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How to Combat Cabbage Moths

Updated on June 5, 2015

Moths or Butterfiles, It's the Caterpillars.

You spent time planning and laying out the garden bed; making sure all the plants had the space they needed; where getting enough sunlight and got water what necessary.

You are anticipating the harvest, fresh cabbage, broccoli, Brussel sprouts, Chinese cabbage, celery, and rocket or arugula. You are making your regular rounds of the garden when you realize someone or something has been there before you. Over the past few days you noticed a pretty white butterfly fluttering around the crops or in the evnign a grayish white moth was getting friendly with the broccoli, you paid little attention, just sat back and watch Nature.

This was a bad decision.

Proper identification is essential to effective pest control. The cabbage white butterfly is white and has black spots on the wings. The cabbage moth is greyish and much smaller.

Both moths and butterflies like to lay their eggs on the underside of leaves. When the larvae hatch they have a snack handy and happily munch away. The larvae of caterpillars hatch from the eggs and then feed on the leaves or fruit.

When you spot a cabbage butterfly take it as a signal to look underneath the plants’ leaves. The eggs of the cabbage butterfly are yellowish in colour and are usually found around the outer edges.

If you have had problems with cabbage butterflies in the past, then you may want to cover your brassicas (cabbage, broccoli so on) with a floating row cover. Be sure to check the plants before covering otherwise you may end up protecting the caterpillars from their natural predators such as starlings.

If the caterpillar is blue-green and smooth textured caterpillar it is the cabbage white butterfly and if it is green-brown is that of the cabbage moth. Both do the same damage to your plants.

The best way to combat cabbage butterflies is to hand pick, gloves are wise, them off the plants. This means you need to set up a regular schedule, time when you turn leaves over, for example, to see what is going on.

This is one of the best investments you can make; spending time examining your plants. Do it regularly and you can get to your cabbages before the caterpillars do.

If you see the pretty white butterfly dancing in your cabbage bed, do not just sit there enjoying the performance go take a look at the leaves and see what is actually going on in your garden.


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  • profile image

    6 years ago

    use pantihose over your cabbage. End of problem

  • profile image

    john carrot 7 years ago

    I keep a butterfly net in the garden. They are harder to catch than you might think, especially when they fly right throught the fencing.

  • Bob Ewing profile image

    Bob Ewing 7 years ago from New Brunswick

  • profile image

    Pat 7 years ago

    Cabbage moths/loopers have all but destroyed my small garden. They are eating basil, tomatoes, sage (both regular and pineapple), chard and the parsley is not looking good at this point either. I do not like to spray that which I eat, so what do I do? I have planted dill and marigolds in hope of deterring critters, but no luck. Thanks for any suggestions.

  • Bob Ewing profile image

    Bob Ewing 7 years ago from New Brunswick

    Dill and Hyssop may help deter them.

  • profile image

    Kake 7 years ago

    Thank you so much for the information! I've been picking them and have checked other sites, but is there another natural predator or system that will help?

  • Bob Ewing profile image

    Bob Ewing 7 years ago from New Brunswick

    I would not eat them but put them in compost.

  • profile image

    de-gardener 7 years ago

    Are the worm damaged greens still edible?

  • Bob Ewing profile image

    Bob Ewing 8 years ago from New Brunswick

    crossing fingers for you, thanks for dropping by.

  • gracenotes profile image

    gracenotes 8 years ago from North Texas

    Well, cabbage moths aren't a problem around here right now in Texas. But my impatience is getting to me. The broccoli is getting so big, but no harvest yet. Will I get any to eat before Christmas? No freeze for us yet -- but it will get to about 34 degrees one night this week (crossing fingers about the broccoli!)

  • Bob Ewing profile image

    Bob Ewing 8 years ago from New Brunswick

    I'd harvest them and give them a good look after before using. Thanks for dropping by.

  • AnywhereGardener profile image

    AnywhereGardener 8 years ago

    I have a couple of cabbages growing out of my compost pile and they have fairly large holes in some of the leaves, do you think they are still harvestable, until frost?

  • Bob Ewing profile image

    Bob Ewing 8 years ago from New Brunswick

    Thanks for dropping by

  • profile image

    patti 8 years ago

    I never head of these pests. Intersting.Thank you for sharing. I love to garden. I have many useful pest killers on my hubs.

  • Bob Ewing profile image

    Bob Ewing 8 years ago from New Brunswick

    Thanks, good idea that. Thanks for dropping by.

  • mistyhorizon2003 profile image

    Cindy Lawson 8 years ago from Guernsey (Channel Islands)

    Excellent article Bob. I have used Horticultural fleece to protect my brassicas as I simply have to large an area to check each plant by hand.


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