Garden Care

What Is Eating My Collard Greens? How to Get Rid of It

A collard green dish brings flavors and nutrients to any typical home meal, which explains why these vegetables have been all the rage in recent months.

However, gardeners and farmers are facing a critical issue: something is eating up the collard in their gardens. Getting to the root of the problem is a must to keep the vegetables from further damage.

So what is eating my collard greens? How can I get rid of that? If these questions are burning you, keep scrolling through my guidelines for the answer.

What Is Eating My Collard Greens? 

what is eating my collard greens

Aphids, thrips, flea beetles, cutworms, cabbage loopers, and imported cabbage worms are the common pests behind decaying collard greens (brassica oleracea).

Aphids

These insects feed on plant sap with their sharp, needle-like teeth. Nothing escapes their ravenous mouth: undersides of leaves, unopened buds, developing bark, twigs, stems, roots, etc.

Most cases leave behind no visible signals. However, under severe aphid feeding, some noticeable symptoms will show up on my greens:

  • Curled and twisted leaves
  • Yellow foliage
  • Dead or stunted shoots
  • Stalled collard growth

Thrips

The thrips congregate in hundreds, leaving varnish-like, black fecal deposits at the leaf underside.

They puncture through the epidermal layers of my host plants with those large mandibles, then slurp all the cell saps flowing into the wounds. That explains why my collar foliage turns out dusty and dull.

Worse, my collard leaves are streaked with a disgusting brown and suffer from premature withering. They scar, discolor, and twist ugly.

Flea Beetles

Flea beetles horrify me more than any other insect; if not caught on time, their damage is almost irreversible.

They create small, irregular round holes and shallow pits (usually below 1/8 inch) in my leaves, eating them up at a neck-breaking speed.

Collard greens starting from seeds stay stronger against feeding damage, unlike transplanted ones.

Nevertheless, if the beetle numbers reach too high, both types are similarly injured. All of my worst nightmares are nothing compared to this!

Cutworms

Another collard killer to beware of is cutworms, which curl their small bodies around my vegetable stems to feed on them.

As a result, the plants are cut off right above soil surfaces, suffering severe growth damage.

Worse, that’s not all; those vicious cutworms continue to climb onto the vines and shrubs to crunch my fruits, buds, and leaves! 

The army cutworms (bronzed and back) are the scariest of them all, cutting and attacking new plants at night when my entire family is already asleep.

Cabbage Loopers

I can tell cabbage loopers apart from other moths, thanks to the characteristic silver/white Y” on their forewing.

They are present throughout most of my growing seasons, taking a particular interest in developing leaves.

My outer leaves get riddled with irregular, small holes. When parting them, I can even spot masses of brown-greenish excrement pellets at the base.

And the collard heads are totally stunted! What a disaster.

Imported Cabbage Worms

Fancy names aside, they are simply white butterflies laying their eggs on vegetable plants and feeding on nectar.

Although cole crops of all growth stages can be the target, they seem much more interested in developing leaves – like cabbage loopers.

Just a few days after these butterflies flutter around my garden, the damage and larvae they cause get increasingly obvious.

Ragged holes in collard greens are littered everywhere, worsened by poisonous larval feces that destroy the collard’s edible portions.

How to Get Rid of What’s Eating My Collard Greens

neem oil on collard greens

Now that you have figured out what has gone wrong, it’s time to fix it! 

With some help from my husband, I have managed to get rid of those vicious insect pests using this simple guide below.

This method is especially powerful when the loopers and cabbage worms have not yet passed their early stages of development:

Preparation: 

  • Isopropyl alcohol
  • Water
  • Spray bottle
  • Dish liquid
  • Pressure or hose-end sprayer
  • BT (Bacillus thuringiensis) concentrate

Step-By-Step Guide:

Step 1. 

Combine water and isopropyl alcohol at a 6:4 ratio in your spray bottle. A spoonful of dishwashing liquid is also welcomed. 

I gently and thoroughly spray it on my collard greens to control beetles and insects.

Step 2

Mix BT concentrate with water (about 1 gallon) in a pressure or hose-end sprayer. I use 1-3 spoons per gallon on cabbage worms and 2-4 with cabbage loopers.

Step 3. 

I repeat the two steps above every week, covering all leaf portions until an even coat drafts over the plant without creating runoff. Reapplying the liquids after long periods of rain is a great idea, too.

Warning:

  • Wear protective gloves while using BT. 
  • Wash your fingers after finishing.
  • Keep pets and children off the area. Only let them in when the sprays have dried. 

Other Tips to Care For Your Collard Greens 

white bugs on collard greens

Thankfully, these vegetables are pretty low-maintenance and barely require any extra measurements. My gardening has turned out to be a success with just four simple, basic upkeep tasks: 

Watering

A collard green plant requires moist soil (2-inch water) each week. Water them consistently and evenly to ensure healthy crops. And whenever the soil dries too quickly, mulch around to help the plants retain moisture.

Trimming Off Stalks

As the weather grows too cold or too hot, my collard greens often “bolt” and send up huge collard flower stalks, turning the leaves of collards more bitter.

I trim off the stalks as soon as they appear to slow the bolting process.

Handling The Garden Pests

As mentioned, kale worms, loopers, and aphids often target vegetables like collard green plants.

You can either pick them by hand – or blast off these white bugs on collard greens using Sevin Dust (like with Squash bugs) and the liquid mixture mentioned above.

Protecting Them in Winter Months 

Since collards thrive better in warmer climates, try your best to ensure maximum heat for them during colder seasons:

  • Trim the plants, covering my collards with coconut mulch rows to maintain soil warmth.
  • If conditions allow, I grow and harvest the leaves early, pulling them up right before winter.

Conclusion

What is eating my collard greens? Anyone with this question in mind should let themselves relax now.

My article covers potential reasons, telltale signs, and appropriate methods to handle the issue, guaranteeing the best insect-free environment for collard greens growth.

For more support or clarification, feel free to send me messages.

Samuel Mark

Hello I am Samuel. Samuel's Garden is a garden blog where I share my experiences in garden caring and tree growth. Hope you enjoy it!

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