Something Is Eating Holes in My New Broccoli Plants. What Should I Do?



Something is eating holes in my new broccoli plants. Should I be worried, and if so, what should I do?

If you look very closely on the undersides of the leaves, especially along the leaf veins, you will spot the culprits — green worms (see photo) that have hatched from eggs laid by white cabbage butterflies and their cousins. Beneficial insects and birds will reduce the number of worms but broccoli, cabbage and related brassicas often need some human help to fend off these fast-growing butterfly larvae. Our recent online poll shows which methods are most popular.

Cabbage Worm Control Poll

The Bt product is a good choice; it's made from a bacteria and it only kills the worms that eat it; it won’t harm other insects, pets or humans. Johnny’s Selected Seeds offers a brand (Dipel) as either a dust or a powder that you mix with water and spray. This "dry flowable" powder will last "indefinitely" so you won’t have to buy it fresh every year. And Peaceful Valley Farm Supply sells nifty Solo sprayers that have trombone extensions and adjustable nozzles so that you can get the spray onto the undersides of the leaves, where the caterpillars like to hang out. 

See also: 

8/15/2016 11:18:25 AM

I was wondering if I could use the same thing I use to get rid of other pests-Blue Dawn dish soap and water. I know it works AWESOME for killing ants, so I was wondering if I could lightly spray my plants to kill off nasty critters, like the ones that are eating my new broccoli leaves! Or will it deter good critters as well? Any thoughts?

Barbara Berger
6/13/2012 6:52:35 PM

I just came back from tending to my garden and found holes in the leaves of my broccoli and tuscan kale. Also animals got hold of a few zucchini flowers ! Besides covering the zucchini and eggplant with netting I will try your natural method. Thank you !

Liz Grier
6/9/2012 1:36:20 PM

Let 3 cloves of garlic and 1/2 a sliced onion sit in a gallon of water for a week and spray your plants - including broccoli, tomatoes, ground-huggers like zucchini, melons and cucumbers - after it rains. If you let your plants get off to a healthy start by being consistent with this insect repellant, they need less of it as they get older. It really works in repelling insect pests.

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