If you’ve ever grown anything in the cabbage family (Brassicaceae) you may have
struggled with the dreaded cabbage worm!
Cabbage worms are the larval stage of Cabbage Whites or ‘Pieris rapae’, the mostly
white butterfly looks charming when fluttering around your garden but beware, they
are actually laying eggs that can decimate your cole crops!
These wriggly green gluttons can take your kale leaves down to just the skeletal
veins and hinder heading and flowering of cabbage, broccoli, and cauliflower.
To fight these pests you can remove the tiny, individual white eggs by hand. You
can also hand pick the worms when you find them! (This gardener also recommends
crowing in triumph every time you squish one.) Using a row cover to keep the
butterflies from laying eggs is also a huge help. If you are already infested, it is said
that if you wet the leaves of the vegetables and sprinkle them with cornmeal, the
caterpillars will eat the meal, swell, and die.
Cabbage worms also love mustard greens, so planting mustard as a trap crop can
help keep them off your prized cabbages!
So, if you ever see our gardeners shaking their fists at picturesque little butterflies or
muttering angrily over their kale, you’ll know these pesky little pests are the cause of
By Janet Douberly, Program Coordinator at Downtown Greens