What's attacking our greens?

Asked August 30, 2015, 6:17 PM EDT

Photos attached perforated leaves of our greens, seeds of which were planted about 2 weeks ago. Spinach is the least damaged, but kale, arugula, and broccoli all have leaves which look as if they had been peppered with buckshot. My wife found the critter and eggs shown in photo WI083015 - 5A in the vicinity (This latter photo I've sent to BugGuide.net for ID). Rain has been very indifferent since planting, but we've watered frequently since the planting. I'd appreciate any insight you could give us about what's causing the mayhem in our fall greens. Thanks for any information you can provide.

Montgomery County Maryland leafy greens cabbage butterfly larvae

1 Response

The caterpillar in the photo looks like the larvae of the Cabbage Butterfly, Pieris rapae. Looks like the larvae has been parasitized by a wasp. The cocoons of the wasp look like grains of rice. Do not kill the larvae. Let the wasps complete their lifecycle so they can multiply in the garden. The parasitized larvae stops eating and eventually dies.

A good method of deterring this pest is to cover your plants with floating row cover as soon as seedlings emerge or when you plant transplants. It is too late for this unless you have new plantings.
You can handpick the caterpillars if the infestation is not large or use Bt, a
biological control if caterpillars are under an inch.
See our insect profile on the imported cabbage worm for prevention and control http://extension.umd.edu/growit/insects/imported-cabbageworm mh