Butterfly Barrier Failure

So my idea about using 1/2 inch bird netting as a cabbage leaf worm butterfly barrier? Failure. Above is the photographic evidence–a butterfly caught within the netting.

So two alternatives:

  • Floating row cover (inconvenient and too warm for our climate)
  • More biodiversity in the garden

I’m liking the biodiversity option the best. Planting a bunch of brassicas is like opening an all you can eat buffet for cabbage leaf worms. Our backyard has more biodiversity and fewer problems with pests. I used better (homemade) compostĀ  in the raised beds in the backyard, thus the soil in these beds also has greater microbial biodiversity

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21 Comments

  1. Pingback: Bird Netting as a Cabbage Leaf Caterpillar Barrier | Root Simple

    • Problem is that my chickens would eat the cabbage worms and then start eating all the vegetables.

  2. You could also replace the bird netting with tulle, which has much smaller openings, but is still way less dense than floating row cover.

    • Tulle does work, as does fog cloth with the drawback of slightly increasing shade. While the bird netting isn’t 100% effective, even at 30-50% effectiveness it’s a help. Tulle is what tutus are made of. Mexican party supply stores are a great place to stock up on toole inexpensively.

  3. I didn’t want to say it when I read your first post about using the bird netting. I am using bird netting currently for my raised garden, which has Brussels Sprouts and cabbage worms in it… However, the netting is quite good at keeping out other annoyances like squirrels, cats, etc… I just go out every so often and pick the worms off with a Q-tip dipped in honey. It’s tedious but I only have six plants to remove worms from. Your alternatives are good ones, and I hope you have better luck with those.

  4. This might cause more questions than answers, but I refer to the work of Arden Anderson, who links insect and disease problems to nutritional problems for the plants. In most cases, insect pests are attracted to plants that aren’t getting enough calcium and/or phosphorous. (I deal with this all the time.) Since nutrients are mainly taken up via soil microbes, there must be a mismatch between soil, soil microbes and the plant. That’s my story and I’m stickin’ to it!
    See The Anatomy of Life and Energy in Agriculture for more details.

    • I think there’s a lot to this. Healthy soil means healthy plants with robust immune systems. The real answer is more robust soil microbes–then no need for row cover!

  5. I’ve been doing the same thing with the bird netting, and still found some worms! But it does help reduce the problem, and birds and other critters are discouraged a bit as well. I’ve been having problems with birds nibbling lettuces and other greens, so I’ve been putting wire barriers over them and that helps a lot. Also, if you have the time, go out in the afternoon when those white butterflies are flitting about, and with a good old-fashioned butterfly catcher, catch those buggers and feed to your chickens, that will help knock down the population.

  6. I’m with you on the biodiversity idea. One section of our 40 foot raised bed is a melting pot of volunteers, planted seeds, and planted seedlings. At the end of the season it all looks like a great mess in the best sense of the word, and more importantly there aren’t pest issues. I have tomatoes, okras, peppers, basil basil basil, chicory, weeds growing biomass, and several others here and there. I want my whole bed to look like this next year!

  7. I am a haphazard planter but my husband is a rows kind of guy so we have to compromise. Being a humble backyard I control my moths by having a few butterfly net catching sessions when they are quite active. This also provides amusement for anyone watching also. I catch and feed to my chickens. Some get through though so I also regularly check the plant and feed the caterpillars to the chooks. Some get by that measure as well but very few and at that point I can live with a couple of holes. My organic gardening mantra is to have things in balance, not totally eradicate anything as I believe everything is part of a chain.

    • Hey Practical–we have a lot of cabbage leaf worm butterflies here in California. I’ve heard that it’s because of the large amount of mustard that grows wild in the winter. I’d be pretty busy with that butterfly net.

  8. I have a pretty biodiverse garden but we still have a lot of cabbage moths/butterflies. I don’t like the idea of bird netting as birds (and obviously butterflies) get caught in the netting, some die :(
    I use floating row cover, it works great on more than just moths/butterflies. I have a community garden and we have grasshoppers that are super destructive, floating row cover saves many of my plants!

  9. I grew leeks and thyme next to my cabbages and cauliflower this summer and didn’t have any problems with cabbage worms on my cabbage, even though I saw them flying around. The cauliflower never got any cauliflower on it, only leaves, though. I don’t know if was because of the leeks and thyme, but other cabbage in another bed not close to leeks or thyme did get worms on them. I also grew radishes nearby but I’m not sure if that helped.

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