Cabbage pests, most typically larvae like cabbageworm, cabbage looper and diamondback moth larvae, can destroy a cabbage patch. Not only do they chew through the leaves and head of the cabbage, they also leave excrement and dead insects inside the head, rendering it unfit for consumption. Chemical pesticides alternatives include the powerful neurotoxins Endosulfan and Permethrin, both of which are used commercially on cabbage. Fortunately, effective natural remedies for cabbage pests are also available.
One way of minimizing the number of pests in your cabbage patch is to plant the cabbage with companion plants. Hyssop, peppermint, rosemary, sage, thyme and southernwood all help repel the moths and butterflies that lay the larvae that eat the cabbage. Plant some of these companion plants around and between the cabbage plants to set up a barrier between pests and your cabbage.
Beneficial insects attack and eat your cabbage pests. Attract them by planting plants they like. Drawn by the scent of their favorite plant, they will stay because they find food — the pests you want to get rid of. For example, the Braconid wasp (Diaeretiella rapae) attacks the common cabbage worm. Braconid wasps are drawn to nectar plants like yarrow, daisies and alyssum.
If you have only a few cabbage plants, sometimes the best remedy for cabbage pests is the simplest one: hand picking. Inspect the cabbage every day. When you spot the cabbage loopers or other larvae when they are small, remove them by hand, or with tweezers if you are squeamish. Check the outer leaves and the crevices of the cabbage head carefully because loopers especially are well camouflaged.
Garlic water works as a repellent for cabbage worms. You can use a commercial product such as Garlic Barrier, or you can make your own garlic water. Mix one1percent pure garlic juice with 1 percent fish oil and 98 percent water. Put the mixture in a pump sprayer and saturate the leaves and head of the cabbage. A study conducted at the Alabama Agricultural Experiment Station showed that garlic water worked better than a synthetic insecticide to minimize both cabbage worms and their damage.
Bacillus thuringiensis, known as Bt, is a bacterium used as a biological pesticide. Researchers at the University of Minnesota Department of Entomology recommend using Bt if 10 percent of your cabbages or more are infested. Bt kills pests at the larval stage, but doesn’t kill adult pests. Because Bt is present naturally in most soils, it is considered a safe and acceptable pesticide for organic gardening.
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