How to Control Cabbage Looper: Organic, Natural and Chemical Methods

The cabbage looper, also known as Trichoplusia ni, is a medium-sized moth that belongs to the family Noctuidae. These moths are commonly referred to as owlet moths and can be found in various parts of the world. When it comes to managing cabbage loopers in your garden, there are some strategies you can employ. Organic solutions such as handpicking the larvae off plants or using natural pesticides made from ingredients like neem oil or Bacillus thuringiensis (Bt) can be highly effective in controlling infestations.

How to Control Cabbage Looper

How to Control Cabbage Looper

Identifying and Managing Cabbage Loopers

It is crucial for maintaining a healthy garden. These pests can wreak havoc on your vegetables, causing significant damage if left unchecked. To effectively combat cabbage looper infestations, it’s essential to be able to identify them accurately. Cabbage loopers are green-colored caterpillars with white stripes running along their backs. They have distinct prolegs that give them a looping motion as they crawl, hence the name “cabbage looper.” Their adult form is a grayish-brown moth with silver markings on its wings.

To manage cabbage loopers in your garden, start by regularly inspecting garden plants for signs of their presence. Look for chewed leaves or small green worms crawling on the foliage. Handpicking these pests off your plants can be an effective control method for smaller infestations. Regularly monitoring your garden plants for signs of cabbage looper activity will allow you to take prompt action before they cause extensive damage.

Cabbage Looper Damage

The damage caused by cabbage loopers can be quite frustrating for gardeners. These have a voracious appetite and can quickly strip your plants of their leaves, leaving them weak and vulnerable. The telltale signs of cabbage looper damage include chewed edges and holes in the leaves. These pests are especially fond of cruciferous vegetables like Cabbage, Broccoli, and Cauliflower, but they will also feed on other plants such as Lettuce, Spinach, and Tomatoes. If left unchecked, a severe infestation can decimate an entire crop.

Effective Strategies for Controlling Cabbage Loopers in Your Garden

The most effective method for controlling cabbage loopers is handpicking. Yes, it may seem tedious, but manually removing these caterpillars from your plants can significantly reduce their numbers. Just make sure to wear gloves and dispose of them properly. Planting trap crops is another smart move. Cabbage loopers are attracted to certain plants like broccoli and cauliflower more than others.

Additionally, floating row covers made of lightweight fabric can create a physical barrier between the pest and your plants. This method prevents adult moths from laying eggs on susceptible vegetables while still allowing sunlight and water through. Don’t forget about crop rotation. Moving susceptible vegetables around each season helps break the life cycle of cabbage loopers by interrupting their access to host plants.

Organic Solutions to Combat Cabbage Looper Infestations

The most popular organic remedy for cabbage loopers is using Bacillus thuringiensis (BT). This naturally occurring bacterium produces proteins that are toxic to caterpillars, like cabbage loopers, but harmless to humans and beneficial insects. Spray BT on your plants, targeting the areas where the larvae are feeding, and watch as it disrupts their digestive systems, ultimately leading to their demise.

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Caterpillars on The Leaves of Cabbage

Another option is neem oil, a botanical insecticide derived from the neem tree. Mix neem oil with water according to package instructions and spray it onto affected plants regularly. Introducing beneficial nematodes into your garden soil is another organic solution worth considering. These microscopic worms actively seek out and attack cabbage looper larvae in the soil, effectively reducing their populations before they have a chance to cause extensive damage. 

Natural Predators of the Cabbage Looper

The natural predator of the cabbage looper is the Trichogramma wasp. These predators lay their eggs inside the eggs of cabbage loopers, effectively destroying them before they have a chance to hatch. Ladybugs are also known to be voracious eaters of cabbage loopers and can quickly reduce their numbers.

Birds, such as sparrows and finches, are another natural enemy of the cabbage looper. They feed on both adult moths and caterpillars, keeping their populations in check. To attract these beneficial birds to your garden, provide them with birdhouses or feeders. In addition to attracting natural predators, you can also introduce beneficial insects like lacewings or praying mantises into your garden. These insects will actively hunt down young larvae or eggs of pests like the cabbage looper.

Chemical vs. Organic Treatment for Cabbage Looper Control

Chemical control treatments involve the use of insecticides that are formulated to target and kill cabbage loopers. These can be highly effective at eliminating infestations quickly, but they also come with potential drawbacks. Some growers have concerns about the environmental impact of using chemicals in their gardens, as well as the potential harm they may cause to beneficial insects and other wildlife.

On the other hand, organic treatments rely on natural methods to control cabbage loopers. This could include introducing predatory insects that feed on cabbage loopers, such as parasitic wasps or ladybugs. Another option is using organic sprays made from ingredients like neem oil or garlic extract, which act as repellents or disruptors for these pests.

The advantage of organic treatment methods is that they are safer for humans and pets compared to chemical alternatives. Choosing between chemical and organic treatment methods depends on your personal preferences and priorities. If you’re concerned about minimizing environmental impacts or want a more natural approach in your garden, then opting for organic solutions may be the way to go.

Preventive Measures to Keep Cabbage Loopers Away from Your Vegetables

Row Covers: Using row covers is an effective way to physically block cabbage loopers and other pests from reaching your vegetables. These lightweight fabric covers allow sunlight and water to reach your plants while keeping the insects out.

Introduce Beneficial Insects: Introduce natural predators such as ladybugs, lacewings, parasitic wasps, and birds into your garden. These beneficial insects feed on cabbage loopers and can help keep their population under control.

Remove Weeds: Cabbage loopers are known to thrive on weeds like lamb’s quarters and pigweed that often grow near vegetable gardens. Removing these weeds reduces potential hiding spots for the pests.

Maintain Good Garden Hygiene: Keep your garden clean by regularly removing plant debris and fallen leaves where cabbage loopers might lay eggs or pupate.

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The Lifecycle of a Cabbage Looper and How to Interrupt It

The lifecycle of a cabbage looper is fascinating, and understanding it can help you effectively interrupt the population growth in your garden. It all begins with the adult moth, which lays its eggs on the leaves. The tiny green eggs hatch into larvae within a week. These newly hatched larvae are voracious eaters and begin feeding on your precious cabbage plants immediately. As they grow, they go through several molts, shedding old skins to accommodate their increasing size. Each molt results in a larger and more destructive caterpillar.

After about two weeks, the mature larva pupates by attaching itself to a plant or other surface using silk threads. During this stage, they undergo metamorphosis inside a protective structure called the pupa. Inside the pupa, major changes occur as the larva transforms into an adult moth. This transformation takes around one to two weeks to complete, depending on environmental conditions.

Once fully developed, an adult cabbage looper emerges from its pupal case, ready to mate and lay eggs for another generation of loopers to wreak havoc in the garden if left unchecked. Interrupting the cabbage looper lifecycle requires diligent monitoring and intervention at different stages. Regularly inspect your plants for eggs or small caterpillars early on before they cause significant damage.

Companion Planting to Deter Cabbage Loopers

By strategically planting certain plants alongside your susceptible vegetables, you can create a less attractive environment for these troublesome pests. For instance, planting aromatic herbs like thyme, rosemary, and sage near your cabbage plants can help repel cabbage loopers due to their strong scent. These herb plants add flavor to your meals and also act as natural repellents.

Additionally, interplanting marigolds with your cabbages can provide further protection against looper infestations. Another beneficial companion plant for deterring cabbage loopers is nasturtiums. The peppery taste and scent of nasturtium leaves are unappealing to these pests, making them less likely to lay eggs on nearby vegetables.

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Green Caterpillar Crawling on A Leaf


The cabbage looper pest has a wide appetite and can feed on cultivated plants as well as weeds. They particularly enjoy munching on vegetables like cabbage, broccoli, kale, and lettuce. By implementing pest control strategies into your gardening routine, you can successfully identify and manage cabbage loopers while promoting a healthy ecosystem within your garden space.


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