|Beautiful, blemish-free cabbage plant|
Cabbage #2, not protected and therefore partially devoured by the miserable cabbage butterfly's offspring:
|Cabbage that provided lunch for the caterpillars|
As you can see, my method of hand-picking cabbage butterfly caterpillars off my cole crops and swiping eggs off the leaves doesn't work so well when I take a day or two off from the hunt. I did finally get one of the offending butterflies to stop moving for more than a split second, though, so I have some nice closeups for you.
|Cabbage butterfly (Pieris rapae)|
|Cabbage butterfly on a squash plant|
I am on my way to outsmarting these little devils, though. Last month, Mr. English made me a frame wrapped with floating row cover material that fits perfectly over my seeding trays. That will at least prevent the butterflies from accessing my seedlings.
|Floating row cover frame fits over seedling trays|
The next step will be outfitting a couple of our 4 x 8 foot raised beds with PVC hoops, so I can clip floating row cover over an entire bed. This year, I made the mistake of planting the broccoli and cabbage in a triangular bed, which is not a good shape for making a row cover frame. I tried draping the row cover directly over the plants, but that didn't work well. I had apparently missed a few eggs before I draped the transplants; the eggs hatched, and since I couldn't easily monitor the plants under the row cover, the caterpillars munched away quite a bit before I lifted the fabric and discovered the damage. Grrrrr! Next year my transplants will go directly from a protected seedling flat to a 4 x 8 bed protected with a hoop frame. Maybe this is just a bad year for the cabbage butterfly, but I don't see any other way to successfully grow cole crops around here.
Now that I've honed my cabbage butterfly hunting skills, maybe I can put them to good use and turn this situation to my advantage after all. For over thirty years, Art Shapiro, a biology professor and butterfly expert at UC Davis, has offered a pitcher of beer to the person bringing in the first Cabbage White butterfly of the year in the Davis-Sacramento area. I think he's won the prize himself every year, actually, so the odds are against me, but I will definitely be on the look out come January!