Wrestling a Cabbage Worm and Aphids

Posted on May 14 2010 - 3:53am by Mike Lieberman

I was tending to the balcony garden, taking care of the self-watering containers and spraying down the seeds when I noticed a big bit hole taken out of a romaine lettuce leaf.

When I took a closer look at the leaves, I saw a little green critter on the back of a leaf. Pretty sure it was a cabbage worm that was going to town and munching on my stuff.

It took a few attempts to get him (of course it’s a him, right?) off of the plant. A knife was used to get him off the leaf and he fell into the container. I was having a bit of trouble getting him out of the container. Finally, I scooped him out with a piece of paper and tossed his ass off the balcony.

Then I noticed one chilling in the oak greens as well. I got rid of that one much quicker.

Once I got rid of those two little bastids, I was poking around for some signs of more. I noticed little whitish/green bugs on the romaine lettuce as well that I believe are aphids. I just used a water spray bottle to get rid of them.

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Not sure if this is something that I should be more proactive about in preventing. I could just keep checking each morning and wrestling the worms or I could make a garlic or pepper spray to use on the plants to combat the pests.

What’s your thoughts on the best way to handle this? Check every morning? Garlic spray? Pepper spray?


47 Comments so far. Feel free to join this conversation.

  1. Jamie May 14, 2010 at 1:32 pm -

    Garlic and pepper spray might work but I've also heard that soapy water might work as well. Perhaps you could just reuse some dirty dish water to spray on your plants. It might help with the aphids at least.

  2. shannonroselive May 14, 2010 at 2:09 pm -

    I use Dr Bronners Peppermint soap mixed with water and just spray it on my plants. Bugs hate it, plants don't mind it at all. 🙂

  3. Mike Lieberman May 14, 2010 at 2:22 pm -

    That I have readily available and can do. Thanks.

  4. Mike Lieberman May 14, 2010 at 2:22 pm -

    I'll get on that one. ASAP.

  5. Sylvana May 14, 2010 at 6:04 pm -

    I get these on my columbine every year. I squish them on the plant. I read somewhere that mushed up bugs makes a great bug deterant – sort of like heads on spikes.

  6. Hanna May 14, 2010 at 7:19 pm -

    Try ladybugs! They love to eat aphids.

  7. Fern @ Life on the Balcony May 14, 2010 at 8:22 pm -

    Cabbage worms are a royal PITA in So Cal, not sure if they have a huge problem everywhere else or not? But we have them starting in early Spring all the way through late Fall. I always just pick them off.

  8. Mike Lieberman May 15, 2010 at 12:07 am -

    Nice. Give them a lil bit of a warning. I likes.

  9. Mike Lieberman May 15, 2010 at 12:07 am -

    If I had a huge garden, I would, but for the balcony buying ladybugs doesn't make much sense.

  10. Mike Lieberman May 15, 2010 at 12:08 am -

    I'm likely gonna do the same with the pick and toss off the balcony method.

  11. Megan May 18, 2010 at 5:36 am -

    I think you can use bacillus thuringiensis (BT), but it needs to be applied frequently. Never used it myself, but if the cabbage worms get nasty up here I might give it a try.

  12. Mike Lieberman May 18, 2010 at 5:39 am -

    That's what most people are saying. I've started to use some Dr. Bronner's Peppermint soap and water. Then I spray them down with a spray bottle as well.

    The aphids are getting worse.

  13. Liz May 19, 2010 at 9:43 am -

    For aphids I use a soapy water spray. Seems to work pretty well, but you have to respray after watering, but that only takes seconds in a small garden. Just enough dish soap to make suds in a spray bottle of water.

  14. Mike Lieberman May 19, 2010 at 1:44 pm -

    Thanks. I've been using Dr. Bronner's Peppermint soap and water to spray down the leaves.

  15. Ali May 19, 2010 at 5:25 pm -

    I've found that garlic spray works as a preventative, but as a cure. Once they're there, you have to pick/cut them off.

  16. Mike Lieberman May 20, 2010 at 2:28 am -

    Cool. I'll get some garlic spray made for when I get the new plants in containers. The cabbage worms have all but killed my purple kale.

  17. KatieStoeller June 11, 2010 at 11:47 pm -

    Garden pests are the worst. If you have aphids ladybugs are the best solution, they will eat them right up. I try to use natural ways of getting rid of garden pests, but inside my home I don't want anymore pests than what may have already gotten in. I started using organic pest control recently for the pests I find in my home. I love how it still gets the job done with out all of the harsh chemicals being put in my home.

  18. Mike Lieberman June 12, 2010 at 2:42 am -

    Thanks for the message Katie. What kind of organic pest control do you use? I hope it's better than the link building services that you are selling to client.s

  19. Cynthia June 14, 2010 at 6:53 pm -

    I can't stand caterpillars in general. I was first introduced to them last year when I first started gardening (other than herbrs) on my tomato plants. I was looking at the cute little tomatoes and picking off dead leaves when some beast raised up next to my nose and tried to bite me. That was my introduction and from then on they have freaked me out and my husband comes to my rescue, well lets say he comes running at my screaching….THERE BACK….. ha ha. This year so far the caterpillars have consumed my georgia collards, most of my swiss chard and they are working real had on my green and red cabbage. I am trying to keep them at bay with BT. I hope to get at least 1 cabbage each this year. Never got to eat the georgia collards (looked like swiss cheese with an extra side of holes).

  20. Mike Lieberman June 14, 2010 at 8:06 pm -

    I've been having crazy amounts of problems with these things and I only have a few containers. Couldn't imagine if I had a larger space. Need to figga something out.

  21. sarah July 6, 2010 at 3:37 am -

    I haven't found soapy water or garlic/pepper spray to work, also tried the squishing bug thing. I'd really like to know what does work because I have an aphid and cabbageworm problem too, but these methods all seemed to fail. Maybe I did not employ them regularly enough? If you have containers, you could just try soaking the whole plant in a tub of water (soapy, garlicy or just warm) until the aphids came off. This seemed to get them off the kale I harvested fairly well, you may have to scrub the leaves a little bit. I don't have freestanding containers so I can't try it on the whole plant. I think you could use ladybugs or spiders even in containers, but what do I know? I got fed up and used diatomaceous earth (which is natural but is fairly harmful to all bugs and your lungs if breathed in) and that kept them at bay for a while, but did not even get rid of them all for such a drastic measure. I haven't tried BT, maybe I should, although it does kill butterfly larvae. The pests just seem out of control this year, aphids, cabbageworms, slugs, snails, hornworms, etc.

  22. Mike Lieberman July 6, 2010 at 2:10 pm -

    Have you put row covers on the pests yet? That seems like an inexpensive and easy way to help deter the pests based on feedback. I still need to make some myself.

  23. Presley October 9, 2010 at 9:32 pm -

    Have you tried dusting with flour, after it has rained or early in the morning. They eat, and then they die.

  24. Mike Lieberman October 10, 2010 at 4:14 am -

    Never heard of that one. Will have to give it a try. Thanks for the tip.

  25. Fiveamchick July 25, 2011 at 2:36 pm -

    You can also use a mix of water and soap to get rid of aphids

  26. Farmerfanny July 25, 2011 at 5:10 pm -

    Mike I’m not sure about sending them off the balcony they might land on someone else’s garden or crawl back up. I use the squish method or you can drop them into a container of soapy water. I’ve been fighting leaf miners for yrs. I hear beneficial nematodes are good but they have to be ordered on line no one has them around here.
    The bugs have been horrible this yr. black beetle/weevil things, earwigs, gray weevil things, brown weevil things, they are devouring the strawberry plants, raspberry plants, succulant, starting on the lavender leaves, sage and anything else they can find. The best time to check is with my headlamp on in the middle of the night when they are actively eating my plants. If you wait til morning the plant is distroyed. I had aphid in the lettuce so I bought lady bugs but as you know they are expensive and usually fly away. My neighbor mentioned that someone must of set some free. I said, yea me, you’re welcome. I read somewhere that if you want to keep them around it is better to get their  babies. A lot of them were dead too so the store gave me my money back. Spiders are good I saw a couple of them packing earwigs off to have for dinner. Of course there is always praying mantis here to help. But the bugs got here really early before they hatched out. There are lots of grasshopppers, they are faster so have to spray water around them so you can stomp them.  Something made my nasturtiums look like they were shot with a shot gun but it didn’t go through, the same thing is happening to the bottom leaves of the bush beans. That might be thrips, I duh know,  if you have them on cucumbars they say to use sugar water it dries them up and attracts bees.
    Boil 2 cups water and 1/2 cup sugar let cool add to a gal water and spray all over & under the plant. The row cover only keeps the moths, ect that lay the eggs from the plant if they already have or are in the dirt then row cover is useless. I don’t like covering my plants I want to watch them grow. So I am losing the battle of the bugs as they out number me and I can’t get out there all the time, work gets in the way of my gardening. That and my neighbor yelling at me to quit midnight gardening cause I wake her up and she needs to get up early.

  27. Farmerfanny July 25, 2011 at 5:12 pm -

    Oh it’s also fun to drown the bugs/worms and send them down the garbage disposal.

  28. Mike Lieberman July 25, 2011 at 5:25 pm -

    Good call on that.

  29. Mike Lieberman July 25, 2011 at 5:46 pm -

    Hahha. The trials and tribulations.

  30. Annejones_4 November 14, 2011 at 1:57 pm -

    I use BT. Only thing that works. I use SAFER brand. Spray every week.

  31. Dee February 16, 2012 at 4:51 pm -

    Pink Solution for aphids.  🙂   Apparently this is something you can make at home, but I took the easy route and bought myself a tub from Costco.  Apparently, it’s derived from coconut oil, as my nerdy friend told me, but I never dug deeper into the chemistry of this product after he told me.  

  32. Mike Lieberman February 17, 2012 at 8:09 am -

    Taking the easy way out 😉

  33. Mg_5311 May 31, 2012 at 2:53 pm -

    My plants (this year and last) had such a bad infestation…..i started just picking them off with my hands….I even kept one as a pet for a few weeks (know thy enemy).  The best part so far has been collecting these massive eaters and feeding them to my back yard lizards….better than TV or movies….and wasps (if you have them around will eat them to)….now that was a site to see.

  34. Mike Lieberman June 1, 2012 at 4:39 pm -

    Hahahaha. Nice.

  35. Gramma55 June 3, 2012 at 1:47 pm -

    I found a tip for combating aphids years ago I pretty sure it worked. My lettuce has just devoloped an aphid problem (or is it my aphids have develped a lettuce habit?). It was desolve an plain asaprin in warm water and spray on the plants. Going to try it again this week. I’ll let you know.

  36. Mike Lieberman June 3, 2012 at 6:56 pm -

    yes. please keep me updated.

  37. Roger Cruz June 13, 2012 at 4:11 pm -

    Were you scared to pick ’em off with your hand? I just found a bunch on my red cabbage! I just bought 2 mantis egg pods, hopefully they hatch before july! 

  38. Mike Lieberman June 13, 2012 at 10:56 pm -

    Yea kinda nasty.

  39. Patryce June 26, 2012 at 8:33 am -

    Just discovered an infestation of Cabbage Loop worms in my backyard garden. I came home from working 3rd shift to find my cabbage plants looking like Swiss cheese, as they were fine the morning before. As I watered the plant, and scratching my head wondering what had happen, I found little green caterpillars on the cabbage leaves. I went in the house to hit the internet. I found that they were cabbage worms and they don’t like pepper spray.  I remembered that I had picked up some organic cayenne pepper spray to prevent last year infestation of the furry kind. I brought the spay to rid my garden, of the bunnies that damaged the garden last year. I graded the bottle and ran outside, as I sprayed the cabbage leaves, the cabbage worms fell off. I will try doing this again tomorrow and everyday till I see improvement. I will keep you posted on the result, as I keep my fingers crossed!!     

  40. Mike Lieberman June 26, 2012 at 1:13 pm -

    Keep me updated. Fingers crossed!

  41. debra February 12, 2013 at 4:22 am -

    it’s impossible to keep up with cabbage worms if you have a lot of plants that they love. The pretty little moth that lays the eggs that produce the little ‘bastards’ that eat everything, is very productive! I found that if I cover my plants with plant fabric, it stops the moths from laying the eggs in the first place, and the cabbage, broccoli, cauliflower, kale, etc., benefit from less intense light.

  42. debra February 12, 2013 at 4:28 am -

    Oh, yeah, dish soap (pink soap would be cheeper), vegetable oil and water in a sprayer will discourage aphids and other pests…1 tablespoon dish soap (pink soap is the same and cheaper) 1/4 cup veg oil, and two quarts tepid water. Spray at night or early in the morning…

  43. Susie April 30, 2013 at 11:38 am -

    Cabbage worms do not like Thyme. Companion plant it around your broccoli, etc. I even just sprinkled some thyme from a seasoning jar on and around my plants, and the cabbage worms took flight. Now to tackle my romaine lettuce aphids! My bug guy told me that the ants actually “farm” the aphids to produce more of them for food. I have rather industrious ants, so I need to get rid of them now, too!

  44. Anne July 6, 2013 at 12:14 pm -

    Neem oil- I’m getting some today. Family members of mine swear by it and my kale is getting attacked pretty tough so I’m getting some tomorrow to use. Until then, soapy water 🙂

  45. Alejandro Cervantes July 4, 2014 at 5:54 am -

    I hope this worked. I need help now, too!

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