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10 Effective Prevention and Control Methods for Cabbage Worms in Your Garden

How to Deal with Cabbage Worms in Your Garden: Prevention and Control Methods

For many gardeners, cabbage worms can be a pesky pest that can wreak havoc on their gardens. These green, worm-like insects are the larvae form of cabbage butterflies and have a white body with black spots.

They are notorious for feeding on a variety of plants, including broccoli, cauliflower, brussel sprouts, mustard greens, kale, collard greens, radishes, tomatoes, potatoes, squash, and even watermelon. Cabbage worms are one of the most common pests found in vegetable gardens, and they can cause significant damage to the foliage, leading to potential infestation.

So how do you tackle cabbage worms in your garden? In this article, we will explore the identification, feeding habits, and reasons for cabbage worms in gardens, as well as prevention and control methods.

Understanding Cabbage Worms

Identification of Cabbage Worms

Cabbage worms are the larval form of cabbage butterflies. They have a white body with black spots and can vary in size, from about half an inch to an inch long.

They are often found on the underside of leaves, making them difficult to spot. When they are disturbed, cabbage worms will wiggle and contort their bodies, making it difficult for predators to catch them.

Feeding Habits of Cabbage Worms

Cabbage worms are most commonly associated with plants in the Brassica family, including cabbage, broccoli, cauliflower, kale, collard greens, spinach, radish greens, turnip greens, and Brussel sprouts. They also feed on tomato leaves and potato leaves.

If left unchecked, cabbage worms can quickly defoliate plants, leading to a reduction in photosynthesis and stunted plant growth.

Reasons for Cabbage Worms in Gardens

The distribution of cabbage worms is widespread, with populations found in North America and Europe. Adult butterflies lay eggs on host plants, and the eggs hatch into the larval form.

Cabbage worms reproduce quickly, and their population can explode if not controlled.

Plants that Attract Cabbage Worms

As mentioned, cabbage worms are attracted to plants in the Brassica family. If you are growing these plants in your garden, it’s essential to monitor them regularly for signs of cabbage worm infestation.

Prevention and Control Methods

Preventing Adults from Laying Eggs

One of the most effective ways to prevent cabbage worms from damaging your garden is to stop adult butterflies from laying eggs. You can do this by covering your plants with plant covers, such as Flarmor Floating Row Covers.

These covers provide an effective barrier against breeding adults, preventing them from accessing your plants. Additionally, regular inspection of your plants can help to detect signs of breeding adults and allow you to take action before they lay eggs.

Manual Removal of Cabbage Worms

If you notice signs of cabbage worm infestation, you can manually remove them from your plants. To do so, prepare a bucket of soapy water and prune any affected foliage.

Gently shake the leaves or tap them on the bucket to dislodge any cabbage worms, dropping them into the soapy water to drown. It’s also essential to dispose of any infested foliage to prevent further infestation.

Natural Remedies for Cabbage Worm Control

If you prefer a more organic approach to pest control, there are several natural remedies you can use to control cabbage worms in your garden. One such remedy is BT (Bacillus thuringiensis).

This organic insecticide is effective in warm weather and can be sprayed directly onto affected foliage. Additionally, predators such as stink bugs, ladybugs, ambush bugs, wasps, and birds are known to feed on cabbage worms.

Encouraging biodiversity in your garden can help attract these predators. Planting pest-resistant plant varieties and using Neem oil can also help prevent cabbage worm infestation.


Cabbage worms can be a frustrating pest to deal with in your garden. By understanding their identification, feeding habits, and reasons for infestation, you can take proactive measures to prevent and control them.

Implementing prevention and control methods, such as covering your plants to prevent adult butterflies from laying eggs, manually removing cabbage worms, and using natural remedies, can help manage cabbage worm infestation in your garden. In addition to identifying cabbage worms and implementing prevention and control measures, it’s essential to understand their life cycle and behavior to effectively manage them in the garden.

Additionally, certain plant choices in garden design can help deter cabbage worms and other pests. In this article, we will explore the life cycle and behavior of cabbage worms, as well as plants to avoid and encourage in garden design.

Life Cycle and Behavior of Cabbage Worms

Cabbage worms go through several stages in their life cycle, with multiple generations per year. Overwintering larvae then form pupae in the spring and continue to reproduce throughout the growing season.

Adult butterflies lay their greenish-yellow eggs on the undersides of leaves, which hatch into small, white caterpillars. The larvae then feed on the host plant, passing through several molts as they grow.

Fully-grown larvae pupate in the soil, and adult butterflies emerge to start the cycle over again. Cabbage worms are most active in moderately cool weather and are less active in hot, dry conditions.

They are social insects that tend to congregate on plants, but they are also adept at hiding on the underside of leaves and in plant debris.

Plants to Avoid and Encourage in Garden Design

When designing your garden, it’s important to choose plant varieties that are resistant to cabbage worms and other pests. Planting Brassica-resistant varieties can help deter cabbage worms.

Additionally, choosing disease and pest-resistant plants can help prevent infestations. Natural biodiversity in your garden can also be beneficial in deterring pests.

Avoid planting a large area with just one type of plant, as this makes it easier for pests and diseases to spread. Instead, incorporate a variety of plants that naturally attract beneficial insects and pollinators.

Fungus and other diseases can also make your plants more susceptible to cabbage worm infestation. Avoid planting cabbage-related plants in the same location in consecutive years, as this can lead to the buildup of soilborne pathogens.

Additionally, keep garden beds free of plant debris, as this can harbor pests and diseases. Weeds can also provide shelter and food for pests like cabbage worms.

Keep your garden beds free of weeds to deter pests and allow your plants to thrive.

Plants that Encourage Beneficial Insects

Encouraging beneficial insects in your garden can help control cabbage worm populations. These insects feed on their eggs, larvae, and pupae, naturally controlling their population.

Some plants that attract beneficial insects include:

– Milkweed: Attracts ladybugs, lacewings, and monarch butterflies

– Dill: Attracts ladybugs and wasps

– Fennel: Attracts ladybugs, lacewings, and parasitic wasps

– Yarrow: Attracts ladybugs, lacewings, and hoverflies

– Aster: Attracts lacewings and parasitic wasps

These plants not only attract beneficial insects but can also add beauty to your garden. Consider incorporating them into your garden design to help control cabbage worms and other pests.


Understanding the life cycle and behavior of cabbage worms is crucial in effectively managing them in your garden. Additionally, choosing the right plant varieties and incorporating natural biodiversity in your garden can help deter pests and encourage beneficial insects.

By taking preventative measures and implementing natural control methods, you can have a thriving and pest-free garden. In conclusion, cabbage worms can be a frustrating pest to deal with in your garden, but they can be effectively managed with the right knowledge and techniques.

Identifying cabbage worms, understanding their feeding habits, and taking preventative measures such as covering your plants or manually removing cabbage worms can help prevent infestation. Additionally, implementing natural control methods and choosing the right plant varieties can help deter pests and encourage beneficial insects.

By taking these steps, you can have a thriving and pest-free garden, ensuring the health and success of your plants.

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