Food Gardening Network

Growing Good Food at Home

Dealing with Broccoli Pests

Caterpillars on broccoli plant

Caterpillars on broccoli plant

Pests on your broccoli plants, left unchecked, can damage and destroy your crop. Keeping a close watch on your plants during regular daily inspections will help you spot any pests before they can do irreparable harm. Healthy broccoli plants can bounce back from pest damage if you catch the pests quickly.

Spot the symptoms of broccoli pests

Check leaves, branches, and heads for these symptoms that come from pests on the prowl.

On Broccoli Leaves and Heads

Pest Symptom
Small holes in leaves between veins Cabbage loopers
Wilting leaves with bluish or yellow cast; shriveling plants Cabbage root maggots
Yellowing leaves; clusters of small “bumps” on underside of leaves Aphids
Ragged holes in foliage Cabbage worms
Honeydew on leaves; eggs on underside of leaves Whiteflies

How to treat pests on broccoli

Here are some proven ways to get rid of pests on your broccoli. Choose the best treatment for the type of pests invading your trees.

  • Pick off the pests. Use your garden gloves to remove the pests by hand. After removal, destroy pests by drowning them in a bucket of soapy water or crushing them with your foot. Handpicking isn’t efficient or practical for very small pests but works well with larger pests.
  • Apply insecticidal soap. Insecticidal soap is organic. The potassium salts in insecticidal soap help remove an insect’s protective waxes, causing destruction of insect membranes and killing them. Mix the soap with water to create your solution and apply directly to insects on any plants. While insecticidal soap is less apt to affect other organisms, certain plants might be sensitive to the soap and can suffer leaf burn.
  • Apply horticultural oils. Combine plant- or petroleum-based oils with water to produce horticultural sprays. Neem oil, for instance, is derived from seed extracts of the neem plant. Oil-based sprays block an insect’s air holes, interfere with an insect’s metabolism, disrupt insect feeding, and inhibit insect growth. Like insecticidal soaps, horticultural oils can cause plant injury if not properly diluted.
  • Make your own pest spray. You can make your own pest spray with benign materials. Mix 1 tablespoon of baking soda, 1/2 teaspoon of a mild dish detergent, and 2 1/2 tablespoons of olive oil in a gallon of water to make a solution that will repel all kinds of bugs, as well as a fungicide for blight and mildew on broccoli plant leaves. Shake it well in your bottle before spraying and repeat every week for it to be continuously effective.
  • Create a pest barrier. One way to deter those small but mighty pests intent on sucking the life out of your plant’s leaves is to create a physical barrier between the ground and the foliage. When the plants are young, create a cuff from a paper cup or a double thickness of aluminum foil and place it around the stem of the plant, about 2 inches deep into the ground and 2 inches above.

Do pests attack your broccoli every year? How do you handle removing them—and even preventing them in the first place? Please tell us how you treat your broccoli to avoid pests.


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