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Organic Gardening

Get dirty, have fun and grow more food with great gardening tips from real-life gardeners.

5 Signs You Have Cabbage Worms in Your Garden


1. You are growing their favorite food

As you can guess from their name, cabbage worms primarily attack plants in the cabbage family, but are not exclusively cabbage feeders. Plants that cabbage worms find the most tasty are:

  • Broccoli
  • Cauliflower
  • Brussels sprouts
  • Collards
  • Kale
  • Turnip greens
  • Radishes
  • Other cabbage greens

2. You have holes in your plants

Since cabbage worms are such voracious eaters, as little as 2 or 3 worms on your plants can spell disaster for the overall health of your broccoli or other plant.

Common signs will be holes in your leaves. A simple google search can connect you to many pictures of cabbage worm damage.

3. You notice dark green droppings on your leaves

A tell-tale sign that you are becoming infested with cabbage worms are their droppings. When you start to notice dark green droppings on your leaves, inspect the underside of your leaves as that is where cabbage worms tend to lay their eggs.

4. A lot more butterflies present

Since caterpillars are in essence the larvae stage of caterpillars, if you start to notice more butterflies hanging around your garden, chances are, you have an infestation of cabbage worms or if you experience one of the previous symptoms, it might be too late.

5. Time of year = Spring or summer

Spring and summer are the time of the year that cabbage worms have awaken from their Winter slumber and are now in search of food and laying their eggs. 

Organic control of cabbage worms

If you have experienced this infestation in the past or for those proactive gardeners who are getting prepared for the already started 2012 gardening season, the most common and popular organic control for cabbage worms revolves around the use of bacillus thuringiensis or BT.

This natural bacteria eliminates cabbage worms through ingestion. One of the most popular BT products is Safer® Brand Caterpillar Killer with BTand is available in an 8 ounce concentrated formula or in Safer® Brand Garden Dust, which is a powder formula and is OMRI® Listed.  

Your turn

In the comments below, let me know if you have noticed cabbage worms in your garden

ライアン 海賊王
4/19/2013 4:37:49 AM

Grow sage among the cabbages to protect them from the little caterpillars. The adult moths hate the smell and won't lay their eggs on them in the first place.

barbara young
9/22/2012 1:17:22 PM

The white "butterflies" (actually moths) are the worst culprit. I used agri-bond that lets in 85% of light to prevent the white moths from landing on my kale this spring. It helped with the green loopers, but made a great safe greenhouse for smaller worms and flea beetles. So I remembered something I read from Ruth Stout years ago--take a hose and spray off the plants every night. My greens perked up a lot. You can wash off a lot of bad critters with a stiff hose--though I suppose they can crawl back up on the plant. Hand-picking off the worms helps.

heather grenzig
7/28/2012 6:55:18 PM

I noticed some earlier this summer, well before the cabbage had started to form a head. I picked off about four worms per plant and also removed their eggs. I did this every other day for about two weeks. That's all it took! My eyes are better than hubby's, so I was quite successful at finding the buggers. They do blend in well (on green cabbage). It was well worth it, however, because we have never had healthier plants than we do this year.