When a Cabbage Looper caterpillar rears its ugly head in your vegetable garden, it can be devastating to your cabbage plants. They eat it up fast if you don’t catch it in time, making them look terrible!
I have had them a few times, and when I go outside to look at my beautiful cabbage, I see leaves that look more like lace than cabbage… :/ It’s truly disappointing and reminiscent of Tomato Hornworm damage; only the cabbage leafy greens have actual large and small holes – here, there, and everywhere truly making it look like lace.
But, let’s start at the beginning and find out what they are and how to deal with them.
Today, we’ll be talking about the cabbage looper worm, what are cabbage loopers, and how you can prevent them in your cabbage patch. Let’s get started!
What Is A Cabbage Looper?
Adult Cabbage Loopers are a kind of diamondback moth, also called a gray moth or trichoplusia ni, with a narrow distinct white stripe or a silver “Y” mark on each front wings in the middle of the body. The wings are also light brown at the base, with the distal portions dark brown.
You can find them pretty much anywhere in North America and Eurasia. What does a cabbage looper look like? In the larval stage it’s a smooth, pale green caterpillar with narrow white stripes on its back and sides. It crawls in a looping motion – thus the name Cabbage Looper.
Young diamondback moth larvae eat only from the bottom of leaves. Older larvae chew large, irregular holes in the leaves of many old and young plants.
Cabbage looper caterpillars are present nearly the entire growing season. The large larvae with the thin white line are a common and destructive pest often found in cole crops, cruciferous plants, or brassicas like:
They are called loopers because of the way they move through the leaves they feed on. These light green small caterpillars don’t have legs in the middle of their bodies which causes them to loop and double up as they inch along the leaves of your crops.
You might also like: Aphids: What Are They How To Identify & Get Rid Of Them
They can eat up to three times their body weight in plant material and grow up to 1 ½ inches long. They’re most destructive during the last few days of their development since this is when they munch on the leaves of your crops the most.
They’re considered one of the most problematic cabbage pests. This is because they eat large areas on the lower surface of the leaf, leaving the upper surface intact.
The fourth and fifth instars chew large holes and usually do not feed at the leaf margin. They also tend to eat baby cabbage plants. Plus, they can leave behind sticky frass that can contaminate your plants.
Adult cabbage looper gray moths or diamondback moths don’t do as much damage as the cabbage looper damage since they feed on nectar instead of plant material.
What Plants Do Cabbage Loopers Affect?
Cabbage loopers generally prefer cruciferous vegetables like cabbages and broccoli. They grow on these plants faster because of their nutritional content.
They are also attracted to a wide range of plant odors and floral compounds, including:
- methyl salicylate
- 2-phenyl ethanol
- benzyl alcohol
- benzyl acetate
- methyl-2-methoxy benzoate
However, almost 160 different crops can also serve as host to these cabbage looper pests, including lettuce, spinach, celery, parsley, beets, peas, potatoes, and tomatoes. Other hosts include alfalfa, soybeans, and cotton. So if you were wondering what do cabbage looper caterpillars eat, you have your answer.
Young cabbage looper larvae feed on the undersides of leaves and create window pane patterns, especially in thick-leaved crops.
As they mature, the young larvae can chew ragged holes in the center and underside of leaves and may even bore holes into broccoli and cabbage heads. This can result in complete leaf loss and major damage to your crops.
How To Deal With Cabbage Looper Infestations?
The simplest and safest way when asking how to get rid of cabbage loopers in your cabbage patch is by manually removing them – just pick them off.
You can easily spot them and pick them off one by one. The best time to do this is in the morning and late in the evening. Be sure to dispose of them properly so they won’t have a chance to mature.
Be sure to also check for yellow and white eggs, check the underside of plant leaves, and scrape them off gently—their eggs hatch in as little as 3 days and up to 10 days.
Removing the baby cabbage looper eggs before they hatch allows you to prevent a new generation of cabbage loopers from feasting on your precious cabbage plants.
You might also like: How To Get Rid Of Whiteflies Naturally
You can also use spray treatments containing Bacillus thurigiensis or BT, a naturally-occurring soil bacterium and biological pesticide. It’s an organic and slow-acting option that you apply weekly to be effective.
You can also use Diatomaceous Earth for your cabbage looper control methods and sprinkle it on vegetable plants where cabbage worms are spotted. The diatomaceous earth powder will kill cabbage worms by piercing their bodies. So the next time you need to know what kills cabbage loopers, remember this.
Broad insecticides can also be used to get rid of cabbage loopers. However, it would help if you used it sparingly so you don’t unintentionally kill beneficial insects and pollinators.
One of the best ways to stop cabbage looper feeding damage is to use floating row covers. This lightweight fabric lets in sunlight and moisture. Placing over these crops acts as a physical barrier to keep insects away.
In this case, it prevents an adult cabbage looper moth from getting to your plants to lay their eggs; Pheromone traps are also a good way to catch the adult cabbage looper moths. So If you ever wondered how to prevent cabbage loopers, now you know.
If you’ve experienced an infestation during the growing season, be sure to till the area in the fall and remove any garden and plant debris to prevent the pupal stage from overwintering because that can cause trouble in the next season.
You can also find gardening products I use in my videos here <---
You can go to my storefront using this secure link <----
If you need seeds, this is the company I use <--- and if you use code: farmer1 at checkout, you'll get 10% off your order!
New To Gardening? These Will Help:
- You Can Find The Best Gardening App For You
- You Can Grow Food Year Round
- Vermicomposting Bin For Worms
- True Low Light Houseplants Make A Dreary Winter Day Come Alive
- How To Prevent Tomato Plant Sunburn
- How Much Potting Soil Do I Need To Purchase?
- What To Add To Raised Bed Soil In Spring To Make It Better
- Which Herbs Grow Well Together?
- Growing Vegetables In Bags
- DIY Natural Bug Spray For Indoor Plants