Cabbageworm Facts & Control Options

The cabbageworm has reached all areas of the U.S. and southern Canada. It is one of the most prevalent butterflies found in the northeastern parts of the United States.

It lives on and feeds on various plants of the cabbage family throughout gardens and farmlands in its range.


So... What's a Cabbageworm?

The cabbageworm is also known as the Imported Cabbageworm. This insect has a 1" body and soft green velvet appearance with a light yellow stripe and several yellow spots down its back in the caterpillar stage.

In the adult stage, the cabbageworm is a 1/2" white butterfly with one or two black dots on each wing. The tips of its wings are edged in black.


Reproduction Patterns of Cabbageworms

As with many caterpillars, the cabbageworm spends the winter in a pupal state, attached to plant debris left over from the last harvest or any nearby branch or similar structure. The adult cabbageworm leaves its chrysalis in the spring, and after mating, the female lays its eggs on host plants.

Within about a week, the eggs wil hatch and the larvae begin to feed on the host plant. The larvae will go through several mini-stages called instars over the next two weeks. The larvae then attach themselves to the plant with silk-type threads and begin the pupal stage.

In a week or two, each pupa opens and the adult butterfly emerges to begin the cycle again. There are often three generations during a Northeastern summer, with more generations being possible in warmer climates.


Cabbageworm's Habitat

The cabbageworm has reached all areas of the U.S. and southern Canada. It is one of the most prevalent butterflies found in the northeastern parts of the United States. It lives and feeds on various plants of the cabbage family throughout gardens and farmlands in its range.


Symptoms of Cabbageworm Damage

The imported cabbageworm is very harmful to plants of the cabbage family. The presence of the cabbageworm can be seen by its destructive nature as it eats holes in the plant's leaves and veins.

It also digs into the heads of cabbage and other crucifers creating small gaps and missing chunks that can be readily seen. It will take larger chunks out of the plants than a cabbage looper will, making it the more destructive of the two.

In addition, the fecal droppings of the cabbage worm can stain plants leaves and stems, indicating the presence of this harmful pest.


Results of Cabbageworm Infestation

If there is a large infestation, particularly of larvae, on the cuciferous plants, the plants may become devastated and die.

Holes dug by cabbageworms into a head of cauliflower, broccoli, cabbage, or other similar vegetables makes that product unfit for consumption.


Natural & Organic Controls


B.t. and pyrethrins are natural solutions that can be used to help control the cabbageworm. B.t. (Bacillus thuringiensis) is a safe, effective method of eliminating your garden or field of cabbageworms without environmental concerns or harm to wildlife and beneficial insects. Insecticides containing pyrethrins can also be an effective method of controlling the cabbageworm.


B.t. kills cabbageworms, thereby preventing further damage. When the worm ingests the B.t., it works as a gut rot poison that makes the worm stop feeding. The cabbageworm will stop feeding immediately and die within days of malnutrition. B.t. usually comes in a dust or concentrate and kills a variety of caterpillars and worms, including the destructive cabbageworm. It will not harm beneficial insects, children, pets or wildlife.

Carefully read and follow all directions on the product's label. It is recommended with any pesticide to test plants for sensitivity to the product. Spray a small section of the plant in an inconspicuous area and wait 24 hours before full coverage.


B.t. is generally applied when it is a cooler time of day, preferably later in the afternoon or early in the evening since the product breaks down in sunlight and heat.

When applying pyrethrins to infected plants, carefully read and follow all directions on the product labeling for safe and effective application. Do not spray plants in the peak of the day or when temperatures exceed 90°F

Safer® Brand offers a variety of cabbageworm control products to help control and eliminate this garden pest and revive your plants. Please check out our Caterpillar & Worm Products for more details about how they work and how, when, and where they should be applied.

Why Choose a Natural Solution?

Natural solutions break down quickly into their natural elements. They are preferable to chemical pesticides that leave residuals where they are sprayed causing long-term detrimental affects on the environment.


Natural Predators


A natural control method would be to entice parasitic wasps to your garden so these beneficial pests can help control the cabbageworm and other pests.


You can attract parasitic wasps by planting nectar and pollen producing plants in the garden or near crops.


Most local greenhouses and garden centers can help you determine the right planting time for nectar and pollen producing plants to ensure that the pollen and nectar will be available when the wasps arrive.


Environmental Controls


Removing crop remnants, tilling the soil, and handpicking larvae are all methods that will help control the cabbageworm.

In addition, certain varieties of cruciferous plants have shown resistance to this destructive pest.

Using covers on rows of plantings of the cabbage family will not only help to keep out the cabbageworm but will also keep out the cabbage looper and other pests.


Removing crop remnants after harvest and tilling the soil will help control the cabbageworm by plowing under the pupae as well as eliminating any places that may harbor remaining overwintering pupae.

Hand pick larvae and destroy them or place in the trash in a closed container for pickup.

Place covers on rows of plantings according to the accompanying instructions or seek direction from your local home and garden center.


Remove crop remnants and till the soil after the harvest. Remove larvae when you spot them. Plant resistant varieties of cruciferous plants according to the instructions of professional staff at your local garden center or greenhouse. Use covers on rows of plantings of the cabbage family before the pests appear.

Safer® Brand brings you a variety of effective insect control products that are gentler on the environment! Most of them proudly display the OMRI Listed® organic seal and comply for use in organic gardening!