Cabbage worms are some of the most common and destructive garden pests on the planet. They can be very difficult and frustrating to deal with because of how small and intrusive they are. But thankfully you do not have to suffer these garden pests for too long. Here are some ways to get rid of cabbage worms naturally…
Fast facts about cabbage worms
- “Cabbage worms” can refer to different species. “Cabbage worms” is actually a generic term. It can refer to different caterpillars, worms, and the like that infest gardens. They all have one thing in common, they are attracted to the family of plants known as Brassicaceae — the mustard family of flowering plants. This family includes broccoli, cauliflower, radish, and of course, cabbage. Even though the term is quite generic, many gardeners refer to cabbage white butterflies and moths when using it.
- The larvae are mostly the ones being destructive in your garden. Cabbage worms have multiple stages in their life cycles, from the egg stage to the adult butterfly and moth stage. Between these stages is the larval stage, and this is the part where the pests are considered “cabbage worms.” Adult butterflies and moths are not really destructive to your plants, but their larvae are a different story. They eat through plant matter.
- You should consider getting rid of them with natural methods. It’s okay to get rid of cabbage worms with pesticides. But the problem with these products is that they may also cause damage to your plants. They may also end up killing other insects and affecting the biodiversity outside your home, which can be a bad thing. You can try to get rid of cabbage worms naturally to reduce the risk to plants and insects.
How to get rid of cabbage worms naturally
1. Remove cabbage worms manually
What makes pesticides risky is their ingredients. They are meant to kill, so it’s not farfetched to think that they can harm plants and insects as well. There are natural alternatives like neem oil. But many of these alternatives are not perfect because plants, especially young or sensitive ones, can react negatively to them as well.
The most natural way to get rid of cabbage worms is to remove them manually. You won’t subject your plants to ingredients, natural or otherwise. Simply inspect your plants, and then squish or remove all cabbage worms you find.
Remember that cabbage worms like to stay on the undersides of leaves, so inspect those areas in particular. But they can thrive in other areas as well. They are sneaky little pests that can camouflage themselves in veins.
To avoid reinfestations, inspect your plants frequently, up to about twice per week.
2. Introduce plants that repel cabbage worms
There are certain plants that are believed to naturally repel cabbage worms, such as garlic, marigold, onion, oregano, peppermint, thyme, and wormwood. You can plant them in your patch where you have placed your mustard family plants like cabbages.
It’s actually ideal to place different kinds of plants in a patch. This is called a polyculture. And it can help deter pests because pests don’t end up converging on a single patch. If your entire patch is made only of cabbages, the devastation from cabbage worms can be too great.
Another advantage of polyculture is the promotion of biodiversity. If you have diverse insects in your garden, pests are less likely to thrive because they are getting eaten.
Another gardening technique you can try is the use of a trap crop. In this technique, you plant something that attracts cabbage worms, like cabbages, in an area separate from your real garden. Let the cabbage worms get attracted to those trap crops to keep your real garden safe.
3. Attract beneficial insects into your garden
Beneficial insects are exactly what they sound like — they are insects beneficial to have in your garden. This is because they kill common garden pests like aphids, vine weevils, and yes, cabbage worms.
There are different kinds of beneficial insects — parasitizers, pollinators, and predators. There are particular parasitizers that are very effective against cabbage worms — parasitic wasps. These beneficial insects lay their eggs inside or on top of cabbage worms and other garden pests, killing them.
Take note that parasitic wasps are not as dangerous as, say, the wasps you typically think about. Parasitic wasps like Trichogramma wasps don’t bite or sting. Meanwhile, the wasps you are used to thinking have very dangerous stings.
You can buy beneficial insects online or in garden supply stores. But you can also attract them by having certain plants in your garden. Parasitic wasps like nectar and pollen. Attract them with dill, fennel, Queen Anne’s lace, and zinnias.
4. Try neem oil
Neem oil is a great natural way to get rid of cabbage worms. Upon contact, neem oil coats their bodies and eventually kills them. It’s effective not just against cabbage worms, but also against many soft-bodied garden pests like aphids.
You can already buy neem oil sprays if you don’t want to mix a solution yourself. But if you want to DIY, follow the instructions on the neem oil packaging. Usually, you have to dilute a few drops of neem oil in water and then put the resulting solution in a spray bottle.
Neem oil is actually better as a natural repellent, not as a natural pesticide. This means that it has limited effectiveness if your garden is already infested with cabbage worms. If you are already suffering from an infestation, you can still use neem oil, but only as a supplement to other methods.
5. Use row covers
All these gardening techniques and ingredients can be overwhelming. But if you want to keep it simple, here’s a very simple way to help against cabbage worms — row covers. Simply put row covers on your patches. They don’t just cover your patches from garden pests. They also protect from the elements, like frost.
Be sure to look for the right sizes that will fit your patches properly. And consider getting those that are easy to lift or remove, so you don’t have a hard time accessing your plants when you need to.
Get rid of garden pests as soon as possible
Garden pests like cabbage worms can harm or kill your plants. Get rid of them as soon as you can. Thankfully, there are natural ways to get rid of them. In the case of cabbage worms, you can get rid of them naturally with certain garden techniques like attracting beneficial insects, companion planting, trying polyculture, and manual pest removal. And you can also get rid of them with natural ingredients like neem oil.