Agriculture: Cole Crops Pest Management Guidelines

Cabbage Maggot

  • Delia radicum
  • Description of the Pest

    Larvae of cabbage maggot are legless, white, and 0.4 inch long or less. Their head is pointed and the rear end is blunt with two brown, buttonlike spiracles encircled by short, fleshy outgrowths.

    Adults are dark gray flies about one-half the size of the common house fly. Females are attracted to moist soils high in organic matter and lay their eggs in cracks in the soil. Hatching maggots burrow in the soil to feed beneath the soil surface. After 3 to 5 weeks, they form oblong, brown pupae in roots or soil. Cabbage maggots pupate for 2 to 4 weeks before emerging as adult flies.

    There are at least two to three generations per year in coastal areas. In the central coast region, it is possible for cabbage maggot to have more than three generations per year. Cabbage maggots are not a pest in the southern desert. Their numbers increase during cool, wet weather.

    Microscopic examination by a taxonomist is needed to distinguish cabbage maggot from other Delia spp., such as seedcorn maggot. Cabbage maggots typically infest direct-seeded cole crops about one month after planting, and infest transplanted cole crops within two weeks after planting. In contrast, seedcorn maggot infests only 1- to 2-week-old seedlings.  


    Cabbage maggot feeding causes yellowing, stunting, slowed growth, and in some cases death of the plant. Cabbage maggots can destroy roots of any cole crop. When larvae are numerous, they riddle the roots with tunnels, providing entryways for bacterial soft rot and the pathogen that causes black leg. Though damage is usually restricted to the roots, heavy infestations can attack the flowering heads of cole crops.

    Young plants, between seedling emergence until about one month after thinning or transplanting, are the most susceptible to damage. Plants that are attacked after they are well established can usually tolerate moderate infestations if they are otherwise healthy. Older plants may outgrow damage from moderate numbers of cabbage maggots if irrigation is carefully scheduled.

    Brussels sprouts and cauliflower may be more susceptible than hybrid cultivars of broccoli, and crops planted in summer and fall suffer more damage than crops planted in other seasons.


    Manage cabbage maggot with a combination of cultural control and insecticide application.

    Cultural Control

    Use the following cultural methods to suppress cabbage maggot:

    • Avoid hardening transplants near infested fields.
    • Schedule irrigation carefully to allow older plants to outgrow maggot damage. Use the online decision support tool CropManage to keep track of irrigation.
    • Disc under crop residues immediately after harvest; otherwise, some maggots can survive in residue and develop into adults.
    • Avoid successive planting of Brassica crops, especially those planted within one month of a previous Brassica crop.
    • Allow crop residue to dry and decompose completely.

    Monitoring and Treatment Decisions

    Pull up affected plants and check roots and soil to confirm the presence of maggots. If several rows of seedlings are infested, plants may be removed and rows replanted. If the roots are tunneled but no maggots are present, maggots have left roots to pupate in the soil. In this case, insecticide application will not be effective.

    For spring plantings where cabbage maggot causes economic injury, use a delayed insecticide application to prevent intolerable damage from this pest. The timing of this application is critical; an insecticide applied two to three weeks (two weeks for cole crops that grow more quickly) after direct seeding more effectively controls these maggots than does a traditional at-plant insecticide application. Insecticide applied later than the seedling stage may not control cabbage maggot.

    For direct-seeded crops in the Central Coast region, seed treatment with clothianidin can effectively control cabbage maggot.  

    Common name Amount per acre REI‡ PHI‡
    (Example trade name) (hours) (days)
    Not all registered pesticides are listed. The following are ranked with the pesticides having the greatest IPM value listed first—the most effective and least harmful to natural enemies, honey bees, and the environment are at the top of the table. When choosing a pesticide, consider information relating to air and water quality, resistance management, and the pesticide's properties and application timing. Always read the label of the product being used.
    Seed Treatment
    (NipsIt Vegetables) Label rates 12 NA
    COMMENTS: Registered for use only on broccoli seeds in California, but seed treated in and obtained from another state can be legally used in California even if the chemical is not registered on the crop in California. Effectively controls cabbage maggot in direct-seeded broccoli in the Central Coast region. Contact your retail seed dealer for information and availability. Application rate per seed depends on the amount of seed planted per acre.
    Foliar Application
    (Belay) 3–4 fl oz 12 7
    COMMENTS: Highly toxic to bees for more than 5 days after an application. Application rate and PHI above are for a foliar application. Use as a directed, banded foliar application applied to the base of affected plants. Foliar application not registered for use on cole crops grown for seed production. This product has potential to leach into groundwater where soils are permeable, particularly where the water table is shallow.
    (Mustang) 2.4–4.3 fl oz 12 1
    COMMENTS: Use as a directed, banded foliar application applied to the base of affected plants. In certain cole crops exported to Canada (broccoli, Brussels sprouts, cabbage, and cauliflower), PHI of 14 days is recommended in order to meet tolerances— see FIFRA 2(ee) recommendation for more information.
    (Warrior II with Zeon Technology) 0.96–1.92 fl oz 24 1
    COMMENTS: Registered for use on head and stem cole crops only (see label for more information). Use as a directed, banded foliar application applied to the base of plants.
    (Verimark) 10–13.5 fl oz 4 NA
    COMMENTS: Best insecticide option for transplants. Apply as a seedling tray drench.
    (PyGanic Crop Protection EC 1.4 II)# 16–64 fl oz 12 0
    COMMENTS: Provides moderate control. Check with organic certifier to determine which products are organically acceptable.
    Restricted entry interval (REI) is the number of hours (unless otherwise noted) from treatment until the treated area can be safely entered without protective clothing. Preharvest interval (PHI) is the number of days from treatment to harvest. In some cases the REI exceeds the PHI. The longer of the two intervals is the minimum time that must elapse before harvest.
    1 Rotate insecticides 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; insecticides with a 1B group number should be alternated with insecticides that have a group number other than 1B. Mode-of-action group numbers are assigned by IRAC (Insecticide Resistance Action Committee).
    # Acceptable for use on organically grown produce.
    Text Updated: 12/20
    Treatment Table Updated: 12/20