I potted up all the brassicas last Friday (broccoli, cauliflower, kohlrabi, Brussels sprouts, and cauliflower) and the plants looked great all weekend. This morning I went out to look at them and found.... duh duh DUH.... cabbage worms. All over. On almost every single plant.
Cabbage worms are the larval or caterpillar stage of Pieris rapae, or the Cabbage White butterfly (also called small white or common white). It's the only type of butterfly I see regularly in our garden; the monarchs and gulf frittilaries visit frequently, but the cabbage whites are here daily. Unfortunately. They are pretty, but they can really destroy a cole crop of any kind. As you can see from the leaf above, they are rapacious eaters.
So, I spent a gross but happy hour checking the top and undersides of every leaf, and collecting the velvety little worms in a dish.
Then I sprayed all the leaves with Neem oil, an organic oil that will hopefully repel the butterfly, while I wait for my delivery of Bt (Bacillus thuringiensis), which is an organic treatment consisting of a naturally-occurring bacteria that makes pests sick when they eat it. I'll spray that when it arrives. In the meantime, I'm hoping the paper wasps and yellow jackets will find a few worms and dispatch them. One good reason to be thankful for wasps!
Meanwhile, I fed the caterpillars to the chickens, who thought it was Christmas.
Cabbage worms are notorious and it's almost impossible to keep this pest away from brassicas. I haven't had them before, but this year the cabbage whites are hip to me and my fall-planting schemes. One way I could have avoided this was to cover the seedlings with some Agribon, or row cover, which would have let in light without letting in the butterfly. Oh well. I shall keep on top of this pest, because I have about 50 plants that I don't want to lose.