How can I get rid of cabbage worms in an organic garden?

dianemowens asks: How can I get rid of cabbage worms in an organic garden?
Something seems to be eating the things in my garden related to the cabbage family. I can only assume it is a cabbage worm, although I have not seen any bugs on anything – just the residual holes in the leaves.

I have an organic garden & don’t want to spray any type of pesticide. Any ideas?

The answer voted best is:

Answer by Chloe
The Cabbage Worm and Parsley worm can cause a lot of damage to leafy green plants and their holes are often mistakenly blamed on some type of flying bug.

The Cabbage Moth
The pretty white butterfly we see in our gardens couldn’t possibly be causing any damage. Most of us think that a bug has to be ugly and black or green to be a “bad” bug. This butterfly can lay eggs on a plant and within a few days they are hatched and eating their weight in leaves every day.

The eggs of the Cabbage Moth
Watch carefully throughout the season for moths and as soon as you see them fluttering start looking for the eggs and worms. Picking them off usually keeps them under control, just keep checking for new damage through the season. Or, you can spray your plants organically underneath the leaves with Bacillus thorniness or BTU to kill the eggs. It washes off in rain and must be applied once a week. Larger caterpillars can be squashed or if you prefer, killed with other organic insecticides like Ne em II. Just follow the directions on the package.

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  1. My step dad taught me well!

    If you see white butterflies flyng around they are the things laying those eggs that make the worms eating your cabbage.

    They do make organic white powder dust that works but not sure where you can get it. I would call your local garden center and ask. You can use that to kill the current worms.

    They way my dad prevented the infestation is to cover the plants with a netting that blocks the butterflies from laying their eggs. Obviously you need to do this early on. Even with this netting the butterflies are very, very persistant and some still find a way through the netting – even with boards holding it down on the edges.

    I don’t know if soapy water sprayed on the worms would work or not. I would try that on a few of them and see what happens too.

    Good luck

  2. Not sure what you mean by “cabbage worm”. In the UK we have cabbage white butterflies whose caterpillars eat cabbage family plants — could it be those? They are conspicuous, chequered green and black, and live in large colonies. Eggs are tiny and bright yellow, in neat groups.

    Also we get small white butterflies, and green-veined whites. The caterpillars of both are soft green, very well camouflaged, and live singly — usually near the centre of the shoot of the plant. Eggs also yellow, but laid singly.

    There is also a cabbage moth, which has mottly green caterpillars — though I’ve never seen this in large numbers.

    Who knows what one gets in other parts of the world…

    The best way to get rid of the butterfly ones without spraying is to keep squashing them. Go out every day, examine each side of every leaf, and squash eggs, babies and full-grown caterpillars. If you’re consistent about it, you’ll get down to reasonable numbers in a week or so — but keep it up every few days thereafter. If your garden is not too near others, you may be able to get the whole local population down too from year to year, but if not, you’ll get new ones from other gardens each year.

    What I did when my daughters were small was to provide them with a financial incentive: 5p per caterpillar (about 10c). This sounds rather a lot — but hey, I was going to give them pocket money anyway! I started off giving them less for eggs and babies, but I realised that it’s those you really need to get — by the time they’re big, they’ve done most of their eating. If you kill a baby or egg, it never eats a cabbage (poor thing). I think in the end I made it 50p for a clutch of large white eggs, then 5p for everything else.

    A child with an incentive can be very consistent… As my girls were a bit squeamish about squashing, they put their hands in a plastic bag — you can also just get them to collect them in a bag and count them up later.

  3. try dusting diatomaceous earth on the plants, however it won’t last after a rain.

    also try trichogamma wasps, they parasitize caterpillars. organic garden stores sell the wasps eggs on little strips of paper for about $ 6 bucks.

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