What is eating my broccoli leaves is the worrying question that harvesters would ask as they see their broccoli leaves are being eaten by pests and animals, which cause immense damage to the crop.
If you are concerned about eating your broccoli leaves and also wish to keep the leaves healthy and lush green, then this detailed guide is the right one for you. From worms, cabbage looper, bugs, rabbits and deer, the plant easily falls prey to them and ends up with holes in the tender and fleshy stems.
Read on to learn how to tackle the problem effectively and keep all the pests away for a long time to come.
JUMP TO TOPIC
- What Is Eating My Broccoli Leaves?
- How To Avoid Broccoli from Being Eaten?
- – Isolate the Plant
- – Introduce Natural Predators
- – Spray an Organic Solution
- – Hose the Broccoli Plants
- – Hand Pick the Pests
- – Use Soapy Solution Spray
- – Sprinkle Flour, Ash Wood, or Diatomaceous Earth
- – Use Taste Deterrents
- – Practice Interplanting
- – Prune the Bottom Leaves
- – Install Fencing and Traps
- – Floating Row Covers
- – Be Mindful of The Planting Techniques
- – Keep a Watchful Eye on Your Plant
What Is Eating My Broccoli Leaves?
– Broccoli Worms
Broccoli worms are the most common type of house garden pests that feast on the tender leaves of broccoli. These pests can also be found on similar crops such as cabbage, kale, brussels sprouts and cauliflower and they typically chew on the underside of the plants.
They start by making tiny holes all over the foliage and overtime ending up eating the entire plant from the bottom to the top. You will technically find three types of broccoli worms because they aren’t of one kind such as diamondback worms, cabbage loopers and cabbage webworms. The small and velvety green worms are the cabbage worms and they are the larvae of the white butterflies.
Loopers that feast on the leaves are nothing but the larvae of the brown cabbage moth and you will find them smooth with a green tinge, lighter than the cabbage worm. Other types are the diamondback worms or the diamondback moth caterpillars of the gray butterfly, and it has a diamond shape present on their back.
All of these three pests tend to defoliate the plant, ruining them in its entirety, so it is vital to get rid of them at the earliest. An infestation of these worms will not only result in large holes in the foliage but will also bring about slow or stunted growth and greenish-brown excreta on the heads of the crop.
– Flea Beetles
These beetles are the type of pest that can cause extensive damage to the broccoli crop. They are shiny and small with rare legs larger than their body, which enables them to jump distances.
You will find these insects in several colors such as black, tan or orange and they also bear striped or solid patterns on their body. At one sixth of an inch, the tiny flea beetles are capable of causing immense damage by making several tiny short holes all over the leaves, which tend to look lacy.
These beetles thrive and become more active when the temperatures are at around 50 degrees Fahrenheit, typically in early summer. They would start laying eggs at the base of the plant stem and the larvae move their way down feeding on the roots making them go weak. Apart from all of these signs, these beetles can also spread bacterial and viral diseases such as blight that can defoliate and kill the plant.
Aphids are soft and tiny garden pests that love to feast on the underside of the leaves. The insects are wingless and are yellowish green, olive green or gray with a waxy white coating over their bodies. They typically occur in clusters and can multiply in large numbers in a short period, these will eat the greens and leave tiny marks all over with their bites.
Aphids are known to be sap-sucking and cause yellowing of the leaves, galls on roots, and deformed foliage. You will additionally find a sticky substance left behind all over the stem.
Cutworms are the larvae of moths and they typically chew at the base of the stem of young broccoli plants. These pests are soft-bodied with a gray or brown stout body and feed on the crip at night thriving through the day in the soil.
What you must know is that the damage these pests cause can be extensive and sometimes they can chew away 75 percent of the crop at a very fast rate. The best way to look out for these pests is to look at the soil during dusk when they make their way out to feed.
– Wild Large Animals
It is not just tiny insects that love the leaves, larger animals that are commonly around your garden love the fleshy stems of the crop. Squirrels, rabbits, rats and deer are a few of such larger animals that can cause extensive damage to your crop. The best way to tell if your broccoli is being feasted upon by larger animals or tiny pests is to look out for some tell-tale signs.
What you must do is to look out for larvae and eggs, excreta and also a white cottony substance that is often a trademark residue of insects. Larger animals just feast on the foliage and leave without any other traces.
– Cabbage Root Maggots
Although these pests do not riddle holes in the leaves of the broccoli plant, they feed on the roots and cause immense damage to the crop, but they would eventually damage the leaves.
They are now notorious as it is difficult to control their growth because they hatch underneath the soil. Identify root maggots by scratching into the topsoil where you will find them at about one third of an inch long and white without wings.
They spread in clusters and voraciously feed on the root sections. These are the larvae of the cabbage fly and generally lay their eggs in early spring when the vegetables ar growing.
Thus as soon as you see tiny green flies, beware and prevent eggs from being laid. Root maggots make the foliage turn yellow, resulting in stunted and slow growth of the crop and over time they destroy roots, killing the plant completely.
– Harlequin Bugs
These are triangular-shaped bugs that suck out the sap from the leaves, making them wilt. You will find small white spots at the point where the insect feeds known as stipples. The easiest way to look out for these pests is to find tiny white eggs with black bands arranged in clusters on the underside of the leaf.
The adult bugs are brightly colored with black and yellow or red spots. The insects cause damage to the leaves giving them a tattered look and turning them brown. However, severe infestations cause immense deformity with white and yellow blotches on the leaves and over time it can even kill the plant, and you would see this by the damaged leaves.
Thrips are insects with typically narrow wings and fringed hairs on their body. Look out for these pests on the underside of leaves where they suck out juices of the foliage with their sucking mouth, resulting in slow and stunted growth, and wilting and droopy leaves with rampant scarring.
The insects measure about 1/3rd an inch and are light yellow and brown. They rapidly lay eggs and spread throughout the crop in a period. You will generally find them in the warmer months of the spring and summer when the temperatures are suitable for them to reproduce.
– Root-knot Nematodes
These are microscopic nematodes that thrive in the soil and feed on the roots of the broccoli. They may not eat into the leaves but they cause bumps on the root surface decreasing the vigor of the plant.
How To Avoid Broccoli from Being Eaten?
To avoid broccoli being eaten, you can isolate the plant, introduce natural predators, spray organic or soapy solution, water them with hose, hand pick the pests, and use taste deterrents. You can interplant other vegetables, install a fence, sprinkle ash wood or flour, and keep an eye on the crops.
Garden pests can cause extensive damage and if not tackled at the earliest they can damage the entire crop as well as all plant foliage that lies nearby. In this section below we give you all possible solutions to fix the problem. In an easy way with just a few basic care procedures.
– Isolate the Plant
This is the first step you need to do in the process of fixing the problem. Isolate the crop as soon as you detect any sort of infestation if you are growing broccoli in containers or pots.
Move it away from the rest of the plant foliage as pests can easily spread and lay their larvae. You wouldn’t want a garden full of infestations, thus, before you begin your treatment move the ones with the pests to prevent any further damage to other plants.
– Introduce Natural Predators
Introduce natural predators that feast on the eggs and larvae of the pests without causing harm to the leaves or broccoli crop heads. Predators are beneficial insects such as lacewings, midges, ladybugs, hoverflies and blister beetles that can consume insects like aphids and suppress their population.
This method is a natural way to limit the damage of the pests thereby protecting the broccoli to a large extent. It will keep pests at bay so that your broccoli always stays green and healthy, without the leaves being chewed upon.
– Spray an Organic Solution
Various types of organic solutions can be used to restrict the spread of pests on the eaves and one of the most popular ones is Bacillus Thuringiensis. This is a naturally occurring bacteria that is safe for broccoli plants and can control pests effectively with its protein mechanism that causes toxicity in the larvae. Spray this across broccoli leaf sections and stop the propagation and spread of the pests.
Another organic solution that can be sprayed is diluted neem oil. The pests get repelled by the smell of the oil and fall off the plant. Repeat the spray of organic solutions every week until all of the pests fall off. In the case of nematodes, spray an organic root-knot nematode easily available in most gardening stores.
– Hose the Broccoli Plants
A simple yet effective way is to hose your plant to get rid of the insects off the leaves. Blast a jet of water, especially when infected with worms, aphids and thrips. The sudden spray of water with force from the hose nozzle can jerk and knock the pests down. The ideal time to plant is when the sun shines bright during the day so that the plant will also dry out during the rest of the day.
– Hand Pick the Pests
If the infestation is not severe you can manually pick out the pests before they manifest in large numbers and feed completely on the plant, because at that moment they could be a few. Wear protective gloves and hand-pick each one of them off the broccoli plant. Drop them into a bowl of a soapy solution so that they don’t renter the foliage again, and you would get rid of them easily.
It is an effective and natural way of controlling pests. Caution needs to be exercised when handpicking pests to look at every nook and corner of the plant so that not a single one of them is left behind. Pests can multiply in a short period, thus picking out each one is necessary. Examine properly under the leaves, nodes and stems where they could be hiding.
– Use Soapy Solution Spray
Prepare a soapy solution using regular dishwashing soap and spray it all over the crop. The acids in the soap make the pests and bugs fall off the foliage in no time. Repeat this application every week until you have effectively controlled the spread of the insects.
To prepare a soapy solution, mix three spoons of mild detergent in a gallon of water. With the help of a spray bottle apply it to affected areas of the plant, from the upper to the lower sections of the foliage.
Alternatively, you can also purchase and use a commercial insecticidal soap spray available at most gardening stores. This is a pre-mixed formula that needs to be applied every few days and works well to eradicate insects.
– Sprinkle Flour, Ash Wood, or Diatomaceous Earth
Dust your broccoli plant with regular flour. Though not a completely effective means to get rid of pests, it still has a desirable effect as it prevents insects from getting a hold of the leaves, thus it is saved from being eaten, and this is due to the texture of th flour.
You may even throw in some wood ash works wonders on cutworms, cabbage maggots and bugs. It works by dehydrating the insects and killing them instantly. It’s very simple, just sprinkle the wood ash around the plant and on the soil.
In addition, you may even try and sprinkle Diatomaceous Earth all around the broccoli to eradicate pests. This is a powder that is made up of fossilized aquatic animals and their remains. It is coarse with sharp particles that puncture and kill insects. Being organic also does not cause much harm to the soil or crop.
Overall, if you have aphids, bugs, thrips or mites munching on the leaves, sprinkle a fine layer of this on the ground and over the affected portions of the plant. Repeat application once every two to four weeks and when the insects come in direct contact with the powder they get killed instantly.
– Use Taste Deterrents
An interesting way to reduce the damage done by larger creatures is to use a taste deterrent. Sprinkled hot pepper or garlic all over the crop and around the soil bed. Mix the spices with water and apply it to the broccoli as their odor will deter or repel the animal keeping it away from the crop.
Since these are organic, they won’t intoxicate you in any way when you consume your harvest, however, they will be keeping the pests away because of the natural chemicals that they contain which repel the pests.
– Practice Interplanting
To prevent the plant leaves from being eaten, interplant or undertake companion planting with other plants such as red-colored leafy greens. Mix in other plants such as perennial flowers.
Interplanting distracts pests and pugs and also tends to hide the broccoli leaves, thereby keeping them safe from flies that look around to lay their eggs on broccoli foliage. You can interplant spinach, lettuce and radish as companion plants and avoid tomatoes, cabbage, strawberries and cabbage near it. Overall, no pests or even wild animals will be eating your plants or coming anywhere near your plant because of the surrounding vegetables.
– Prune the Bottom Leaves
Leaves that are growing in the lower sections of the broccoli plants regularly need to be pruned. Gently snip away all those that are close and touch the ground so that pests don’t enter the foliage through the soil.
On the other hand, crawling bugs often make their way up nibbling through the tender leaves. Always use sterile tools and shears before you prune sections to prevent the spread of fungal and bacterial diseases.
It is recommended to keep your garden beds clean and free of fallen leaves and debris. Several pests such as beetles and cutworms feed on decaying and rotting plant foliage and lay eggs around the soil, thereby spreading their presence. Overall, keep the soil bed around the plant free of debris and fallen leaves. Clear them up from time to time so that the pests seldom linger around the broccoli plant.
– Install Fencing and Traps
To tackle larger animals such as gophers, deer, rabbits, birds or groundhogs, consider installing a fence, trap or barrier around the crop. Here is how you can go about it
Set up traps for mice and rabbits that may cause serious damage by eating up the complete broccoli. For larger creatures, install a fence with a wire mesh that will deter the animals from leaping across or borrowing.
The fence needs to be partially buried into the ground to prevent this animal from a height of at least six feet above the ground. The fence needs to run all around your vegetable patch.
– Floating Row Covers
This is an eco-friendly, cost-effective and preventive measure to keep bugs, maggot flies, aphids and beetles at bay. All that you require is a lightweight fabric that is to be placed directly over the plants and tucked the edges into the soil.
This method stops the pests from getting to the plant, feeding on them and also laying eggs below the leaves and in the soil. Row covers are typically suited to protect against flying pests that hover over plants looking for warm spots under foliage to lay their eggs.
– Be Mindful of The Planting Techniques
Before you plant your broccoli you must make you sterilize your soil completely. The latter is because you wouldn’t want to plant in a soil that has damages of its own.
What you must do is check for maggots that may lie hidden in the soil, and the best and easiest way to sterilize the overall soil is to steam it for at least thirty minutes at a temperature of 180 degrees Fahrenheit.
It is recommended to plant your broccoli in the season when there is full sun which is in spring instead of late summer or fall. This is the time when pests such as worms are not so active.
Choose a spot where it receives maximum sunlight over it so that you can harvest broccoli before the temperature begins to drop and the crop becomes susceptible to any form of infestation.
Never replant your broccoli in the same pot after every harvest. Crop rotation replenishes the soil and also helps to keep pests and diseases at bay. So every year your broccoli needs to find a home in a new spot in your garden. Also, remember not to grow any other plant from the cabbage family in the same spot for a minimum period of two years.
Apart from sterilizing the soil, ensure you use the right potting mix, which will help it to resist any pest infestation. Distressed soil and weak nourishment can easily be infected by bugs and insects. Prepare your soil well by mixing in manure, organic compost and cow manure, along with worm castings to keep it nourished. This also will help it establish a healthy root system that can resist minor maggot infestations.
– Keep a Watchful Eye on Your Plant
It is very important to observe your plant and to regularly look out for deformities and discoloration of the foliage. Regular observation throws valuable insights if the plant has been infested or not.
Don’t forget to check under your broccoli leaves and on stems for early signs of infestations such as a cluster of eggs, and again, do what is necessary to hinder their eggs to be laid.
Stay alert as soon as you see the leaves beginning to curl or the stems beginning to look limp. Remember the sooner you identify and tackle infestation, the better it is for the longevity and health of the crop.
Will Broccoli Grow if Leaves Have Been Eaten?
Yes, the broccoli will keep growing even if the leaves have been eaten by pests, however over time, the plant will struggle to cope.
This is because with several holes in the leaf, the process of photosynthesis is affected and the plant is seldom able to manufacture ample food to meet its requirements. So if the spread of pest infestation is not tackled soon, the leaves curl, the plants bear a wilted look and the stems look weak and limp.
Are Broccoli leaves with holes edible?
Yes, broccoli leaves with holes are edible. However, make sure they are not contaminated by pesticides or any other harmful substances before consuming them.
Does neem oil work on worms eating my Broccoli leaves?
Yes, neem oil can be effective in controlling worms that are eating your broccoli leaves. Neem oil has natural pesticidal properties that can help deter and repel pests, including worms, from damaging your plants.
You have read all about what has been eating your broccoli leaves and how those lacy holes have occurred on its surface in this detailed guide.
Let us summarize our learning with these below-mentioned points.
- The broccoli plant is susceptible and the leaves can often be eaten by tiny pests and larger animals. The most common garden pests are flea beetles, broccoli worms, aphids, cutworms and root maggots. Larger animals like rabbits, squirrels and deer too can feed on the leaves causing extensive damage to the plant.
- Most infestations can be identified by looking out for the larvae either on the underside of leaves or in the soil. Pest infestations also make the foliage look limp and the leaves tend to curl inwards.
- As soon as you spot any infestation isolate the plant. Tackle the pests by either introducing natural predators or spraying an organic solution on the affected area. You can additionally also apply a soapy solution, hose the plant or sprinkle wood ash on the crop.
- Prevent pests from attacking your broccoli plant by always using well-nourished and sterile potting soil. Practice interplanting and crop rotation along with proper plant hygiene to reduce any chances of pest infestation.
- For larger creatures, install fences and traps and use taste deterrents to keep the animal away from the crop. The best way to keep the broccoli plant healthy and thriving is to prevent the occurrence of any animals, rather than tackling them later.
Having read all about pests and insects that can damage your broccoli plant, you are now armed with the knowledge to not only tackle the problem but also prevent it.
You may even now be able to grow your very own vegetable garden without being troubled by any of these by just being mindful and far-sighted about the issues and their solutions.