How To Save Your Garden From Cabbage Looper?
If you are growing cabbage or any plant related to cabbage in your garden, you may find little holes and black frass on the leaves of your crop. The culprit can be a green colored soft-bodied caterpillar named the “cabbage looper”. It can severely damage your crops and cause major crop loss. We are going to share some of the useful tips and tricks to control the infestation of cabbage looper in your garden and to save your crops from damage. To prevent cabbage looper attack in your garden you need to know about its life cycle and method of infestation in plants.
What Is The Cabbage looper?
Cabbage looper (Trichoplusia ni) got its name by its unique looping movement, moving by six legs in which its arch is formed in the middle part of the body to move front and back legs forward. Larvae are 1 – 1/2 inch long which are also known as inchworms; they are pale green caterpillars containing white stripes with narrow lines down the back. Their night-flying adults are 1 – 1/2 inch gray moths with silvery V-shaped spot in the center of each wing.
The Looper Lifecycle
The Cabbage Looper completes 2 – 3 generations in a year and the number can increase in a warmer regions. Pupae live in the host plant or the debris near plants in thin silk-like cocoons. Looper moths emerge in spring and migrate from south to the north U.S in the summertime to survive from the harsh conditions. The worms deposit pale green eggs on the host plants and larvae emerge in 3 to 4 days. The larvae mature in 2 – 4 weeks and pupae fully develop to adult after 10 days.
Plant Damage from the Cabbage Looper
The young larvae of the cabbage looper feed on the bottom of leaves whereas older larvae bore irregular holes inside leaves of plants. For vegetables such as cabbage, it bores in the head of cabbages and leaves behind wet fecal matter. The larger the larvae grow, the more damage it causes to the host plant and can eat up to three times of its body in a day and severely damage plant before development. If the cabbage looper establishes in your field it can cause massive crop losses. The looper causes the most damage on the following plants:
- Brussels sprouts
- Chinese cabbage
- Collard greens
How to Control the Cabbage Looper
It’s easy to control cabbage looper in earlier stages. You can harvest the cabbage looper earlier spring before adults arrive in your region. The row covers or fabrics can be used early spring to prevent pest attack to your crops. Take care of your crops and regularly monitor leaves underside and handpick the larvae or eggs and dump them in soap water. Remove shelter for pests and fold your soil regularly to eliminate the places to overwinter.
Methods to control cabbage looper
If you are unable to control earlier infestation on crops it can be controlled by using the following methods:
- Baccillus Thurigiensis (B.T.): Bacillus thuringiensis (also known as BT) is a caterpillar killer that can easily contol the cabbage loopers. I have personally used this product and it is hands down the simplest way to remove the cabbage looper from your garden. Be warned that if there are beneficial caterpillars in your garden it may also kill them as well.
- Insecticidal spray: There are several natural insecticidal sprays that can be used to control and get rid of cabbage loopers such as spinosad, pyrethrin spray, and permethrin. As a first option, i would still suggest using the BT spray above.
- Companion planting: Companion planting and crop rotation can be an effective deterrent to repel cabbage looper. Grow pest repellent aromatic herbs such as mint and thyme to avoid pests near host plants.
- Beneficial insects: Cabbage looper itself attracts predators to prey on them. Beneficial insects to get rid of cabbage looper are ground beetles, praying mantis, parasitic ichneumon wasps and garden spider. Lizards and birds can also be helpful to control pests.