The cabbage moth, or Mamastra brassicae, is well-known for the devastation it does to many different types of crops. Despite its conventional name, the cabbage moth actually feeds on a wide variety of Brassica fruits, vegetables, and crops, not only cabbage. This pest species causes significant economic damage since tobacco, sunflowers, and tomatoes are also among their preferred host plants.
The moth’s expansive range covers all of the Palearctic. Local adaptations have produced a species with great variety in life cycle and behavior across different populations because of its large range and the presence of several populations worldwide.
Cabbage Moth Taxonomy
The Mamestra brassicae should not be confused with the cabbage looper moth (Trichoplusia ni) or the white cabbage moth butterfly (Pieris rapae), which have similar names but are in different taxonomic groups.
Mamestra brassicae is in the Lepidoptera order (moths & butterflies). Furthermore, within this order, they belong to the clade Ditrysia, which has 98 percent of the Lepidoptera species, and means that the female has two separate openings for mating and laying eggs. Moreover, the species is part of the Noctuidae family, which is the second largest family in Lepidoptera. The cabbage moth is in the subfamily Hadeninae of this family. Besides, many pest species live in the genus Mamestra, which is found all over the world.
What Do Cabbage Moths Look Like?
The Cabbage Moth doesn’t have a lot of distinctive markings that make it easy for gardeners to spot. Like many other moths, they are about 1.5 inches long. Moreover, they have two wings in front and two wings in the back. Furthermore, these are mostly brown, with spots and bands of black and white. Moreover, they can be identified as Cabbage Moths by a white stripe near the edge of their wings, though this stripe may not be very noticeable.
The caterpillars of the Cabbage Moth are green with black and brown spots. As they grow & mature toward the end of the larvae stage, these become more obvious. Thus, they turn into brown pupae when they are ready to become adult moths.
Cabbage moths look a lot like other kinds of moths, both when they are young and when they are grown up. Thus, this can make it hard to tell them apart at a glance. So, one of the best ways to figure out if you have Cabbage Moths is to look at how they affect plants. Larvae eat the leaves and often stay close to the ground and on the bottom side. Thus, if your cabbage, broccoli, tomatoes, or sunflowers have been eaten by something, look for larvae that could be cabbage moths.
What Does A Cabbage Moth Eat?
These moths don’t care what they eat. Thus, this means they eat a lot of different kinds of plants. Many, like cabbage and broccoli, grow close to the ground. Some plants, like sunflowers, can grow higher. Gardens grow a lot of the food that Cabbage Moths like to eat. Moreover, these can be small home gardens or bigger plots used for business. Any way you look at it, when Cabbage Moths are brought in, gardeners and farmers move quickly to control their population before they wipe out crops.
Cabbage Moths like to eat cabbage, cauliflower, broccoli, spinach, and lettuce, among other plants. They also like plants that grow on a vine, like tomatoes and peas. Cabbage moths can also eat tobacco and a lot of other plants that are important to businesses outside of home gardens.
Cabbage Moth larvae eat both the plants and their leaves when they eat. They dig into the plant, eat it, and then leave their own waste behind. They are more active at night, which makes it hard to see them during the day. If your plants are getting eaten every night, it could be because of Cabbage Moths.
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Where Does Cabbage Moth Live?
These moths live in Asia and Europe. Even in parts of Africa, they can live. Because their favorite foods grow easily in the wild or can be grown in gardens, there is plenty for these moths to eat. They have grown and changed so much that they now live in many places.
In the United States, cabbage moths are not a known pest. But bringing in live plants and vegetables always makes it more likely they spread to other parts of the globe. Furthermore, the climate in other parts of the world, like North and South America, is good for the survival and growth of the cabbage moth. Thus, growers have to be very careful to look for cabbage moth eggs and larvae when they get new plants.
Adult moths often can’t fly far enough or live long enough to spread to new parts of the world in this form. Most of the time, eggs and larvae stick to plants to move to new places.
How To Get Rid Of Cabbage Moths
So, you may be thinking about how to kill cabbage moths. Like getting rid of other pests, it’s important to find them early. Moreover, the female Cabbage Moths lay their eggs on the undersides of leaves, sometimes up to 350 at a time. When these large groups of the eggs hatch, they turn into a lot of hungry young. It takes about a week for an egg to hatch. If you see eggs or young bugs on your plants, just pull them off and throw them away.
Bringing their natural enemies into your garden is a great way to get rid of cabbage moths. The cabbage moth caterpillar stage of Cabbage Moths is very tasty to birds, like chickens. Getting chickens can be fun and helpful if you live in a place where it’s okay to have chickens. Just remember that they have their own needs that you’ll have to take into account.
You can bring wild birds to your garden even if you don’t want to keep your own flock. Thus, wild birds feel right at home when they have food, water, and a place to live. Many of them also eat the young Cabbage Moths.
Some kinds of wasps can also slow or stop the growth of Cabbage Moth larvae at different stages. Putting wasps in your garden to get rid of pests, on the other hand, is something only experienced gardeners should do.
Last, you can stop or kill Cabbage Moths with insecticides. It can also hurt good bugs, so we only suggest this as a last resort. When you spray insecticides on your plants, make sure to get the undersides of the leaves, where the eggs will be. Also, you should wash your vegetables before you eat them.
Parvaiz Yousuf is a senior SEO writer and editor with an experience of over 6 years, who also doubles up as a researcher. With an MSc zoology degree under his belt and possessing complete Search Engine Optimization (SEO) knowledge, he works as a science journalist for a US-based website and Asian Scientist (A Singapore-based magazine). He also works as Director of Wetland Research Centre, Wildlife Conservation Fund YPJK since 2018. Besides, he has several publications to his name on cancer biology and biochemistry in some reputed journals such as Nature & International Journal of Molecular Sciences, & magazines such as Science Reporter, BUCEROS BNHS, and has an abiding interest in ornithology. He also worked as a Research Associate for JK Policy Institute.