What is Eating my Broccoli Leaves?

Healthy Green Broccoli
Healthy Green Broccoli (Source: Pixabay)

One of the most satisfying plants to grow is broccoli. It is a tasty, cool-seasonal crop that grows easily in the right conditions and is abundant in nutrients while being low in calories.

It’s even more rewarding when it’s ready to harvest and you can finally enjoy the results of your labor.

However, there can be a bitter side to your Broccoli’s growth: what if you go out to your blooming Broccoli crop and discover that the previously large leaves have been eaten off and are now full of holes?

The only reason behind those odd holes is different kinds of bugs and pests.

Generally, pests like Cabbage Moth, Diamondback Moth, or Flea Beetles, Cabbage Looper feed on Broccoli leaves. However, these insects may be readily controlled using a pesticide, handpicking, or row coverings. 

Broccoli leaves eaten by pests
Broccoli leaves eaten by pests

Having your vegetable plant get eaten by pests can be worrisome.

However, don’t worry—we’ll go through the most common sorts of broccoli-loving insects.

Similarly, this article will also mention how to keep the bugs from consuming your tasty Broccoli before you get a chance to eat it!

What is Eating my Broccoli Leaves?

Pest problems are quite common in the plant Broccoli. Similarly, insects love broccoli plants almost as much as their growers do.

However, the Cabbage (Brevicoryne brassicae) and turnip aphids (Lipaphis erysimi) are the most prevalent pests on broccoli plants.

Various pests are fond of Broccoli and other Cole crops such as cabbage, Brussel sprouts, and similar vegetables.

These vegetables are ideal for growing on raised beds or in the yard, although they may be vulnerable to insect pests as a result.

Broccoli Leaves eaten by pests
Broccoli Leaves are eaten by pests

Here is a list of the most common pests that is liable for the destruction of your Broccoli leaves:

1. Aphids

Aphids appear to infiltrate every garden. They are soft-bodied, tiny insects that subsist by sucking nutrient-rich liquids from plants.

They are little, soft-bodied insects that feed on the undersides of broccoli leaves, discoloring and wrinkling them.

In addition, they may drastically weaken plants in huge numbers, causing damage to blooms and fruit.

Aphids reproduce fast; therefore, it’s critical to bring them under control before they reproduce.

Aphids in the branch of the plant.
Aphids in the branch of the plant. (Source: Wikimedia Commons)

Aphids are little and practically undetectable to the human eye. They have pear-shaped bodies and long antennae.

Various species can occur in multiple colors, including white, black, brown, gray, yellow, light green, and even pink! Some have a waxy or fuzzy surface.

To find their origin, keep an eye out for leaves that are deformed, curled, stunted, or yellowing. Similarly, aphids love to hide on the undersides of leaves.

Treatment for Aphids

  • To expel the aphids, sprinkle cold water on the broccoli leaves.
  • Dusting the plants with flour causes Aphids to agitate and depart.
  • If applied according to the package guidelines, Neem oil, Diatomaceous earth, or Insecticidal soap are also effective.
  • Horticultural oil is used to destroy overwintering eggs on fruit plants.
  • Similarly, use a natural aphid repellant like dish soap for more severe aphid control.

DIY Aphid Killer Soap Spray

  • Fill a spray bottle halfway with tap water and add a few drops of dish soap up to the top.
  • Shake the bottle to make soapy water.
  • For two weeks, spray the Broccoli with the solution every three days. The aphids are suffocated by the soap, which kills them and prevents others from emerging.
  • Use this easy recipe to get rid of black aphids on any other plant where they’re a problem.

2. Cabbage Moths

Cabbage moths are a broccoli plant’s number one adversary. It is a little gray insect roughly 10mm in length.

They are white butterflies with black markings on their wings and are roughly 40mm in length.

The cabbage moth is one of the common pests to eat Broccoli. (Source: Wikimedia Commons)

On the underside of leaves, moths and butterflies deposit their eggs. Caterpillar larvae develop from the eggs and feed on the leaves or fruit.

Hence, the caterpillar of the white butterfly or cabbage moth is harmed.

Though their eggs are small, they will ultimately hatch into green caterpillars that will eat the inner and outer leaves of your healthy Broccoli and grow large and fat.

Treatment For Cabbage Moth

  • Squish or throw the Cabbage moths in a pail of soapy water after handpicking the ones you can see.
  • Examine both sides of leaves every week for these pests and their feeding damage.
  • If you have a huge crop, a pesticide will be more effective. Bt (Bacillius thuringiensis) is an excellent and natural option.

3. Diamondback Moth Caterpillars

If you haven’t noticed, Caterpillars of all types are one of the most prevalent pests you’ll encounter.

The newly born Diamondback Moth larvae will eat the whole top and lower leaf (but not the ribs) of your broccoli plant.

Light green with little black hairs, these creepy-crawlies are about a third of an inch long.

They have pointy tips on both ends, distinguishing them from other caterpillars.

Diamondback Moth Caterpillars in the leaf of the plant.
Diamondback Moth Caterpillars in the leaf of the plant. (Source: Wikimedia Commons)

When they’re fully grown, they create big, ragged holes on the undersides of the leaves with uneven edges.

They are green in color when the larvae are young, but as they develop, they turn brown.

Likewise, if you disturb the adult larvae, they will descend from the leaf on a silken line (like a spider), making identification straightforward.

Disturbing them is another method to identify them; they’ll try to flee by slipping down on silken thread.

Treatment for Diamondback Moths

  • Diamondback Moth Caterpillars have been demonstrated to be resistant to biological pesticides, including Bacillus thuringiensis (Bt).
  • You can control diamondback moths with neem seed extracts. Neem contains oily compounds that kill insects.
  • If you want something even more natural, consider parasite stingless wasps (Cotesia plutellae, Diadegma insulare, and Microplitis plutellae are commercially available).

4. Cabbage Looper

The Cabbage Looper (Trichoplusia ni) is a widespread and damaging insect attacking cabbage and cole crops.

Its larvae do more significant damage as they get larger.

Loopers, sometimes known as inchworms, are easily identified by their distinctive movement, which involves doubling up or “looping” as they inch along.

The lack of legs at the looping segments also gives this creature its distinctive appearance.

Other leaf worms have eight legs, which the six-legged Looper can employ.

Cabbage Looper in Cauliflower. (Source: Max Pixel)

Young larvae exclusively consume the leaves’ bottoms. In contrast, many plants’ leaves are chewed into big, uneven holes by older larvae.

In addition, Loopers drill into the heart of cabbage heads, leaving a mound of sticky, wet feces behind.

Treatment for Cabbage Looper

  • Brush off the eggs and pick off the hungry, inching larvae.
  • The larvae may be easily disposed of by drowning in a jar of soapy water.
  • Bacillus thuringiensis is a naturally occurring soil-dwelling bacteria.
  • Use an easy-to-apply spray to kill worms and preserve the leaves at the first indication of damage.
  • Another biological substance developed from fermentation is Spinosad, which is likewise highly effective.
  • Other botanical pesticides such as Safer’s Tomato & Vegetable Insect Killer or Pyrethrin Spray might be employed.

5. Flea Beetles

Flea beetles are tiny, shiny-coated beetles with long back legs that allow them to leap like fleas when attacked.

Since there are so many different kinds of flea beetles, they have a wide range of appearances.

Colors range from black to brown, with brighter colors thrown in, and depending on the species, the beetles may have a solid, striped, or spotted pattern.

Therefore, it’s simpler to spot flea beetles by looking for damage indicators rather than the bugs themselves.

Flea Beetles in the leaf of Broccoli plant.
Flea Beetles in the leaf of Broccoli plant (Source: Wikimedia Commons)

Adult beetles eat the leaves and leave “shotholes” in them.

Keep an eye out for these holes, especially on young seedlings, where damage occurs quickly and does the greatest harm.

Flea bugs seldom cause serious harm to established plants since the leaves are big enough to withstand a few holes.

The actual concern is that the beetles may transfer bacterial illnesses from plant to plant, such as wilt and blight. As a result, they must still be considered a pest.

Treatment for Flea Beetle

Caution: Check the label of the pesticide you want to apply to ensure that the vegetable you want to treat is listed.

DIY spray for Flea Beetles

  • One tablespoon liquid soap,
  • 2 cups rubbing alcohol,
  • 5 cups water

If you don’t detect any adverse effects after testing the combination on a leaf of the plant and letting it sit overnight, you can spray the remainder of the plant.

Spray the mixture on the leaves of pest-prone garden plants.

6. Thrips

Thrips are tiny insects approximately a third of an inch in length. Adult insects have wings, while juvenile insects have not.

They might be pale yellow to dark brown in hue and may generate up to eight generations in a single year.

While their eating might create unwanted symptoms like stippling and even stunting, the actual hazard is that they can spread illness, particularly the mosaic virus.

Thrips in the leaf of the plant. (Source: Wikimedia Commons)

Some gardeners prefer to ignore them since they seldom cause enough harm to prevent you from developing large, plentiful broccoli heads.

Treatment for Thrips

  • Monitor Adult populations using blue sticky traps.
  • To minimize insect populations, use the Bug Blaster to wash down plants with a vigorous, all-encompassing blast of water.
  • BotaniGard ES is a potent biological pesticide that contains Beauveria bassiana, an entomopathogenic fungus that kills a wide range of agricultural pests, even resistant species.
  • A low-toxicity, short-lived botanical pesticide (pyrethrin) may be required to control pest populations. Follow up with predatory insects to keep the situation under control.
  • Similarly, spot treatments with spinosad and neem oil can be employed in strongly infected regions.

7. Cabbage Root Maggots

Cabbage, cauliflower, broccoli, and brussels sprouts are all affected by cabbage root maggots.

Likewise, cabbage root maggots are white and legless, measuring approximately a third of an inch in length.

They clump together in bunches, as do most larvae, and feed voraciously on cole crop root systems.

Cabbage Root Maggots in Broccoli (Source: Wikimedia Commons)

The eggs are about 1/8 inch long and oblong, and they are found in rows in wet or shady locations.

Similarly, they are frequently spotted in the soil around the main stem.

Wilting leaves and blue or yellow hue in the foliage are the major symptoms of Cabbage Root Maggot.

In late July, cabbage root maggots are active to cause damage.

Treatment for Cabbage Root Maggot

  • Look for eggs in the dirt if you observe flies flying around. Run your fingertips down the upper layers of your plants’ bases. You should destroy any eggs you come to see.
  • Dig up your plants carefully and rinse their roots in cold water to eliminate the maggots before replanting.
  • In addition, cabbage flies are easily caught with sticky traps in the garden.

8. Cabbage Webworms

Cabbage webworms are a frequent pest of Broccoli and cabbage, especially in the late summer and fall.

Larvae are little (less than 0.5 inches long before pupating), tan-colored, and have brown longitudinal stripes that run the length of their bodies.

The older larvae eat on the bottom surface of leaves, whereas the first and second instar larvae feed between the top and lower leaf epidermis.

Cabbage Webworm
Cabbage Webworm (Source: Wikimedia Commons)

Similarly, larvae commonly dig into the main stem and stalk of young plants, causing them to wilt.

Likewise, Cabbage webworms cause substantial crop damage by attacking buds and developing tips, preventing head formation and rendering the produce unmarketable.

In Broccoli, the larvae will feed on growing heads can cause significant webbing and distort the head.

Treatment for Cabbage Webworm

  • Insecticides should be used when cabbage webworm larvae are first discovered and tiny to control them successfully.
  • Several organically approved sprays, such as Neem Oil, bT, and even soapy water, can combat cabbage worms.
  • In addition, when using a spray, make sure to treat the undersides of your leaves, which are where eggs and worms hide.
  • Also, be sure to spray your cabbage heads with a good amount of water.

9. Cutworms

Cutworms can be a real pain in the garden, especially for young seedlings or transplants.

Similarly, these worms acquire their name because they eat the stems of young plants, which causes them to cut them down.

Cutworms are smooth with little hairs and measure around two inches in length. When disturbed, they usually curl into a tight ‘C’ shape.

One of the destructible pests of Broccoli, Cutworms (Source: Wikimedia Commons)

Likewise, Climbing cutworms eat on leaves, buds, and shoots as they ascend the plant. They also gnaw at the base of plant stems.

Cutworms devour the roots and leaves of young plants, and they will even cut the plant off from beneath the earth.

Treatment for Cutworms

  • Take a flashlight and gloves out at night. Pick off the cutworms and place them in soapy water every few nights.
  • For the best solution, use a pesticide late in the day. Bacillus thuringiensis is a bacteria that affects soft-bodied insects and their larvae, which helps eradicate cutworms. 
  • Consider using Organic pesticides to kill the cutworm.

10. Harlequin Bugs

Harlequin cabbage bug is a stinkbug-like insect that feeds on the sap and chlorophyll of crops like Broccoli, causing them to wilt and perish.

Similarly, Harlequin bugs are glossy stinkbugs and are 3/8 inch (1 cm) long.

Depending on the plant variety, Harlequin insect damage manifests on stems and leaves.

Harlequin bugs in the leaves of Broccoli (Source: Wikimedia Commons)

As the feeding pressure from harlequin bugs grows, the puncture sites will produce hazy, discolored blotches, and older plants will become stunted.

In addition, if the feeding pressure is too high, young plants will wilt, brown, and die.

Treatment for Harlequin Bugs

  • Begin looking for their eggs on the undersides of leaves once you’ve noticed the adult Harlequin Bugs.
  • Scrape them into the same bucket as the adults or smash them when you locate them.
  • Check your plants for little, round, yellowish nymphs with red eyes if any of the eggs appear to have hatched. Insecticidal soap is effective against harlequin bugs at this stage.
  • Similarly, use Spinosad to kill adult bugs; however, it takes a few days to take full impact.

11. Root-Knot Nematodes

Root-knot nematodes infect many plants and can become major garden pests.

They’re tiny roundworms that reside on plant roots and in the soil.

When nematodes feed on root cells with their needle-like mouthparts (stylets), plants are harmed.

Thus, nematodes might damage the plant’s root system to the point that it can’t absorb water or nutrients correctly.

Effect of Root Knot Nematode in Roots
Effect of Root-Knot Nematode in Roots (Source: Wikimedia Commons)

Similarly, plants may seem stunted and discolored above ground, and they may perish.

In hot, dry conditions, plants may wilt quickly and appear deficient in nutrients.

Likewise, the roots beneath the soil may contain knots or galls (swollen regions). Round swellings will appear on both big and tiny roots.

The whole root system may be shallow, with dead or abnormally branching sections.

Treatment for Root-Knot Nematode

  • Pull up plants and plant roots as soon as possible after harvesting to destroy them.
  • Heat tiny amounts of damp soil to 140°F in the oven or by solarization to destroy nematodes in the soil.
  • Soil Solarization entails covering the soil with a clear plastic cover and leaving it in the sun for three to five days.

12. Other Furry Animals

If the damage is more widespread, an animal such as a rabbit, a gopher, or even a deer may be gnawing on the broccoli foliage and heads.

Similarly, birds can consume Broccoli, but they also like it. Broccoli is a favorite of birds, and it’s a pleasant treat.

Birds also eat Vegetable Leaves
Birds also eat Vegetable Leaves (Source: Pixabay)

It may be time to consider a vegetable garden fence in such cases.

A fence with 1-inch or smaller chicken wire mesh installed appropriately can repel various burrowing and jumping animals.

Smart Ways to Prevent Pests

The greatest approach to prevent pests is to have a healthy garden.

Rather than waiting for pests to appear, you may deter them by improving your soil, trimming in advance, or making simple changes to your watering procedures.

1. Attract Beneficial Insects

Various natural enemies, including lacewings and ladybugs, will provide some biological control.

Ladybugs and lacewings adore aromatic herbs and flowers such as dill, coriander, yarrow, and golden marguerite.

Aphids, whiteflies, leafhoppers, and Colorado potato beetles can all be controlled using them.

Caraway, fennel, and spearmint are favorites of damsel beetles that feed on cabbage worms.

A ladybug laying her eggs
A ladybug laying her eggs (source: Pixabay.com)

2. Introduce Companion Plants

The tendency of some plants to attract beneficial insects is one strong reason to adopt companion planting.

Herbs are very effective as companion plants. They attract helpful insects while repelling pest insects, and their aroma and leaves make them suitable for both the vegetable garden and the decorative border.

Instead of mono-crops, alternate vegetables with rows of beneficial insect-attracting and pest-repelling herbs and flowers.

When planted among or near vegetables, strong-scented herbs might discourage pests. It is a simple approach to assist you in keeping garden pests at bay.

Companion Plant for BroccoliTheir Benefit
AlliumDeters Aphids, Weevils, Moles
CeleryDeters White Cabbage Moth
CorainderDeters Aphids
HyssopDeters Cabbage Moths
OreganoDeters White Cabbage Moth

3. Maintain Soil Quality

Plants with robust immune systems are better equipped to battle illnesses and pests when grown in good soil.

To begin, reduce tillage and add compost to your soil. Healthy soil offers your plants the ability to compete with weeds.

It also performs several functions that aid plant growth, such as nutrient cycling, biological control of plant pests, and water and air supply management.

4. Use Mulch

Choosing the appropriate mulch, such as grass clippings, straw, leaves, or bark, is dependent on the properties of your soil and the plants you cultivate.

Each component decomposes; it feeds the microorganisms in your soil and adds nutrients in different ways.

Cover the area with heavy mulch to keep them from reaching the surface or to use diatomaceous earth or even neem oil to keep pests at bay.

Mulch spread around the soil
Mulch spread around the soil (Source: Wikimedia Commons)

5. Physical Barrier

Another natural pest repellent is to create a physical barrier between your product and the insects.

For example, row coverings, often known as gardening textiles, are excellent tools for keeping pests away from your vegetables.

You can use pheromone traps to alert you to the presence of moths in your garden.

Cover young plants with row covers, hot caps, or other forms of plant cages to keep pests away.

Covers can be removed during the sensitive seedling stage or kept on for enhanced pest and bird protection.

Similarly, Sticky traps aid in controlling aphids, whiteflies, and thrips in the greenhouse or at home.

These traps can be used to monitor insect populations to identify if another pest management method is working or pinpoint the source of your pest problems.

Holes on Broccoli Leaves
Holes on Broccoli Leaves

6. Clean Planting Area Often

Remove any dead leaves, stalks, or blooms from the soil’s surface.

For instance, to eliminate alternate hosts for thrips, eradicate weeds and grass from around plant areas.

After harvesting, clean away crop trash in the garden, especially onion leaves.

Similarly, Flea beetles overwinter in the ground and feed on rotting plant detritus, so tidy up your garden thoroughly at the end of the season.

Weedy fields treated with postemergence herbicides frequently get infected with maggots as dead plants degrade.

After using herbicides, inspect these areas regularly for flies and maggots.

7. Keep Plant Healthy

Cleaning your plants regularly will help to keep pests at bay. If your plants have smooth leaves, water is your best bet.

If your plants are huge, wipe them off gently with a moist towel. You may soak them in water for a few minutes if they are little.

If your plants have fuzzy leaves, it’s better to avoid using water. Instead, dust the leaves with a tiny brush.

You should also get rid of any dead or yellowing leaves. Keeping your plants clean and trimmed every few weeks will help you avoid bug infestations.

Never use leaf shine or milk products. Prune any dead branches and stems.

Healthy Broccoli
Healthy Broccoli

Conclusion

Looking at this list, you could conclude that the fight against broccoli pests is pointless.

However, a small amount of preventive goes a long way toward deterring the majority of these pests.

Crop rotation, weeding regularly, and attracting beneficial insects and birds to your garden will make all the difference.

Thus, you can enjoy your healthy veggies without worrying about the bugs!

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