Deterring Cabbage Whites

We’re fighting something of a battle – we’ve got most of the brassicas in our cage, and the cauliflowers are covered by smaller netted cages – but the cabbage whites have got hold of one batch of spinach and have had a fair go at one of the newly planted hollyhocks and a couple of the red cabbages. This year I think we’re closer to winning than losing, but we’ve got to uncover the cauliflowers soon, as their leaves are pushing against the sides of their cages and then ….

Our only recourse, once the plants are exposed, is the inspection and squashing route. This means a daily turning over the leaves of cabbages and cauliflowers and squashing the clumps of small yellow eggs with gloved fingers. Other people can squash the caterpillars too, but I can’t. If I see them on the ground, I can tread on them, but I can’t actually squish them with my hands. I’ll get a little help from the starlings and some other birds, but it’s difficult for any predator to keep pace with the number of caterpillars that can hatch in a couple of days. There’s an organic deterrent in the form of a bacterium that you can spray on the plants but I haven’t got to that point yet. I try to think about routes like nematodes and organic treatments but they don’t come naturally to me, to be honest.

I’ve heard it said that it’s better to avoid planting colourful flowering plants near brassicas because the colour/nectar can attract the caterpillars. This year we’re not growing nasturtiums as they are said to be the biggest attractor of cabbage whites. Are there fewer cabbage whites? I believe so, but that could just be wishful thinking.

Conversely I’ve known people have some success with setting small white objects, like ping-pong balls, amongst the brassicas – apparently it makes the butterflies think a rival is already on the leaves. Next year I might even try cutting some fake butterflies from white plastic – maybe that would serve as a deterrent?

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Posted by The Allotment Blogger on Wednesday, August 10, 2011


Blogger Joanna said...

I'm trying dill this next year to see if that works. We haven't had so much of a problem this year so far but then I haven't been up the garden for a couple of days.

I squish them but by folding the leaves over gently. Hope the dead ones then put off further infestations.

August 10, 2011 at 7:35 AM  
Blogger Mary M. said...

A bamboo BBQ skewer works wonders on slugs. Are your caterpillars big enough for a similar treatment? Sure cuts down on the ick factor and after awhile it becomes, well, kinda satisfying...

August 10, 2011 at 10:19 PM  

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