While cabbage worms can eat away and destroy many of the plants in your garden, you never have to worry about them being harmful to humans. No studies have been conducted that show cabbage worms are harmful to humans even if the worms are swallowed.
Cabbage Worms Are Not Harmful to Humans
Cabbage worms are not toxic, and even if you find them in your garden eating away at your cabbage, broccoli, or cauliflower, all you have to do is remove them from these veggies and make sure you wash the food carefully before eating them.
Removing as many cabbage worms as you can and thoroughly washing your homegrown food before you eat it is the best way to ensure you will not be harmed by cabbage worms.
What Are Cabbage Worms?
Also known as Pieris Rapae, cabbage worms were first noticed in North America, New Zealand, and Australia nearly a century ago. Today, they are very common in most continents and do a great job of destroying many fruits and vegetables that you were so meticulously growing.
Cabbage worms are usually white in color, with males having a round black spot on their wings and females having two black spots. They tend to love cabbage the most – hence their name – as well as other members of the mustard family, and they usually attack between spring and late fall.
There can be several generations of cabbage worms living at the same time, and they increase in number rapidly. They are very destructive to your crops, which is why you need to constantly be on the lookout for them.
They love cabbage, mustard greens, broccoli, and kale the most. The female worm will lay her eggs in the crucifers, on the leaf’s underside, then wait for the larvae to hatch. This takes about three weeks.
When the larvae start to grow, cabbages and other cruciferous plants are the main part of their diet. If you see holes in your cabbage plants, you could very well have cabbage worms.
What Can Cabbage Worms Do to Humans?
If you’re eating cabbage and find a half-eaten worm in it, it is understandable to be apprehensive, but don’t worry. The truth is that even if you do accidentally consume a cabbage worm, nothing will happen to you.
Cabbage worms are considered a common pest in certain vegetables, but they are 100% non-toxic to humans. Studies have shown that parasites simply do not exist on or in your cabbage plants.
How to Stop Cabbage Worms from Eating Your Plants
What you’ll need to do if you wish to stop cabbage worms from eating your plants is to stop the female worms from laying eggs in your veggies.
Once the eggs are laid, it is extremely difficult to get rid of them, which you’ll likely only do once they hatch and get to a certain age. Plus, the worms are incredibly small and therefore difficult to find.
The most effective way to stop cabbage worms from eating your plants is to cover your crops with either row covers or fabric.
You can find covers at your local nursery or garden center. Keep in mind that in many cases, the fabric known as tulle will work just as effectively as other fabric or row covers.
Another advantage of using tulle is that this is a very inexpensive type of fabric, so you can cover every cabbage in your garden without breaking the bank. Regardless of which one you use, make sure the cabbages are completely covered every time.
Check out this great video on how to stop cabbage worms from eating your plants.
Can Cabbage Worms Make You Sick?
Cabbage worms cannot make you sick, unless there is something else on the cabbages that is bad for you. The extensive damage they do is to your plants. Keep in mind that they have ravenous appetites and will quickly chew holes through the cabbage leaves.
Some of the bigger larvae also chew through the stems of the plants, so they can be devastating to all of the time and energy you’ve spent planting the perfect garden.
Some cabbage worms even poop on your veggies, which can sometimes discolor and even contaminate the leaves of the plant. In the worst-case scenario, cabbage worms will do so much damage that you’ll have fewer crops, and sometimes they will completely destroy the crops.
How Do You Get Rid of Worms in Cabbage Before Cooking It?
Cabbage worms are tiny and can therefore find lots of places on your veggies to hide. It is still easy, however, to get rid of them. Most of the time, you can simply wash the veggies carefully and completely and the worms usually just fall off.
If you’re a little paranoid about making sure you get rid of all of the worms, place your cabbage in a bowl of water and completely submerge it for 5-10 minutes. If you need to, weigh the cabbage down so the entire head gets soaked in water.
This will drown the worms and they’ll fall to the bottom of the bowl.
If this still doesn’t make you feel comfortable, you can soak the cabbage in warm salt water for several minutes before you cook it. Both of these methods are very effective at getting rid of the worms in your cabbage heads.
Cabbage worms are non-toxic and not at all harmful to humans, although they can be devastating to your plants. Even if you accidentally consume a cabbage worm that went unnoticed in your cabbage plants, you can consider it some extra protein because it is literally nothing to be concerned about.
I am an accredited practicing dietitian, experienced gardener and a dedicated cook. I love writing and sharing my experience so you can learn from my successes and mistakes.