Garden Insects: Imported Cabbage Worms

Identification

Look for 1-inch long, velvety green caterpillars with a yellow stripe down their back. The imported cabbage worm butterfly is white with dark wing spots and a 1 1/4 inch wingspan. The female butterflies are very active during the day and lay hundreds of yellow-colored eggs on the undersides of leaves.

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Favorite Plants

Broccoli, cabbage, cauliflower, greens and other members of the cabbage family are these pests' Favorite Plants.

Damage

Caterpillars chew large, ragged holes in leaves, leaving behind a trail of dark green excrement.

Organic Methods of Control:

Cultural or Mechanical

  • Hand pick caterpillars off of plants.

  • Use floating row covers on seedlings.

  • Interplant mint, sage, rosemary, thyme, or hyssop.

  • Use butterfly nets or yellow and white sticky traps to capture female butterflies.

  • When possible, grow cabbage plants that are less attractive to caterpillars like red cabbage cultivars.

Biological

  • Release trichogramma wasps or lacewings.

  • Spray with Bt (Bacilus thuringiensis) every two weeks.

Chemical

  • Dust wet plants with lime.

  • Spray worms with a solution consisting of 1 ounce of salt to 1 gallon of water.
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  • Spray with a mixture of soap and lime for three days before harvesting to kill young worms.

  • Spray crops with neem as a last resort.

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