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Cabbage is a cool-weather vegetable that is susceptible to attack from several types of cabbage pests, including the cabbageworm and the cabbage moth. These pests can wreak havoc on your cabbage crop, causing extensive damage and even death to your plants.
Luckily, there are a few simple steps you can take to protect your cabbages from these destructive pests. But before we get into that first let’s understand a bit about cabbage worms and cabbage moths. Because early detection is essential for effective cabbageworm control.
What is A Cabbage Moth :
scientific name Mamestra brassicae.
Cabbage moths are named after the vegetable cabbage as they are most frequently seen in them. But you will find them in cauliflower, broccoli, spinach, lettuce, tomatoes and peas, tobacco, and other cash crops.
A cabbage moth can be brown, white, or black in color. They can be 1.5 inches long.
Cabbage Moth Vs Cabbage Butterflies:
Please remember cabbage moths and cabbage butterflies (Pieris rapae) are not the same species. Although both are from the order Lepidoptera cabbage butterflies belong to the Pieridae family whereas Cabbage Moths, are a part of the Noctuidae family.
They also look very different. Adult cabbage moths are roughly 10mm long, and mottled grey with a diamond pattern on their wings. A cabbage white butterfly on the other hand is around 40mm and has white wings with small black corner spots.
The only thing similar between the two is that they share similar habits, cause similar problems, and you can deal with them in similar ways. This is the reason why people usually refer to the term cabbage moth and cabbage butterflies interchangeably.
cabbage moth life cycle
The cabbage moth is a small, destructive insect that can be found near cabbages and other leafy greens. The cabbage moth’s life cycle consists of four stages: eggs, caterpillars, pupae, and adults.
cabbage moth eggs
After mating cabbage moths lay their eggs on the underside of cabbage leaves. The eggs are pale white, oblong, hemispherical, and ribbed. These eggs hatch into caterpillars within a few days.
cabbage moth caterpillar
The caterpillars hatch and feed on the leaves for two to three weeks before pupating. The Cabbage Moth caterpillar is responsible for the majority of the damage done to crops. The caterpillars feed on the leaves for around two weeks before pupating.
The Pupae stage is when the caterpillar spins a cocoon and metamorphoses into an adult moth. The pupae are generally 20mm long. You may find The pupae in the ground anywhere from 2–10 mm deep into the soil.
Adults emerge from pupae after about 10 days.
The adult moths are brown with a wingspan of about 1 inch. They mate and lay eggs within a week of emerging from the pupae. Females can lay up to 300 eggs during their lifetime.
The cabbage moth life cycle is complete when the adults die, typically within two months.
Cabbage moth control
If you’re a gardener, chances are you’ve had to deal with cabbage moths at some point. These little pests can wreak havoc on your plants, but there is a way to control them.
1. Manually Remove cabbage moths and worms:
If you’re interested in keeping your cabbage crop safe from hungry caterpillars, you’ll be happy to know that it is possible to control cabbage moths manually with nothing but your hands. Although it may seem like a lot of work, a little bit of preventative maintenance can go a long way. Here’s what you need to do:
Check your plants regularly for signs of damage. Look for chewed leaves and caterpillars themselves.
Please remember cabbage worms are most often found on the underside of leaves. So always examine the underside of leaves for the little oblong white to yellow dots.
Once you find them simply remove cabbage worms by hand. You can also go after eggs. This way you will remove the pests before they have caused any damage to your plants.
Another sign of cabbage worm infestation is cabbage worm poop that they leave behind. The poop is also a key indicator that a cabbage caterpillar is nearby.
2. Use Floating Row Covers to Protect Your Plants:
Floating row covers are an effective way to keep cabbage moths off your plants. They work by creating a physical barrier that the moths can’t penetrate.
You can use row covers on individual plants, raised beds, or a patch of your garden. A row covers not only block out pests or other undesirable elements but can also be used as frost protectors or provide shade.
A floating row cover like this will also protect your tender young seedlings from birds.
You can find floating row covers at most garden stores, or you can make your own.
One of the major problems of using floating row covers is that it will also prevent pollinating agents like bees and butterflies as well as other beneficial insects from coming to your plant.
3. Use Polyculture Techniques:
One simple way to prevent cabbage moths from decimating your crops is by using polyculture methods. Polyculture simply means planting a variety of crops in close proximity to one another.
Cabbage moths are attracted to brassicas, so to prevent the worms from destroying your crops you will also add other plants that are not from the Brassicaceae family.
As the variety increases you will make it harder for the moths to find their target and spread.
When you use a single crop in your whole garden you make it easier for the pests to create havoc. Just make sure you are planting companion plants together and not planting anything that might actually hurt the plant itself.
4. Use Companion Planting techniques:
You can use companion planting methods to deter cabbage worms, moths, and other common pests. Some of the best examples of brassica companion plants are thyme, dill, oregano, lavender, onions, garlic, marigolds, etc. These plants release chemicals that deter pests like cabbage moths.
Another simple variation to these is to use trap crops. A trap crop like Nasturtium attracts cabbage worms and lures them away from your cabbage (the main plant).
You can find more about companion planting here in this post.
5. Use Beneficial Insects:
Using beneficial insects to protect a plant from pest attacks is probably one of the most ignored techniques among gardeners. But it can give you amazing results if you can use it properly.
Cabbage worms and caterpillars can be a problem for gardeners, but there are ways to prevent them from using beneficial insects. Trichogramma wasps are one type of beneficial insect that can help control cabbage pests.
These wasps lay their eggs inside the eggs of the cabbage moth, and stop the eggs from hatching. Another type of beneficial insect is the green lacewing, which eats the larvae of the cabbage moth.
Unlike other large wasps, these Trichogramma wasps do not bite or sting and will go virtually unnoticed. So you can definitely try them out.
6. Use Bacillus Thuringiensis (Bt) Spray on Cabbage Worms:
Another way you can control cabbage moths and cabbage worms is to use BT, or Bacillus thuringiensis.
BT is a bacteria that kills caterpillars, and cabbage moths are caterpillars. They are only harmful to worms and moths and are pretty much harmless for humans and pets.
To use it, mix it with water according to the directions on the package, and spray it on your plants.
There are also premixed BT solutions that you can use in your garden.
7. Neem Oil Spray:
Another popular way to fight cabbage moths and cabbage worms is to apply neem oil.
Neem oil is a natural pesticide that is made from the neem tree and is safe for both humans and animals. It works by disrupting the life cycle of the cabbage moth, preventing them from laying eggs.
You can use it as a preventative measure or treat an infestation. Neem oil will also protect your plants from insects like aphids, thrips, spider mites, mealybugs, scales, and white flies.
Neem oil is usually readily available at most garden stores or online.
If you want to use neem oil in your garden, first read this article. Although neem oil is a natural pesticide that does not harm humans and animals if you apply the oil incorrectly it can cause harm to your plants.
In conclusion, the cabbage moth is a destructive pest that can ruin your plants. Thankfully, there are some simple ways to protect your plants from this moth.
To protect your plants, take measures to prevent the moth from laying its eggs on your plants and monitor your plants regularly for signs of infestation. By following the tips above, you can keep your plants safe from the cabbage moth and enjoy a healthy garden.
I hope this post was helpful to you. If you are a cabbage grower or want to grow cabbage in your garden definitely check out these.
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