If you are growing a veggie garden this fall, it’s a safe bet that cabbage loopers will make an appearance. Cabbage loopers are small (less than 1.5 inches), green colored caterpillars that prefer to hide in the folds of cabbage, broccoli, lettuce, cauliflower and any other plant that forms a head. They may like those veggies, but they will eat pretty much anything!
Cabbage loopers cause small, irregular shaped holes in the leaves of the veggie. This either makes the plant stressed or reduces the crop yield – and who wants to eat holey lettuce!?!
Cabbage loopers should be managed early on in the growing season. Watch plants very closely for holes and at the first signs use a pesticide labeled for caterpillars. Great options that are also organic are Bt (Bacillus thuringiensis) and Spinosad products. Bt worm killer is effective against caterpillars only, so all your beneficials and other insects will not be harmed. If you have a butterfly garden, however, be careful for drift, as Bt will kill ALL caterpillars that consume it. Spinosad is a little more of a broad spectrum pescticide, but is relatively benign on beneficial insects.
Remember to follow all label directions when mixing and applying pesticides.
by Molly Keck
Integrated Pest Management Program Specialist