Cabbage Moth

Mamestra brassicae

Cabbage moth
Cabbage moth [Credit: ©entomart]
Cabbage moth
Cabbage moth [Credit: ©entomart]
Cabbage moth
Cabbage moth [Credit: ©entomart]
Cabbage moth
Cabbage moth [Credit: ©entomart]
Adult cabbage moth and pupa
Adult cabbage moth and pupa [Credit: ©entomart]
Cabbage moth pupa
Cabbage moth pupa [Credit: ©entomart]

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Host Plants:

On Crops: Most members of the cabbage family

Where Found:

Most of UK and Europe


The cabbage moth is mottled brown / grey in colour with a wingspan of about 40mm. It can often be seen flying during daylight hours. Larvae are hairless and are yellow or brownish green in colour.


Adult moths do not cause any plant damage. The caterpillars feed within the outer leaves of brassica plants and often burrow deep inside the developing head.

Preventing Problems:

You can use netting tunnels to prevent egg laying by adults if you frequently have trouble with cabbage moths. Plant lots of flowers and blooming herbs around your cabbage patch to provide a strong supply of nectar for beneficial insects, such as garden wasps, parasitic wasps and insect eating birds. Cabbage moths overwinter as pupae in the soil, so regularly turning over the soil during the winter months will expose the pupae to insectivorous birds.

Managing Outbreaks:

Check plants regularly, especially for the appearance of holes in the leaves and caterpillar excrement. Remove caterpillars by hand or use a hose daily to knock them off the plants and expose them to ground-dwelling predatory beetles and insectivorous birds. As a last resort, if a spray is required then organic pyrethrum-based products are available from garden centres. These need to be applied following label instructions, safety warnings and harvest intervals.


Netting should be raised above the brassica leaves to prevent moths from laying their eggs through the holes. The mesh size also needs to be small enough to prevent moths from crawling through.

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