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 cabbages. As a result, it is vital that you get rid of them before an infestation begins.
Cabbage worms are the larvae or caterpillars of the small cabbage white butterfly (Pieris rapae) .
The white or black-tipped pale butterflies are particularly delightful to some gardeners. However, when it comes to vegetable crops, they are not so welcome.
These butterflies may not cause much trouble; however, their larval phase can be very destructive, creating many holes in cabbage leaves and other vegetables.
The larvae, otherwise called cabbage maggots, are hairy velvety green garden worms. 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 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.
You’ll find quite a few types of caterpillars on cabbage. One of which is the cabbage looper, so named for its body-looping movement.
You can identify the diamond-backed and zebra caterpillars by their markings. They have black and white markings while the diamond moth worm has black and white dots on green. Cabbage whites are familiar woolly green caterpillars.
Adults lay eggs singly spaced in tiny yellow or white dots on plant leaves. However, these should not be confused with similar clusters of eggs that indicate the beneficial ladybug is around.
Pick or rub off 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 frosts, 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. Companion Plants
Growing plants close by that deter cabbage bugs is another organic method of control.
Marigolds are known for deterring a wide range of pests and are attractive too in the vegetable patch. Other good companion plants for cabbage include thyme, tansy, sage, oregano, and peppermint.
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 (BT) Spray
This is a type of bacteria naturally occurring in the soil that can eliminate cabbage moth caterpillars and similar soil-dwelling pests.
Purchase Bt spray for cabbage worms from reputable online stores or from your local gardening center. Use it following the instructions on the package.
This cabbage worm killer works by preventing them from feeding and is most successful against younger, tiny green worms.
6. Neem Oil Spray
Like BT, neem oil inhibits the feeding action of those small green worms on plants; thus, disrupting their life cycle.
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. Shake well and use it to coat your plants.
Another effective cabbage worm home remedy is dusting cornmeal onto target plants of these caterpillars. They will gradually swell up and die after eating it.
Another way to stop cabbage worms 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 them. 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 4 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 oil into the mixture. Spray on, around, and under plants at all stages in their life cycle.
This DIY spray repels cabbage caterpillars. However, handpicking and dropping them into a bucket of this soapy water solution will suffocate and kill them.
12. Spinosad Spray
This is a great natural insecticide for cabbage worms because it kills them within 1-2 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 cabbage worms.
They release bacteria into the pests, destroying them. Purchase beneficial nematodes from reputable online farm stores.
For the organic gardener, cabbage maggots and many other insect pests can be controlled by natural methods. Try them out to see what works best for you.