Cabbageworm Control: How to Identify, Prevent and Get Rid of Cabbageworms

Cabbageworms or imported cabbageworms belong to the family of butterflies. They are usually an inch in length and has a soft, velvety body with green color. They have yellow stripes and fine hair all over the body. It has five sets of legs and they move in a sluggish manner. When they mature, on the other hand, they turn into light yellow or white butterfly with a wingspan of one to two inches. They also have black spots on the wings.

Knowing how to get rid of cabbageworms is essential to make sure that they do not cause significant damage in the garden. Although they are slow-movers, it does not take long before they can destroy garden crops. From as early as they are in the form of eggs, it will be good to already detect their presence and get rid of them before they grow fully.

Cabbageworms on the Leaves

Cabbageworms are on the Surface of Leaves

Cabbageworm’s Habitat

These pests feed on the leaves of the plants they are infesting. During the larval stage, they are on the surface of leaves, or sometimes, underneath, depending on the specific plant where you can find them. As it grows older, it becomes more damaging and it affects the heads and stems, eventually leading to defoliation. Cabbageworms are common in the United States and the southern part of Canada.

During winter, the cabbageworm is still in its pupal stage. It gets out of its hard case in spring, and it starts laying eggs after mating. In just a week, these eggs will hatch and start feeding on host plants. When they reach the form of an adult butterfly, on the other hand, they frequently flutter around from spring to fall.

Identifying Cabbageworm’s Damage 

Plants Affected

This is a pest that appears in the plants from the brassica family. they are common in cabbages, broccoli, kale, and cauliflower.


The following are some of the most common signs of the presence and infestation of cabbageworms in plants:

  • The appearance of holes in the leaves is perhaps the most common indication of their presence in a plant. Even if there are only two worms present in a single plant, they can cause heavy damage. A few holes, on the other hand, will not hurt as it is common. If there are more holes than the normal, you should start thinking of the best solutions to get rid of cabbageworms.
  • Aside from holes, there are also visible changes in the color of the leaves. They will leave translucent scars on the surface.
  • Pay attention as well to the heads of the cabbage or in any other plant. They will lead to missing chunks and small gaps.
  • There will also be traces of fecal droppings. Cabbageworms will drop a dark green matter on the leaves and other parts of the plant.

Results of Infestation

Like in the case of other common garden pests, cabbageworms can lead to unsightly damages, and in the end, this can kill your crops. They eat the base of the plant, and eventually, the head. Aside from the symptoms above, it leaves only the veins and stems of the plant. It causes an extreme case of defoliation. It takes out the nutrients needed by the plant to survive. They dig holes on the heads of plants like cabbage, broccoli, and cauliflower, making them unsafe for consumption. For farmers and commercial growers, this equates to a huge financial loss.

Kale Eaten by Worm

Leaves Damaged by Cabbageworms

How Get Rid of Cabbageworms

Natural and Organic Solutions

Here are some of the best ways to get rid of cabbageworms in a manner that is safe and effective:

  • Handpicking the eggs of cabbageworms is a simple yet effective method to get rid of them. Pay attention to their physical characteristics so that you will know if they are present in a plant. This works best if you only have a small garden and not a commercial plantation. It is important to dispose the eggs properly so that they won’t be a problem in the future.
  • Encouraging the presence of the natural enemies of cabbageworms is one of the best solutions to eliminate them. These predators will make your job a lot easier. Some of the perfect examples of the latter include green lacewing, yellow jackets, and beetles. Birds are also great. Trichogramma wasps are helpful as well as they destroy the egg even before they can cause severe damages.
  • It will also be good to make your own spray. Most of the ingredients are available in the kitchen. You do not need to spend a lot. Garlic and citrus sprays will yield successful outcomes.
  • The use of diatomaceous earth is also an effective solution for pest control. Simply put, the latter is made from fossil remains of diatoms, a form of single-cell algae. It has silica, which is the main component that makes it effective in combatting pests like cabbageworms. Simply sprinkle it around the affected plants.

Chemical Solutions

There are conventional pesticides that are effective in the elimination of cabbageworms. However, one problem is that they also kill other insects, including those that can be beneficial for the garden. Using these chemicals should be done with caution, especially because they contain toxic ingredients. Some of the most popular include lambda-cyhalothrin, esfenvalerate, and endosulfan, among others.

How to Prevent Cabbageworms

It is better to act early before the infestation occurs. Do not wait before it is too late to act. With this, one of the best preventive measures is to use a protective row cover on the top of the plant. This prevents the butterflies from laying eggs on your crops. It is also a good idea to have the right companion plants, which will discourage the presence of cabbageworms. Thyme is one of the plants that can help. In the same way, you might also want to plant red-leafed cabbage.

Another solution that can work is the use of a nylon stocking, which covers the entire head of the cabbage or similar plants. Leave it until the time of harvest. This will protect them from possible infestation.

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