark   May 8, 2010 at 9:38AM
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IMHO, there is nothing wrong with using chemicals if done correct. Too much you can damage your garden and possibly your self. Too little and it won't do the job and even make it worse because you kill the less tolerant. The ones with most resistant live to reproduce a generation of resistant insects, worms or what ever. Organic, IMHO again--- well some mentioned home made concoctions, Example with soap with lye in it. Well if it kills the insect, bug or what ever it is poisonous. With that mix, how much to use??? and how much research had gone in it?. With chemicals, millions of dollars of research had gone in it and it is approved by EPA. Has EPA, dept. of Ag or anyone approved the home made stuff??

    Bookmark   May 8, 2010 at 10:19AM
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I used spinosad (Captain Jack's Dead Bu Brew) to spray over my broccoli, cauliflower, and kohlrabi. It's a bacterial based pesticide, and it works great for me. If it matters, I am sure Dow spent millions of dollars to create Captain Jack's Dead Bug Brew.

    Bookmark   May 8, 2010 at 1:18PM
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It's worth noting that Spinosad is more broad spectrum than Bt (which only controls larvae of moths & butterflies) and persists longer. If you have several different pests you want to control in the brassicas that might be a selling point. It does have adverse effects on some beneficials (eg parasitic wasps).

The method of control with the least side effects would be netting/row covers. Lots of people have posted about that in the last year or so, including pictures of their set-up and discussion about cheapest sources of fabric. Of course, that's only really practical if you're growing the brassicas in blocks or rows. For those of us doing a potager style it's a bit problematic.

    Bookmark   May 8, 2010 at 8:08PM
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bluebirdie(Z8 SF E Bay)

Since I went organic a few years back after started planting greens (been planting 20 yrs but tomato only), the worm problem really dropped down. For the rare cabbage worms, I handpicked them and spray deterrent on the whole plant which really works for greens that do not require pollination. The tonic is made of organic soap, garlic, and german chamomile from my yard. It's kind of a pain to respray after rain, but easy to wash off before cooking.

I do use collars on brussel sprouts, but I think it's for completely different problems than yours.

This may be off topic, but another side effect was the slug problem was worsen by the scale of 100 since the garden went organic. I think the slugs post equal amount of damage to my brassica. They eat the whole seedling except the root. I have to add a soda bottle dome to every seedling and only remove them when the plant is large enough to sustain the damage.

    Bookmark   May 8, 2010 at 9:43PM
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ausbirch - I know spinosad does kill off a few helpful insects, such as the wasps, but I am okay with that at the moment. Every year my balcony deck is inhabited by a swarm of wasps. They are constantly building their nests in our gas grill, and under the railing ledge of the deck. I've gripped the ledge of my balcony's railing and gotten stung. While I do see the wasps chasing after pests on my brassicas, I could do with a few less wasps on my deck. I figure using spinosad to kill off a few wasps is way better than spraying that chemical based pesticide on my balcony deck.

    Bookmark   May 8, 2010 at 10:02PM
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heather38(6a E,Coast)

No prob's killing beneficial insects in inconvenient location's, but last year I had 2 gardens and my neighbour who's garden I was using, didn't like my holy cabbage and used a liberal sprinkling of Selvin, on them, this year I am in mine only, I am grateful for the space she gave me last year, but after the Selvin, I found myself fighting a losing battle, in that garden, At that point I didn't understand about beneficial insects, and pesticide is actually just insecticide.
this year I am in my garden totally and amazed how few nasties I have had to date, I am not organic, just a nurse who on reading the back of a selvin pack, realized, I am not a farmer, and can not be precise on dosing.
not using insecticides seems to have worked for me this year, to date, I am not against, I am against blanket bombing, hand picking works for me, but I have a real tiny garden.

    Bookmark   May 8, 2010 at 11:15PM
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heather38 - I think the size of the garden has a lot to do with how many pests you attract. The more garden beds I put in, the more pests I seem to have. I know it's probably my imagination, but I swear the cabbage moths hang out by my shade garden waiting for me to put my broccoli and cauliflower in.

    Bookmark   May 8, 2010 at 11:32PM
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heather38(6a E,Coast)

hehe, get you, That's why I said I have a tiny garden, I am not against, just while I can do it, I will :-)

    Bookmark   May 9, 2010 at 12:29AM
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veggiefaery, I'm not sure spinosad actually is toxic to the large predatory wasps like hornets or yellow-jackets, which is what I think you're referring to.
The parasitic wasps I was thinking of a very much smaller and never sting humans. Trichogramma species, which lay their eggs inside the eggs of moths like the ear-worm, are about half a millimetre in length.
There are other susceptible wasp species that are a bit bigger - maybe two or three mm at the most.

    Bookmark   May 9, 2010 at 6:00PM
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I have grown spring and fall broccoli under row covers and they never complained. Even covers made of tulle will keep out cabbage white butterflies (but not grasshoppers). Those guys are so darn visible. When you see a lot of them and you're not using row covers, weekly sprays with BT or spinosad are pretty much required. You'll get protection from armyworms, too, which seem to move in just when the cabbage whites become less of a threat. Keep trying. Once you figure out the details, you can grow good crops twice a year.

    Bookmark   May 10, 2010 at 9:36PM
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ppod(6 SE NY)

Scroll down to Fanfortony's picture of a tulle row cover (Apr 30, 09).

( "disappointed in row covers/will netting work for cabbage moth"

If you click on the picture, you'll get to Photobucket w/more pics.

Here is a link that might be useful: Fanfortony's tulle row cover

    Bookmark   May 10, 2010 at 10:12PM
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This is how I am planning to protect my Cabbage. I have build a cage to enclose my SFG.
Not sure about any inconvenience it might bring first time gardener here.


    Bookmark   May 11, 2010 at 9:16PM
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I've often thought of using PVC 1/2" pipe to make individual cages that can be heightened/added onto, as my Brussels grow up & draping row cover over them. The cages would store easily, as they'd be disassembled at the end of the season.

Maybe, some year I'll do that.

    Bookmark   May 11, 2010 at 10:45PM
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tdscpa(z5 NWKS)


I agree! Nice cage. I'm going to have to do something similar, but much bigger. What I used since last summer is not going to work much longer, until next fall. Unfortunately, my greenhouse kit did not include the full "screen" glazing option.

I do wonder about the amount of your "soil", however. It looks rather shallow, and it seems to me it may quickly turn too hot to grow cabbage.

Here is a link that might be useful: Cabbage (and Brussels sprouts) cage

    Bookmark   May 14, 2010 at 3:59AM
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spiced_ham(z5 OH)

Collards are supposedly prefered over other cabbage relatives so you can use them for a trap crop, by sticking them in and aroudn the others. Then concentrate your squishing and/or spraying to those plants. The problem I am finding is that the white cabbage butterflies get to them while I'm trying to harden them off.

    Bookmark   May 14, 2010 at 8:03AM
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emmers_m(9a/Sunset 7 N Cal)

I was 'disappointed in row covers' (linked above) so I tried tulle last year on the nifty row houses a very generous and ingenious SO built for me - it worked well, but there were still a few lingering problems. The tulle was very fragile and ripped easily when it caught on the wood - those using pvc likely wouldn't have this problem - last year was very very wet and it seemed like the tulle was still restricting airflow a bit and even the 108" width wasn't quite wide enough to accomodate the height of the row houses, which themselves were still shorter than the brussels sprouts! So this year I bought 2 lengths of 72" nylon netting, which is similar to tulle but cheaper, stiffer, and with larger holes hoping to fix those problems, and here is my finished brassica bed for this year:

and a close-up of the netting:

    Bookmark   May 19, 2010 at 9:10PM
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jollyrd(Richmond VA)

I have problem with cabbages too. Without considering row covers, - if I have rain every other day, what are my options? I spray Bt and it gets rained off. Is there something physical permanent that can help? Crushed egg shells?

    Bookmark   May 20, 2010 at 10:25AM
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