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Monday, January 23, 2012

KNOL: The Green Cabbage/Kale Caterpillar: A Vegetable Garden Pest

This is a Knol article I wrote for Google Knols. It is being sent here for safe storage.

If you see the white butterflies in your garden, you will soon have green caterpillars. They will eat holes in your cabbages, kales, and related plants. This Knol is about identifying the pest and removing it by hand. I wrote another Knol on BT control of caterpillars which I linked to this one.

The Green Cabbage/Kale Caterpillar:

A Vegetable Garden Pest

By Gary Pilarchik LCSW-C
For more vegetable gardening information please check out my blog: The Rusted Vegetable Garden

Noticing the Holes

Once you see the white butterflies around your garden, which look more like moths, expect to soon see holes in your cabbages, kales, and related vegetables. These aren't slug holes, they are from the green cabbage caterpillar. The holes look just like the picture below. As soon as you see one hole, it is time for hand picking. 

Green Caterpillar Damage to My Kale

Look Closely: They are Green for a Reason

They are green and tend to vary to the color of the leaf. Once there is a hole - they are there. They will also leave dark green droppings. The droppings will que you to their general location. Look closely. The eggs are laid in groups. So if you find one caterpillar there are others. It may take a few days to get them all. If you double click the photos they will enlarge. They may be on either side of the leaves or resting on the stem when they aren't feeding.

The Caterpillar is Right on the Point


I Moved it for a Better Look
Removed and Killed

If there is one there is more. Carefully check the leaves with holes. They don't like to move. Check the front and backs of the holed leaves and down the stem. I found three on this plant.

Remove and Kill Them

Simply stated - remove and kill them. There is a life cycle. Butterflies appear, lay eggs, and hatch eating machines. If you remove them, they won't return until the next year or cycle depending on your zone. The key to managing them by hand is to visit the host plants frequently and look for that first hole. Get them quickly and you will reduce damage. Sometimes you need more then your eyes and hands. I included a brief excerpt from another Knol below.

How to Use Bascillus Thuringiensis in Your Garden?

 Here is the basic process of using BT to control the green caterpillar in your garden as well as other caterpillars.
  1. Purchase Bt via mail order or at from your local garden shop.
  2. Reading the directions for mixing.
  3. Purcahse an inexpensive 1 gallon sprayer.
  4. Mix Bt with water the day you are going to use it. (It is not effective to let it sit mixed for days.)
  5. Spray the outer and underside of your plants weekly.
  6. You may need to do it a 2nd time, in a week, if there is excess rain.
  7. Only spray the plants that are prone to caterpillars.

If you have knowledge about the caterpillers and moths in your area, you only need to spray during their active periods. I found it easier to start spraying in May in my area and to continue through August.
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