How To Get Rid Of Cabbage Looper’s

Last week my broccoli plant looked healthy and beautiful.   This week, it looks like this:

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What on earth is eating my broccoli leaves?

Apparently, these little critters are.

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For some reason The Very Hungry Caterpillar, by Eric Carle is coming to mind.  :)  Is it just me?

Anyway... after doing some research with the University of Google this morning, here's what I know about them.  They are called Cabbage Looper's and they are the most destructive little pests in a veggie garden.

Better Homes and Gardens had a helpful article on how to stop Cabbage Looper's.   Here are a few of their suggestions.    My favorite is the first option.

Attract Beneficial Insects:

Planting flowers, such as marigolds, calendula, sunflower, daisy, alyssum, or dill nearby can attract beneficial insects that attack and kill Cabbage Loopers and Cabbage Butterflies.

  • I don't have any dill planted but do have room for it, so this weekend I'll be on the lookout for some dill.  I also love daisies.

Hand Picking:

You can easily keep small populations of Cabbage Loopers under control by picking the insects off the plants and dropping them into a bucket of soapy water.

  • Um…no thank you!  Picking worms off a leaf isn't really for me.  It was challenging enough for me to hold the leaf with my fingers to take the picture!   {shiver}


Spraying Bt (Bacillus thuringiensis) on plants can help. Bt is a naturally occurring bacterial disease that only attacks caterpillars. Many vegetable gardeners consider Bt an organic product.

  • Okay, this I would consider, but where do I find it?  And it won't make my kids grow any extra toes, right?   Oh wait...what am I's broccoli.  Very doubtful they'll consume any of it anyway, unless of course I strategically hide it in their meal or in a smoothie.

Have you had to deal with this problem in your veggie garden?  What do you suggest?


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 How To Get Rid Of Cabbage Loopers
Rosann is wife to the man of her dreams and stay-at-home mom to two delightful little girls. Her heart's greatest passions are loving her family well, long-distance running, writing, and pretty much anything dark chocolate peanut butter. Rosann loves to encourage women whose husbands are in a season of unemployment, at her other website Her writing inspiration comes from a strong desire to glorify God while sharing the heart of her journey through a life of faith. She is also the Author of two books - UnEmployed Faith: Clothing Yourself in Strength and Perseverance Through his Season of Unemployment, and Refuel Your Inner SuperMom: A Practical Guide to Getting Your Groove Back.
 How To Get Rid Of Cabbage Loopers

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  1. Val

    Oh my! I am going to get right on this! Your poor broccoli. :(

    • Rosann

      I know! :(

  2. Leigh@ oneandoneequalstwinfun

    Lol! My kids love broccoli (right now anyway).
    As pestie as those caterpillars are they sure are cute! Good luck

    • Rosann

      Oh Leigh, my kiddos loved broccoli for the first three years of their life. Then the "older kid" taste buds kicked in and now they totally turn their nose up to it. The caterpillars are cute, but I still won't hand pick them off the leaf. Bleh!

    • FamilyTravelsonaBudget

      Hang tough on the broccoli! My kids, 18, 15 and 8 still eat it -- no cheese sauce required!

  3. Tara @

    Thanks for the tips Rosann! We too are growing broccoli. I will keep this post handy in case we experience this pesky problem.

    • Rosann

      You're welcome! :)

  4. Shannon Milholland

    I'm right with ya on not wanting to touch any critters. When I was a kid my parents made me pick some kind of disgusting worms off our cyprus bush and I thought I would absolutely die. Yuck!

  5. Kenya G. Johnson

    Oh my! I am so not a gardener. I would be done after seeing the green wormies on my broccoli!

  6. Courtney~Mommy LaDy Club

    I don't think we have these exact guys, but something similar. Usually, all of the hungry desert critters get to the plants before they will though, and probably eat them too. Right now is the time we just hunker down, and hope all of the plants, including cacti can make it until the rain comes. They're all shriveled.

  7. Prototype Mama

    I'm so sorry to see those little pest attacking your garden-- I don't know if I have the patience to handle a garden-- I want one so bad but seeing those little critters just made me have second thoughts :) Good luck

    • Rosann

      Haha! Sorry if I scared you away from gardening. It really is a great experience. Don't let the bugs scare you. Seriously! :)

  8. [...] other day, my husband smiled as I chattered on about the little green worms on my broccoli plant and the different options for dealing with them.   He then popped a freshly picked berry from our [...]

  9. Andrea

    We squished 'em, honestly. For about five days running, we squished every one we saw. They didn't keep on. :)

  10. MeowSaysMe

    Chickens allowed to run around the garden in the day time under a watchful eye of the owner will take care of cabbage loopers and broccoli worms. In a rural area a friend and her husband had a rooster move in onto their property. They never had to worry about garden pests. He ate slugs and snails, too. They never housed him either. He could take care of himself. They had him until their neighbor bragged about that great chicken dinner they had. :-( It happened one time while they were away from home. Yeah, it wasn't right for someone to go onto their property and take the chicken that had decided that their property was his home. They never mistreated him, and they liked him well enough because of how much he helped in the garden. Because they didn't set out to own the rooster on their own they hadn't had a chance to build the little fella a shelter before the neighbors killed their rooster. Right about the time they were about to build him a little shelter, they found out the neighbors had killed him.

  11. Sally

    Try spraying all your greens with watered down worm juice. It works a treat at keeping the caterpillars away :)

  12. Sally

    Oh and another option is to make plastic butterflies the size and shape of cabbage butterflies (include ONE black dot, two dots are female and may attract males!!!) and stick them on top of a stick so they are facing the sky. The males are very territorial and any flying by wont come to your crop as they think there is already one there.

    • Rosann

      Sally, what a great idea!! Thanks for your visit and lovely comment. I so appreciate it. :)

  13. Doug Bishop

    They are viscous little vermin and will strip cabbage, broccoli and other plants to the stem quickly. I grow some broccoli in containers and screen them. You can get Bt from your garden center. Mix it in a spray bottle as directed. I add a t-spoon of Ivory dish soap. The soap helps the spray stay on the plants helps repel other pests.

  14. Sheila Anderson

    We use diatomaceous earth on our cabbages/broccoli/brussel sprouts, dogs, ect. Works great but has to be reapplied after rain and baths!

  15. Jillian

    This is my first year growing cabbage but after growing broccoli a few times, I knew if I want enough cabbage for lots of sauerkraut, I would need to take preventative measures. My onions and cabbages share the same patch this year along with lots of marigolds. Not only is it gorgeous and one of my favorite beds, but it really seems to be working. I did find a couple of these guys on three of my plants today and plucked them off (really, only about 4 or five little baby caterpillars) and I am pretty confident they're not going to be a problem. The brassicas are not even tempting the flea beetles and grasshoppers. Companion planting and soil with lots of compost seem to be working well for my cabbages this year.

  16. Lillian Cole

    I believe that broccoli is a cool weather crop and can be grown from fall to spring, (like kale and cabbage) growing at that time of year may reduce the number of bugs in your broccoli in general. I have tried the Safer brand organic bug spray and it works on my kale for the same insect, (although i didn't know their name and have named them myself "green munch-a-bunch worms") but you have to coat the plant in it, front and back, so it is tedious (not to mention expensive).

  17. larry smith

    I had these little pest, only by the time i was harvesting they werent so little. while harvesting i removed as many as i could see off the brocolli heads. when i washed i removed more and when i cut and rewashed i did a final removal. i dont think i missed any and if i did you would never know it. like my neighbor told me(he has been a gardner for some time) if u missed one its just that much more beneficial for you. Yeah it was difficult to eat that first helping. we have about ten servings vaccum sealed in the fridge. but i dont even think about it and am confident i removed all of em.

    • Rosann

      Larry, can I just say ewwww!!! Haha!

      if u missed one its just that much more beneficial for you.


      Thanks so much for stopping by! :)

  18. April R

    Bacillus thuringiensis should be available at most any garden center. The trick is, you are going to have to do some reading of fine print. It will be listed as the active ingredient, but will be marketed under numerous brand names. In my area, Tiger brand markets it as Worm Whipper. Another brand name you may find is Dipel. Small family garden centers are usually more knowledgeable about the products they carry than the large chain stores. Support your small, local businesses!

    (Bacillus isn't the fastest killer. If you decide to mash a few of the worms, you can always wear

    • Rosann

      April, thanks so much for your visit and for the lovely comment! I went to a local gardening center a week ago and resolved my loopers issue. Or at least so far I have. Here's the link to the update if you're interested:


  19. [...] you'll recall a few weeks ago, I posted about the dreaded Cabbage Loopers destroying my broccoli leaves and then last week I mentioned my zucchini and tomato plants seemed [...]

  20. The Veggie Book: How to Pick, Prepare and Plate {Review} |

    [...] grow? When's the best time to plant it and how long before it's time to harvest? What about those little worms that are eating the leaves of the broccoli plant? How do I handle those and keep my veggies [...]

  21. Sunbeam

    I finds that edible diatomaceous Edible type used for grain crops and organic gardening seems to work well on everything that I have tried. I am very
    pleased with this product. Safely doing the job right and healthfully. Does need reapplication after rain. well worth its price fairly inexpensive. Not swimming pool kind. Can be found at Tractor Supply and like companies. Works Great !!!!

  22. Rosepetals

    I don't know where to find bt, so any other ideas? I could try diatomaceous earth.

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