What Is a Cabbage Worm?

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  • Written By: Christina Edwards
  • Edited By: W. Everett
  • Last Modified Date: 03 October 2019
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A cabbage worm typically refers to the larva of a moth or butterfly. It gets its name from its tendency to eat a number of plants from the cabbage family. A few types of cabbage worms can be found throughout the world, and each one has different characteristics. These pests can often be controlled by either manually removing them from the plants, or spraying the plants with an organic fertilizer.

In their juvenile stages, certain types of moths or butterflies can cause major damage to plants of the cabbage family. These larvae are often aptly referred to as cabbage worms. Besides cabbage, larvae worm will also feed of other cole crops, including Brussels sprouts, broccoli, and cauliflower. Collard, turnip, and mustard greens are also sometimes at risk of a cabbage worm infestation.

The imported cabbage worm is one of the most common types of cabbage worms. It is bright green with fine fuzz on its body. This caterpillar can be found in many parts of Europe and North America, and it primarily feeds on cabbage, cauliflower, and broccoli.

Cabbage loopers are another type of cabbage worm that can be found in North America. These can be identified by the prominent white stripes running down the length of their otherwise green bodies. Similar to an inchworm, when these caterpillars move, their bodies form a loop. These larvae have been known to feed on plants outside of the cabbage family, such as tomato and cucumber plants.


The cabbage webworm is a type of cabbage worm that is native to parts of Europe and Asia. Over the years, however, it has migrated, and it can also be found in many southern states in the United States. These larvae are yellow-gray in color with dark stripes on their bodies.

Another common type of cabbage worm is the larva of the diamond back moth. This smooth green caterpillar is considered to be a leaf miner. This means that the smaller larvae tunnel themselves into the leaves of plants, leaving a distinct visible line on the outside of the leaf. Larger larvae, on the other hand, will consume large chunks of the leaves. Although these are more likely to be found in the tropical regions of the world, it may be found in more temperate climates as well.

It typically does not take many cabbage worms to destroy a crop, as just a couple can destroy a plant. Signs of a cabbage worm infestation are usually quite apparent. There may be large holes in the leaves of the plants, and these caterpillars may be visible on the undersides of the leaves.

Minimizing the damage caused by these caterpillars in a cabbage garden is important for a healthy crop. Some gardeners who grow cabbage stretch sheer nylon stockings over the cabbage heads, for instance. This will help protect the plants, since the caterpillars can not get through the fabric easily.

All garden plants should be inspected frequently for signs of a garden pest infestation. Manually removing cabbage worms can be time consuming, but it is a good start to getting rid of these pests. Some organic pesticides can also be used to get rid of cabbage worms. Bacillus thuringiensis, or Bt, is an organic insecticide made from a type of bacteria. Although it will kill most of these pests, it is still considered safe for human consumption.


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