Cabbage butterfly apocalypse

rapae

I had been a bit cavalier about the broccoli.

In the spring I’d constructed a netted area over a third of the raised bed to ward off brassica-loving pigeons when the time came.

But, in the intervening time between setting it up and planting out the broccoli, I’d gotten browned-off manoeuvering round the thing trying not to be skewered by bits of protruding bamboo.

So, I took it down, and watched happily as various members of the pigeon and dove family blithely ignored the broccoli and kale patch altogether.

I knew nothing of the real enemy, the cabbage butterfly.

Deceptively pretty as it flutters haphazardly about, this delicate insect is a major pest to brassicas, and is particularly fond of broccoli.

I’m fairly confident that there aren’t too many broccoli plants growing in the neighbouring gardens on our block, so ours are manna from heaven to these butterflies.

I spotted the first few descending last week and thought only how nice they looked. I even cautioned Patch the Jack Russell against eating one (she’s adept at snapping up insects on the fly).

Now, I think I’ll start incentivising her to hunt them out…

It was by accident that I came across a vital piece of information about the true intent of the cabbage butterflies hovering round my young broccoli.

While watching a gardening video about something else, they were mentioned in passing. A simple warning to watch out for them as the like to lay their eggs on the underside of brassica leaves, and when hatched, the caterpillars make short work of your crops.

A quick image search confirmed that the butterflies I’d been fawning over were indeed this fearful enemy… And they must be stopped!

The next day, armed with a damp cloth I carefully inspected the leaves of all the broccoli plants, five larger and three babies in the bed, and six medium ones in pots, wiping away anything suspicious.

dusty, webby stuff clustering at base of broccoli leaves

This included clusters of a dusty looking substance that nestled in the hollow at the base of the larger leaves – the work of another species of pest, annihilated too.

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On a few leaves of the larger plants I spotted small yellow or black spots, all were wiped off. And one or two infant caterpillars.

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The leaves on the plants in pots however, which were better spaced and more accessible, had all been hit.

Thankfully there was time to clear off the clusters of bright yellow eggs before an army of leaf munchers were released to wreak havoc.

Soon all traces of the enemy were removed, in what was hopefully a brisk and painless apocalypse.

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I constructed net protection around the broccoli in the bed. Those in pots are still exposed.

I’ll need to be diligent and check regularly for signs of more eggs or missed caterpillars.

Thankfully I’ve had few aphids so far. Though they may still be along yet with this upside down weather.

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Some miscellaneous black things were trying to make a young spinach theirs, so I uprooted the whole thing.

Loathe to murder all the gestating insects, I left some eggs intact in the compost bin, where they can gorge themselves a while yet.

There will probably be consequences to that. But there’s only so much killing I can take in one day.

Gardening is a brutal game really.

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