Tag Archives: NaBloPoMo

14. Put off by Persistent Pests

5 Nov

This is perhaps the first in a series of Persistent Pests articles I might do in this challenge.

Small and Large Cabbage Whites

The Adult Cabbage White is an attractive looking pale white to yellow Butterfly of the pieridae family of lepidoptera. Introduced to our shores somewhere about 1860, this species of butterfly is highly invasive. In its homelands of Europe and Asia it has one maybe two annual flights, but here in the Americas it can be seen year round in most parts except northern most Canada and the Desert plains of the Southwest. It feeds on the nectar of flowers and since it visits many in its lifetime, this makes it an effective pollinator.


cabbage white in California

cabbage white in California (Photo credit: Mollivan Jon)


I am not an expert in butterflies, let alone this one. All the information and facts displayed here are an aggregation of facts and photos gathered from a few quick searches on Google and Wikipedia. Since I am currently dealing with this particular pest in my gardens I thought I might quickly compile some information as I learn and find it.

As beautiful as butterflies are and beneficial as they are to a gardener’s efforts in pollination, it is often their more destructive children that get overlooked in the larger picture of pollinators. In this case, after mating the beautiful female Cabbage White lays single eggs on the leaf underside of just about any suitable host plant. Its usual choices are green leafs in the radish and mustard families; this includes cabbages, collards, and kales. Here in North America, since this butterfly flies year round, a single adult female can lay her eggs several more times than her European counterpart.

Estimates show that a single female of this species might be the progenitor in a few generations of millions.


These eggs then hatch to become the fuzzy green cabbage worm. In larvae of the Cabbage White will continuously munch on the tender green leaves of the host plant until they become a chrysalis and metamorphose into the adult butterfly. As they feed and live the younger worms will start on the underside of the leaves but graduate to the upper face of the leaf. Their fricasse will collect in the center stalk of the plant, looking like little black dots at the base of each leaf. Even though their damage can be hard to look at, if the plant is otherwise healthy, it will continue to grow new greens. Any greens damaged by the worm are still safe for human consumption if there is enough left of it. Just make sure the worm and its fricasse are no longer on the leaf when you munch on it.

Lacinato Kale damaged by the imported cabbage worm

Lacinato Kale damaged by the imported cabbage worm


Controlling the Imported Cabbage Worm

Manually removing the worms is by far the best way to control the imported cabbage worm in smaller, garden sized situations. This can be accomplished by simply picking the worm off the plant and dropping it into a solution of soap and water. If you happen to keep chickens, then feel free to feed them to the birds instead.

If you are not so inclined to hand picking the worms, whether because time or preference, then there are safe and organic solutions which can be applied in order to control and/or break the life-cycle of this pest.

  • Garlic Oil – applied in solution will kill the eggs and young larvae and can repel the older larvae and adults.
  • Hot Pepper Sprays – applied in solution will provide similar benefit as garlic oil. Just be careful not to breathe it in yourself.
  • Soaps – applied in solution will cause young larvae to dehydrate
  • Neem Oil – follow package instructions
  • Bt – by far the best organic solution for all caterpillars and leaf-eating worms. This biologic toxin safely targets only caterpillars and leaf-eating worms by poisoning their stomachs. Infected worms are killed in a matter of days. The downside is that Bt breaks down in a matter of 3-4 days of sunlight. Frequent applications may be necessary.

Establishing an inviting habitat for predatory insects and birds is always an effective way to control pests in the garden. Predatory Wasps will lay their eggs inside the soft bodies of these worms and caterpillars. As the eggs hatch the mature, the larvae feed on the insides of the host worm effectively killing it.

Installing physical barriers is an effective way of controlling the spread of this and other insects within your garden. Spun netting framed over the plants will prevent the adult from landing and laying its eggs.

If you like, you can even try catching the butterfly in a butterfly net. Just make sure you dispose of it properly and not in another garden or yard. This is not an endangered or protected species either.

Another method includes using eggshells strewn around your garden beds. Since this butterfly is territorial, it often mistakes the white shell as another adult and will fly away. You can also use an number of home made crafts to bluff or mimic the butterfly away.

I hope this helps. I know I learned a lot more than I bargained for.

Grow it Forward


10. Oh SNAP! Where did it all go?

1 Nov
English: Logo of the .

English: Logo of the . (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

This morning millions of Americans woke up to the startling reality that they will face a hungrier and poorer 2014 just in time for the beginning of this holiday season.  This sad reality comes as the US Congress allowed the expiration of the temporary economic stimulus package enacted in 2009 by the Obama administration. As of November 1, 2013, families and individuals receiving federally supported food stamps will see their benefit cut by as much as $36 per month for a family of four, or $1.40 per meal per person down from $1.48 per meal.

The House proposal, now being negotiated along with smaller, yet still significant, Senate cuts of $4 billion, would result in 3.8 million people being removed from food stamps in 2014,according to the Congressional Budget Office. The haggling comes at a time when more than 15 percent of Americans remain mired in poverty, and more than half are at or near the poverty line when stagnant middle-class wages are matched against rising costs of living, US Census data show.

courtesy Mother Jones.com

SNAP, as it is commonly called, is the federal government’s economic assistance program providing nutritional support to persons and families living in or near poverty in the form of Food Stamps. This assistance goes in large part to feed children and the elderly whose food is insecure. There are some abuses to and in the system which have given it a much maligned reputation. But the benefits to the security, health and over-all well-being of its recipients are clear and to reduce and/or remove these benefits in such economically difficult times is bad, to say the least. Especially when one considers that 1 in 8 Americans already deal with hunger on a daily basis, and most of them are children, infirm, and/or elderly.


How then are we to feed them? Can they be expected to feed themselves?

Suppose individuals and communities learned and practiced the skills of growing thus bringing the food cycle closer to homes and neighborhoods rather than depending on the industrial food machines of this day. What would happen if more of the fresh food “revolution” in our country made its way down to the lower social and economic brackets of our great society instead of being a bling ring on the fairer fingers of the nuanced and nouveau riche? Suppose more land were readily available for growing rather than constant sprawling development. What if the public schools in our cities did more to teach and encourage agricultural and horticultural practices beyond the operation of a lawn mower and weed eater? What if there were more economic incentives for persons and civic organizations to establish and maintain urban and suburban farmlets? What if more farmers’ markets and grocery stores carrying fresh produce started showing up in the harder parts of our cities and towns and not just the affluent and safer ones? What if we “economically stimulated” healthy eating and lifestyle choices for all levels of society, not just the middle and upper class? 

When societal norms and customs prohibit all members of that same society from attaining and living in and from a mutually accepted quality of health and wellness regardless of social or economic status, then that same society ceases to exist as one and relegates itself to a cluster of many. Thus, it becomes a collection of hierarchical factions grouped into many “have”s and “have not”s.  This is a defacto state of injustice. When a nation accepts this as the norm, especially in the areas of health and well-being, then it is always going to be the weakest, the most needy who will be cast aside and strode asunder the foot and mood of the mightier; of the able. This is not a new thought, however. Aristotle has often been quoted as saying you can judge a nation by the way it treats its most vulnerable citizens. And many other philosophers, politicians, preachers, and activists have espoused this idea throughout history.

“…the moral test of government is how that government treats those who are in the dawn of life, the children; those who are in the twilight of life, the elderly; those who are in the shadows of life; the sick, the needy and the handicapped. “

Last Speech of Hubert H. Humphrey 
November 1, 1977 
Washington, D.C.

“The greatness of America is in how it treats its weakest members: the elderly, the infirm, the handicapped, the underprivileged, the unborn.”

Bill Federer

I do not intend to rant and rail against established machines and practices of our day. Rather I hope to encourage, to rally a cry for a change at the personal level rather than depend on the collective and sluggish effort of indebted government. If society is by default a sum of its parts, then if you start changing the parts you will by extension start changing the whole. Much like the peaceful civil rights movements of the mid-twentieth century that changed America, and the world, let us too begin at the personal level. Let us fight back at the injustice in our food distribution by bringing the food cycle down to lower more personal levels, where possible for each individual. Let us combat food deserts in our cities with persons willing to go into them and offer their produce directly to the consumer rather than through the marked-up marketplace. Let us control growth retake our lands one green acre at a time. Let us teach and encourage the next generation of farmers and growers with respect and thanks. I do not have the solutions here for all my readers. I do not have the strength to wield such a power. This is what I do have though; my health, the health of my family, and by the blessings and grace of God, a couple of small plots of land to grow on and some ideas of how to grow it forward. 

Thank you and God Bless.