A broccoli plant starting to bounce backA broccoli plant starting to bounce back
On the sidewalk, about to be crushedOn the sidewalk, about to be crushed
Skeletonized Brussels sproutsSkeletonized Brussels sprouts
A very poorly focused shot showing at least 9 caterpillars on one tiny plantA very poorly focused shot showing at least 9 caterpillars on one tiny plant
They may be little, but they have big mouthsThey may be little, but they have big mouths
These little green caterpillars ate anything leafy in their pathThese little green caterpillars ate anything leafy in their path
  • A broccoli plant starting to bounce back
  • On the sidewalk, about to be crushed
  • Skeletonized Brussels sprouts
  • A very poorly focused shot showing at least 9 caterpillars on one tiny plant
  • They may be little, but they have big mouths
  • These little green caterpillars ate anything leafy in their path

I’m all stocked up with bug stories to tell, so I think I’ll dub this Bug Week and handle them all at once!

I started seeds of some fall vegetables inside under the lights during the summer, and then planted them outside at the beginning of September. All was well until a couple weeks ago when we noticed that the little plants had gone from leafy and growing to stubby stems overnight. The perpetrator? A little green caterpillar.

Once we started really looking at the plants, we realized that they were infested with them. Five or six tiny leafy plants in our front yard containers had a grand total of 13 caterpillars tearing them up. I picked them off, tossed them on the sidewalk and then stomped on them (which was much less gross than stomping on tomato hornworms).

Later I checked in the backyard and found the same situation. The Brussels sprouts and broccoli were being decimated, and I think I even found some on the turnips.

So, gardeners extraordinaire: what say you? What type of bug is this that ate up my veg and left them as skeletons?

For the record – most of the plants survived and are bouncing back. I would guess that the delay in growth will set them back to the point that they won’t be harvestable before the end of the season, but we shall see. It’s worth a shot.

3 Responses to “Bug Week! Name that bug”

  1. Jessica
    27 October 2010 at 8:40 am #

    It seems a little late in the year, but with the mild weather, I guess maybe anything is possible. Could they be Imported cabbageworm caterpillars (Pieris rapae)? It’s the only caterpillar in our Extension guides that doesn’t really have a segmented body or markings.

    http://extension.missouri.edu/publications/DisplayPub.aspx?P=ipm1019-26

  2. CoMo Homestead
    27 October 2010 at 11:19 am #

    I think you’re absolutely right! I think these photos confirm it for me: http://www.google.com/images?q=imported+cabbageworm&um=1&ie=UTF-8&source=univ&ei=0FDITPTzEYa9nAf_mpyoAw&sa=X&oi=image_result_group&ct=title&resnum=1&ved=0CCgQsAQwAA&biw=1280&bih=911

    Thanks, Jessica! You’re a bug identification superstar!


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