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October 05, 2007



Hi Marc,

I have two suggestions about the cabbage worms. First is they are laid by butterflies or moths, and you can cover your plants with netting to keep them off.

I am a 100% organic gardener too, and in fact I don't use it myself, but many gardeners have good luck with Bt. Most people consider Bt organic. It is harmless to everything except caterpillars. Bt is a type of bacteria that damages the gut of caterpillars.

Since Bt is a bacteria that occurs naturally anyway in small quantities, so using it in your garden is not a lot different from say buying a box of ladybugs to eat aphids. Bt is harmless to humans, and you can use it all the way up until harvest. The only annoying thing about it is you have to reapply it after it rains, because it easily washes off.

We were talking about this a month or two ago on Skippy's Garden.

Anyway, good luck with the broccoli!

Yep, I agree with Marc. The netting over the row works nicely. I also find that I can grow broccoli, cabbages and such in the fall without the problem of bugs. They just attract too much attention from unwanted creatures in the summer months.

--Robin (Bumblebee)

Sometimes we have to loose a plant or plants that year due to bugs. I guess it comes with being organic gardeners.

Have you tried BT Marc?

HI Marc.

I also was inundated with green worms on broccoli and kale earlier this year. I made hoops and covered both plots with garden fabric. My neighbors asked if I was expecting a frost soon (in August!!??), but I persisted. The caterpillars are laid by a pretty white butterfly, and I had many flying over my garden.

Anyway, the fabric worked great. I recommend it. In late September I noticed the butterflies were gone, so I have now uncovered the plants. No holes! The kale is delicious, but my broccoli has another month to grow.

Thank you all for the suggestions. I have used row covers in the past to keep out the butterflies but last year I had no problems with them so I guess I was over-confident this year. I have read about BT but have never tried it. I'm still a bit leary about it but Patrick, you have talked me into it. That at least might salvage this Fall's crop. Next year I will go back to using the row covers.

That's interesting that you call them 'cabbage worms'. They look like the caterpillars from the cabbage white butterfly. Is this just the same thing called different names across the ocean?



The cabbage white butterfly are also sometimes called cabbage moths.

I was having a hard time with this in my post too, because I think in part this might be a difference between north and south US, as well as American and UK English. I've completely lost track of what they are called where.


Excellent pictures! You should start a blog about how you have trained your ants to clean up your garden like that. Impressive. :)

Matron, do you call them cabbage caterpillars? That would actually make more sense because scientifically they are caterpillars and not worms. I've always heard this insect called a cabbage worm and my best garden insect guide, Garden Insects of North America, calls it a cabbageworm (Pieris rapae), the larva of the cabbage butterfly a.k.a. cabbage white.

Patrick, the book also mentions a related species, the southern cabbageworm (Pontia protodice) larva of the checkered white, which looks similar to the cabbageworm.

It is interesting that things are called by different names in different places. I guess thats why we need to refer to the Latin name if we want to be perfectly clear about what species of insect or flower we are talking about, but who actually does that?


According to Wikipedia:


The Cabbage Moth (Mamestra brassica) is a common European moth that is a pest to cabbage plants. This same article says the Small White butterfly is sometimes incorrectly called a Cabbage Moth in the US.

Small White Butterfly (Pieris rapae):


This is present almost everywhere in the world, and leaves 'caterpillars' on cabbage plants.

Large White Butterfly (Pieris brassicae):


Is common in parts of Europe, Africa and Asia. It also leaves 'caterpillars'.

The term Cabbage Worm:


is used by agriculturalists to describe the caterpillars above, as well as others.

Perhaps the names you use are not only dependent on where you live, but also if you are an agriculturalist or what kind of species you are talking about.

As far as I'm aware, Bt works for most caterpillars!

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