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Cabbage white caterpillars


Caterpillars eating holes in the outer and inner leaves of brassicas, with nasturtiums also being attacked.

Find it on: brassicas and nasturtiums
Time to act: early spring to autumn


The caterpillars of both the small and large cabbage white butterflies are are the two culprits. The first is pale green with a body up to 2.5cm long, the second is bigger at 4cm and is yellow with black markings. The adult butterflies lay eggs at different times: the small from February to April and again in late-summer, the large in April and May. This means the caterpillars can be busily munching away from early spring through to autumn.


Caterpillars eating holes in the outer and inner leaves of brassicas, with nasturtiums also being attacked.


Cover plants with horticultural fleece to prevent butterflies reaching the leaves. Check plants regularly and pick off any caterpillars that do make it through. Spray young caterpillars as they hatch with the biological control Steinernema carpcapse.


With heavy infestations, use an insecticide based on pyrethrum (only use once a season on crops).

Discuss this problem

Talkback: Cabbage white caterpillars
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j.simpson 24/11/2011 at 15:27

I found caterpillars crawling across the snow a few weeks back grrrr!

I have tried nets and fleeces and they sitll get through:(

Elaine12 24/11/2011 at 15:27

I still have a huge problem with caterpillers. They stripped the sprouts throughout the winter and are still going strong. Whenever you go in the garden, whatever the weather, you cannot fail to find them. I thought they would die out in the cold but although they have slowed down they seem to be stronger than ever. Am I the only person who seems to have hardy caterpillers?!

intercomtex 24/11/2011 at 15:27

I saw on a TV Gardening Program that you could save the leaves of Rubbard in water making them very smelly. Then watering your cabages,etc with this mixture. Is this safe to do this ? this is surpost to keep the cab fly away!

osso 24/11/2011 at 15:28

i am told using nettles as a base for an infusion holds the caterpillors at bay god knows in a use for them i live near seville in spain where nettles grow real big so a use for them would be great garlic was also mentioned my garlic beds are great so any ideas would be useful

SimonRous 24/11/2011 at 15:29

Over the years I've tried everything to keep the cabbage white off my Brassicas without success. So I've given up with brassicas and concentrate on more rewarding crops like potatoes, broad beans, runner beans, onoins, garlic, peas, sweet corn and leeks. My globe artichokes have been great for 10 years, but did not corp well this year despite vigourous plant growth. I've left them in the same bed without any supplementary food. Any ideas?

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