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How to Manage Pests

UC Pest Management Guidelines

Cabbage maggot larvae and brown pupal case.

Cole Crops

Cabbage Maggot

Scientific Name: Delia radicum

(Reviewed 6/07, updated 9/09)

In this Guideline:


Larvae are small, legless, white maggots usually less than 0.33 inch (8 mm) when full grown; their head end is pointed and the rear is blunt with a dozen short, pointed fleshy processes arranged in a circle around two brown, button-like spiracles. They are found feeding on feeder roots or boring into the taproot. Adults are dark gray flies about half the size of the common housefly; they lay their eggs in cracks in the soil near plant stems, and hatching larvae burrow beneath the soil surface to invade the roots. After feeding 3 to 5 weeks, larvae pupate in roots or surrounding soil. Adults may emerge from pupae within 2 to 3 weeks, or the pest may overwinter as pupae when conditions are unfavorable for development. There are at least two to three generations in cool, moist climates along the coast.


Cabbage maggots damage and destroy root systems of all cole crops, riddling roots with tunnels when infestations are heavy. Tunnels provide entryways for pathogens that cause blackleg and bacterial soft rot. Young plants between seedling emergence until about a month after thinning or transplanting are most vulnerable; healthy plants attacked after they are well established can usually tolerate moderate infestations. Cauliflower and Brussels sprouts may be more susceptible than hybrid cultivars of broccoli; crops planted in winter and spring suffer more damage than summer-planted crops.


Cool, wet spring weather is favorable to the population development of these pests. Where maggots are a perennial problem, grow seedlings for transplants in fumigated soil in the greenhouse or under frames of clear plastic or organdy. Avoid hardening transplants near infested fields. Direct-seeded crops may avoid some injury when a set of drag chains is attached behind the planter to eliminate the moisture gradient in the seedrow. Adult flies are believed to be able to locate the seed row for egglaying by honing in on the higher moisture levels created when the soil is overturned for planting. Older plants may outgrow moderate cabbage maggot populations if maintained with a careful irrigation schedule. Always disk under crop residues immediately after harvest. Maggots can survive for some time in crop residue. Do not follow susceptible crops with susceptible crops unless sufficient time has passed for the residue to dry or decompose completely.

Monitoring and Treatment Decisions
Every year, treat spring planted or transplanted crops in areas where cabbage maggot causes economic injury with a band of insecticide at the base of the plant at the time of planting or transplanting. Later sprays can not be relied upon to effectively control the pest. Seedbeds for transplanted crops should also be fumigated or treated with an insecticide. Once the crop emerges, watch for wilting, lighter green plants, or reduced growth that may indicate a maggot infestation; pull up affected plants and check roots and soil to confirm presence of maggots. If several rows of seedling plants are infested, plants may be removed and rows replanted; drenching with insecticide is also an option but such treatments are difficult, costly, and may not be adequate. If roots are tunneled but no maggots are present, maggots have left roots to pupate and insecticide treatments would be of little value.

Common name Amount/Acre R.E.I.+ P.H.I.+
(trade name)   (hours) (days)

Calculate impact of pesticide on air quality
Bee precaution pesticide ratings
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  (Lorsban Advanced) 1.6–2.75 fl oz/1000 ft row 24 21
  COMMENTS: Soil application for broccoli, Brussels sprouts, cabbage. Do not apply more than 2.6 pt/acre in 40-inch rows or 4.5 pt/acre in 20-inch rows or apply more than once/season. Avoid drift and tailwater runoff into surface waters.
  . . . or . . .
  (Lorsban Advanced) 1.6–2.4 fl oz/1000 ft row 3 days 30
  COMMENTS: Soil application for cauliflower. Do not apply more than 2 pt/acre in 40-inch rows or apply more than once/season. Avoid drift and tailwater runoff into surface waters.
  (Diazinon) 50W 0.5–1 lb 4 days 0
  COMMENTS: Avoid drift and tailwater runoff into surface waters.
+ Restricted entry interval (R.E.I.) is the number of hours (unless otherwise noted) from treatment until the treated area can be safely entered without protective clothing. Preharvest interval (P.H.I.) is the number of days from treatment to harvest. In some cases the REI exceeds the PHI. The longer of two intervals is the minimum time that must elapse before harvest.
* Permit required from county agricultural commissioner for purchase or use.
1 Rotate chemicals with a different mode-of-action Group number, and do not use products with the same mode-of-action Group number more than twice per season to help prevent the development of resistance. For example, the organophosphates have a Group number of 1B; chemicals with a 1B Group number should be alternated with chemicals that have a Group number other than 1B. Mode of action Group numbers are assigned by IRAC (Insecticide Resistance Action Committee). For additional information, see their Web site at http://www.irac-online.org/.



[UC Peer Reviewed]

UC IPM Pest Management Guidelines: Cole Crops
UC ANR Publication 3442
Insects and Mites
E. T. Natwick, UC Cooperative Extension, Imperial County
Acknowledgments for contributions to Insects and Mites:
W. J. Bentley, UC IPM Program, Kearney Agricultural Center, Parlier
W. E. Chaney, UC Cooperative Extension, Monterey County
N. C. Toscano, Entomology, UC Riverside

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