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Cabbage crops can be attacked by a variety of cabbage pests, some of which specifically target cabbages and related crops, and some of which are more general nuisances. Aphids and thrips are very common pests and can attack cabbages as well as many other crops. Cabbage loopers and cabbage worms are among the cabbage pests that specifically target this crop. As a general rule, young and tender cabbages are vulnerable to a wider array of pests than are the sturdier, mature plants, whose robust leaves offer good protection against several types of insect.
Young, tender cabbage plants and seedlings may be attacked by cabbage pests that are drawn specifically to vulnerable new growth. Aphids are not a major threat to older cabbages and do not often kill cabbages but do weaken plants and damage the appearance of a crop. These pests are typically small and waxy and feed on the sap of cabbages and other plants. In many areas, they are effectively controlled by beetles and other natural insect adversaries, rather than with pesticides, and pesticide use may actually make an aphid infestation worse, by killing of their natural antagonists.
Flea beetles are another of the more common cabbage pests and attack individual young cabbages by burrowing slender holes into the developing plants. Cabbages, like many other plants, are also vulnerable to cutworms. These caterpillars attack plants and cause particularly serious damage to young plants.
Mature cabbages are also vulnerable to a variety of cabbage pests. A cabbage grower who sees dainty butterflies in his or her crops should be concerned, as these are likely to be cabbage moths. Cabbage worms use cabbages to feed their larvae, and the moths are often a sign of a serious infestation in progress. These pests can cause serious damage to a crop. Cabbage loopers are another variety of moth and caterpillar and also cause significant damage to plants.
The best technique for getting rid of cabbage pests involves a combination of careful pesticide use and good crop isolation. Large industrial cabbage fields, like all monocultures, are more vulnerable to infestations of specific insects and typically require pesticides to deal with cabbage pests. Home gardeners with isolated cabbage patches may avoid the worst insect infestations. If treatment for pests in a cabbage garden is required, a local university extension service or reputable garden center should be consulted in order to make sure that the correct insecticide is chosen. Use of the wrong insecticide can actually make a cabbage pest problem worse.
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