What Is Eating My Kale?

My fall crops – kale, mustard, cabbage – despite being covered with netting are being eaten by something!

It looks to me like insect damage and after a bit of research, I determined this is almost certainly the work of the cabbage worm, which are small green caterpillers (the larval form of cabbage moth or cabbage butterfly).

How to Control Cabbage Worms on Brassicas | Gardener's Path
Image from: gardenerspath.com

It’s green so it can camouflage itself with the green leaves it likes to eat. I searched and searched over all the leaves (tops and bottoms) in the morning, looking for green cabbage worms…..I found nothing. I began to wonder if maybe I was wrong – maybe it’s not cabbage worm after all? I gave up looking, took a couple of photos of the damage for the blog and dejectedly went back inside.

Later in the day, I was looking over the photos I had taken of the eaten kale and feeling pretty dejected about the sad state of them. And then….in the bottom right corner of a photo…..I spied….

…the cabbage worm!! Aargh!!! It was right in front of me the whole time!!

I immediately went back outside to see if I could find it, but it had completely disappeared again. So frustrating.

Cabbage worm can be controlled by sprays (spinosad, B. thuringensis, etc) of course, but if you don’t want to go that route (which I don’t) the solution is A) prevention and B) hand-picking. To prevent cabbage worm, cover the plants with row cover before cabbage worm has a chance to lay its eggs on the plants (too late for me). Once you’ve got cabbage worms, aside from spraying, it seems the only solution is the pick the worms off the leaves when you see them (harder than you’d think).

You may have one this round, cabbage worm, but next season…I’ll be prepared…

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