After emerging from their eggs, cabbage worms instantly start feeding on surrounding plant parts.
They’ll go after crops like broccoli, kale, cauliflower, lettuce, Brussels sprouts, and cabbage. As a result, it is vital that you get rid of them before an infestation begins.
Imported cabbageworms are the larvae or caterpillars of the small cabbage white butterfly (Pieris rapae) .
These butterflies are particularly delightful to some gardeners. However, when it comes to vegetable crops, they are not so welcome.
They may not cause much trouble. However, their larval phase can be very destructive, creating many holes in cabbage leaves and other vegetables.
The larvae, or cabbageworms, are small, velvety green garden worms with a few faint yellow stripes. You’ll also see signs of their dark green, round poop nearby.
How to Get Rid of Cabbage Worms Naturally
Below are some of the best home remedies and organic solutions to get rid of bugs on your cabbage plants.
1. Manual Removal
A cost-effective organic control remedy to eliminate these destructive crop pests is to pick off the eggs and worms with your hands and dispose of them. To do this, it is necessary to identify them correctly to avoid destroying beneficial insects.
Small white butterflies lay eggs singly, resembling tiny yellow dots on the undersides of leaves.
Large white butterflies lay yellow eggs in clusters on the top or bottom of leaves. However, these should not be confused with similar clusters of eggs that indicate the beneficial ladybug is around.
Pick or rub off the cabbage worm eggs and squish them.
2. Floating Row Covers
Another method to get rid of cabbage worms organically is to use row covers. This works as a prevention method to protect cabbage plants from adult moths and other insect pests.
Row covers also protect young plants from frost, wind, and pets. However, it allows light, air, and water to filter through.
Hold the covers in place over raised beds or single rows of vegetables. Remove them when plants are strong enough and more pest-resistant.
3. Repellent Plants
Growing plants close by that deter cabbage bugs is another organic control method you can try.
Marigolds are known for deterring a wide range of pests. They are also on the list of plants that repel cabbage worms.
Other good companion plants for cabbage plants include thyme, tansy, sage, tomatoes, and peppermint. These will help keep both the moths and caterpillars away.
4. Beneficial Insects
This is one of the most common, yet natural approaches to ridding the garden of pests.
- The ladybug is so good at feeding on these cabbage pests that you can purchase them to help populate the garden.
- Lacewings and damsel bugs are other natural enemies.
- Trichogramma and braconid wasps lay their eggs inside the caterpillar. They then hatch out as larvae, feed on, and destroy the host from the inside.
Planting attractive flowers like marigolds may also encourage insects that are good for the garden.
5. Bacillus Thuringiensis (B.t.)
This is a type of bacteria naturally occurring in the soil that can eliminate cabbage moth caterpillars and the larvae of other moths and butterflies.
Purchase B.t. spray for cabbage worms from reputable online stores or from your local gardening center. Use this cabbage worm killer according to the instructions on the package.
6. Neem Oil Spray
Neem oil is another great home remedy for those small green worms on plants, though it will not kill them on contact. It works best as a preventative measure to stop adult moths from coming around.
To use neem oil for cabbage worms, combine one tablespoon of organic liquid soap with one tablespoon of neem oil and a gallon of water.
Next, pour the solution into a spray container and use it to coat your plants. Use it as a homemade spray for cabbage white butterflies before these pests become a problem.
Another effective cabbage worm home remedy is dusting cornmeal onto the target plants of these caterpillars. They will gradually swell up and die after eating it.
Another way to stop cabbage worms and cabbage loopers is to allow your chickens, ducks, or geese to work for you. These birds naturally enjoy picking off the worms and making a meal out of them.
9. Sticky Traps
As pretty as the white butterflies are, they are probably shedding their eggs there if they are fluttering about the vegetable patch.
Sticky traps can catch cabbage moths. However, be careful, as these may trap helpful pollinators too.
10. Diatomaceous Earth (DE)
This is an old, well-tried, and tested organic pesticide. To use diatomaceous earth for cabbage worms, puff it directly onto the critters, on the leaves, and around plants.
DE powder acts to pierce and dehydrate these soft-bodied pests, eventually killing them. You can also concoct a spray out of diatomaceous earth by mixing half a cup with a gallon of water.
This homemade spray for cabbage worms is safe to use on vegetable crops, even more so if you use food-grade DE.
11. Soap and Water
Make a homemade cabbage worm spray of soap and water to repel the critters. Some people use Dawn dish soap, but we recommend using organic soaps for your vegetable garden.
Combine four tablespoons of liquid soap with one gallon of water to create a spray solution. You can also include a few drops of eucalyptus, tea tree, or rosemary essential oils in the mixture, but reduce the soap to one tablespoon.
If you don’t have essential oils, try adding one cup of vinegar instead. Vinegar will not kill cabbage worms, but it will help repel them. Spray this DIY solution on and around plants.
12. Spinosad Spray
This is a great natural insecticide for cabbage worms because it kills them within 1 to 2 days.
Spinosad is made by a naturally occurring soil bacterium. You can buy it as a ready-prepared spray, sometimes combined with other organic ingredients.
Moreover, this treatment has a toxic effect on a host of other pests.
13. Beneficial Nematodes
Also occurring naturally in the soil, these microscopic roundworms go after the larval stage of the pests.
They release bacteria into the cabbage caterpillars, destroying them. Purchase beneficial nematodes from reputable online farm stores.
The organic gardener can control cabbage maggots and many other insect pests using natural methods. Try them out to see what works best for you.