Cabbage Worms on my Collards and Cabbage

Can you spot the 2 cabbage worms on this collard green?

by Susan Harris

Behold my crop of collards!  What’s left of them after the cabbage worms (or “loopers,” as some visitors to my garden called them) had their fill of them.

And thanks to the “Cabbage Worm Armageddon!!!” story on Maryland’s Grow It Eat It Blog, I know how I could have prevented the total destruction of my collard greens – and red cabbage, too, though not as completely.    The author wishes she’d followed the advice on the very same blog in August and covered her cabbage-worm-susceptible fall greens with tulle, or as she calls it, “tutu fabric”.

But as a new veg-gardener, I didn’t KNOW that collard greens are susceptible to this or any other bug or disease.  I assumed that high up on my deck they’d be as pest-free as any other vegetable.   In fact, the speed with which these critters found my newly purchased collard and cabbage plants makes me wonder – do the caterpillars catch sight of them or smell them?  Impressive scouting work, I must say.

But here’s the trouble with this advice.   Me, I’m just looking for some easy vegetables to fill the containers on my deck and provide a little something for the kitchen, so I’m going to avoid anything that needs that kind of fussing with.   As a hobby gardener I can skip the trouble of growing pest-ridden crops and buy them at the farmer’s market instead.

My visitors suggested I spray my crops with Bt, which is a biologic control that’s safe to use (but a hassle to me), or hand-picking.  I’ve tried hand-picking and it’s ridiculously time-consuming for even the 6 plants I’m trying to grow.   But let’s see what Homestead Garden Guru Gene Sumi recommends to avoid this plague – or having to declare “Armageddon!!!”

One Response to Cabbage Worms on my Collards and Cabbage

  1. Gene Sumi says:

    Prevention is always difficult for most gardeners. To prevent them, you have to kill the moth that lays the eggs from which the cabbage loopers come into this world. This means having the knowledge of when the moth is in the area and spraying the plants to excess so you know that none of the moths could possibly survive and the problem never happens.

    Besides loopers, we could also suffer leaf holes made by Harlequin Beetle which often come at this time of year. So my choice of safe, effective insecticide would be a product that contains Spinosad, a naturally-manufactured chemical made by a specific bacterium, which over-stimulates the insects central nervous system when it ingests it on the foliage. The insect dies of “superovernervousstimulation” within a day or so. Bt is specific to only one genus of insect, while Spinosad kills all chewing insects. At Homestead Gardens, we offer Spinosad in the Bonide Captain Jack’s Deadbug Brew.

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