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How to Manage Pests

UC Pest Management Guidelines

Cabbage looper larva.

Floriculture and Ornamental Nurseries

Cabbage Looper

Scientific name: Trichoplusia ni

(Reviewed 3/09, updated 6/10)

In this Guideline:


Loopers arch their backs as they crawl. Cabbage loopers are light green and usually have a narrow, white stripe along each side and several narrow lines down the back. The dome-shaped eggs are laid singly on the undersurfaces of older leaves. Adult moths have brown, mottled forewings marked in the center with a small, silver figure 8.


Young cabbage looper larvae feed primarily on the underside of lower leaves, skeletonizing them. Larger cabbage loopers chew entirely through leaves and flowers.


Biological Control
A number of parasites, both tachinid flies and parasitic wasps, attack lepidoptera larvae and reduce their population growth rate. However, most of these larvae continue feeding through to the last instar, so parasitized larvae will still damage crops. Viruses also do not usually kill the larvae until later instars. Trichogramma spp. are commercially available egg parasites that can be effective against cabbage looper. Applying insecticides other than Bacillus thuringiensis (Bt) products are likely to exclude parasites because their residue are lethal to these beneficial insects. For more information, see BIOLOGICAL CONTROL.

Cultural Control
Because these pests feed on a large variety of plant species, keep production areas free of weeds (e.g., mustards) that serve as hosts to cabbage loopers. Exclusion of winged adults can be accomplished by covering openings to the greenhouses with screens. Screens are especially important when lights are used at night in greenhouses to control flowering because lights attract adult moths. Individual seedling flats may also be covered with screens to exclude adults and larvae. Row covers can be a practical measure to exclude moths in field production as long as the mesh prevents entry of adults and the row cover is held above the plant surface to eliminate oviposition through the fabric.

Monitoring and Treatment Decisions
If Bt sprays are planned, use pheromone traps to determine adult flight activity and mating. Once adults are caught in traps, it is very likely that larvae are present and Bt should be applied as soon as possible because it is most effective against young larvae. Use regular visual inspections of plants to detect larvae and their damage.For guidelines on when to treat, see ESTABLISHING TREATMENT THRESHOLDS.


Selected Materials Registered for Use on Greenhouse or Nursery Ornamentals
Read and follow the instructions on the label before using any pesticide. Before using a pesticide for the first time or on a new crop or cultivar, treat a few plants and check for phytotoxicity. Also consider pesticide resistance management and environmental impact.

Class   Pesticide
(commercial name)
Manufacturer R.E.I.1 Mode of action2 Comments

Calculate impact of pesticide on air quality
Bee precaution pesticide ratings
botanical A. pyrethrin/PBO3
(PT Pyrethrum TR)
Whitmire MicroGen 12 3/— An aerosol.
B. pyrethrin/rotenone
(Pyrellin EC)
Webb Wright 12 3/21B  
carbamate A. carbaryl*
Bayer 12 1A  
insect growth regulator A. azadirachtin
(Azatin XL)
OHP 4 un Must contact insect. Repeat applications as necessary. Label permits low-volume application.
B. diflubenzuron
(Adept 25WP)
Chemtura 12 15  
C. novaluron
Chemtura 12 15 Use no more than twice per year and don't exceed 52 oz/acre/year. Don't use on poinsettia.
D. tebufenozide
(Mimic, Confirm)
Dow Agro
4 18  
microbial A. Bacillus thuringiensis
ssp. Kurstaki#
(various products)
Valent 4 11 Most effective against early instar larvae; pheromone trapping recommended for timing applications.
organophosphate A. acephate
(Orthene T, T&O Spray)
Valent 24 1B A number of chrysanthemum varieties have exhibited phytotoxic reactions. In greenhouse only labeled for greenhouse use on anthurium, cacti, carnation, rose, orchids, some foliage plants, young poinsettia, and some varieties of chrysanthemum. Can stunt new growth in roses.
B. acephate
(PT 1300 Orthene TR)
Whitmire MicroGen 24 1B An aerosol only for greenhouse use.
C. chlorpyrifos*
(PT DuraGuard ME)
Whitmire MicroGen 24 1B  
A. chloropyrifos/
(PT Duraplex TR)
Whitmire MicroGen 24 1B/3 An aerosol.
pyrethroid A. Bifenthrin
(Attain TR)
Whitmire MicroGen 12 3 Check label. A fogger for greenhouse use only.
B. bifenthrin*
(Talstar Professional)
FMC 12 3 Label permits low-volume application.
C. cyfluthrin
(Decathlon 20WP)
OHP 12 3 Label permits low-volume application.
D. deltamethrin*
Bayer 12 3  
E. fenpropathrin*
(Tame 2.4EC Spray)
Valent 24 3 Label permits low-volume application.
F. fluvalinate
(Mavrik Aquaflow)
Wellmark 12 3 Label permits low-volume application. Also labeled as a cutting dip at 5 fl oz/100 gal.
G. permethrin
FMC 12 3 Direct application to blooms may cause browning of petals. Marginal leaf burn may occur on salvia, diffenbachia, and pteris fern. Label permits low-volume application. Do not apply more than 2 lb a.i./acre/year.
spinosyn A. spinosad
(Conserve SC)
Dow Agro
4 5 Do not apply more than 10 times in a 12-month period. Compatible with most beneficials, but highly toxic to bees and hymenopteran parasites. Direct contact can cause significant mortality to Phytoseiulus persimilis.
1  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.
2 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/.
3 PBO = piperonyl butoxide
# Acceptable for use on organically grown ornamentals.
* Restricted use material. Permit required for purchase or use.



[UC Peer Reviewed]

UC IPM Pest Management Guidelines: Floriculture and Ornamental Nurseries
UC ANR Publication 3392
Insects and Mites
J. A. Bethke, Entomology, UC Riverside
Acknowledgment for contributions to Insects and Mites:
K. L. Robb, UC Cooperative Extension, San Diego County
H. S. Costa, Entomology, UC Riverside
R. S. Cowles, Connecticut Agricultural Experiment Station, Windsor, CT
M. P. Parrella, Entomology, UC Davis

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