6

Watering the lettuces, I spotted a Red Cabbage head leaning sideways on the ground.

On close inspection, here's what I saw:

red cabbage stalk eaten through by three worm-like bugs

Three little worm-like bugs having a feast of the bottom of the stalk of this head of red cabbage.

red cabbage stalk eaten through by three worm-like bugs, cropped closer

Their posse was crushed by hand. The cabbage will be cooked tonight.

Now what?

two days later

Neighboring Mesclun, Red Sail, Collards, Arugula and the other three Red Cabbages are all basically well. Photographed on a warm sunny day just before being watered:

Photographed on a warm sunny day just before being watered, Mesclun, Red Sail, Collards, Arugula and Red Cabbages are growing in an above-ground planter built a couple of months ago in the backyard of a 3-family apartment building in Brooklyn, NY.

These are growing in an above-ground planter built a couple of months ago in the backyard of a 3-family apartment building in Brooklyn, NY.

There is heavy duty landscaping cloth under the planter. Worth noting, the wood I built the planters from was reclaimed, though I inspected each board thoroughly and (I believe) they were bug-free.

But.. see that yellow card? It's a sticky trap to kill hatching larvae, placed there one month ago when A swiss chard planted in that exact location suddenly wilted!!

As Stormy points out, next season it would be advantageous for the lettuces overall to be dispersed throughout other locations, or with companion species besides cole crops.

I'll update this post as the cabbage root excavation continues.

aha!

Fiasco Labs has ID'd the bugs as termites. What an outright terrifying little species those are. Confirmed watching spine-chilling YouTube videos, the motion of their "feasting" is very distinct.

Questions about Termites:

  • Are Nematodes known to mitigate termites in soil?

  • Can termites just appear out of thin (local) air? Might they have come from the wood in the planters? From the ground? Are termites just around, like mosquitoes?

also

A few weeks ago, Nematodes were added to all of the soil in the various planters. Scanmask was used, and I did my best to not over- or under- populate my garden based on the instructions. We hope beneficial Nematodes put the hurt on all nefarious bugs!

  • 1
    Termites eating cabbage? How's your house foundation? – Fiasco Labs Jun 22 '14 at 21:54
  • @FiascoLabs these are growing in an above-ground planter I built a couple months ago, about ten feet away from the house. I live in Brooklyn, NY and this is a 3-family apartment building with a back yard. There is heavy duty landscaping cloth under the planter. Worth noting, the wood I built the planters from was reclaimed, though I inspected each board thoroughly and (I believed) there were fine. – Charney Kaye Jun 22 '14 at 23:21
  • This was a great question! I thought you were joking, Fiasco!! You were able to tell those were termites, immediately. So are the termites eating the boards? How close is your home? – stormy Jun 24 '14 at 7:30
  • Did you set this whole question up? Sure was brilliant! We all learned something here...grinning widely! – stormy Jun 24 '14 at 17:38
  • @stormy I wish I could take credit, but the real author is nature and karma! +1 for stack exchange's solid implementation of the concept of a "hive mind" for humans! – Charney Kaye Jun 24 '14 at 18:35
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Having learned the hard way I've seen this many times. I think this is the cabbage maggot, hatched from eggs that a fly deposited at the bottom of your cabbage. Although the guys in your picture look a little older and are getting ready to become adult flies.

All of your cole crops such as cabbage, broccoli, Brussels sprouts, cauliflower, Chinese cabbage, radishes, rutabaga, turnips, kohlrabi and kale are in danger of this fly. The maggots simply eat the roots until they fly away.

Next year, do not plant any of this family in the same place. As soon as you plant seed or seedlings, early in the spring, cover them in row cloth. Allow to bunch up to allow growing room and seal the sides and ends under your soil. When the plants get big enough and start producing, you can uncover them. The time for flies to lay their eggs is pretty much over. Even though it seems easier to plant all of the cole crops together so they can be covered try to space them in different places in your garden.

This year, applying beneficial nematodes might save some of your plants. Maybe. The roots may be so gone that all you'll be able to do is harvest and make sauerkraut. Beneficial nematodes: Steinernema carpocapsai and Heterorhabditis bacteriophora are the two to look for. They swim through the soil and enter through the insect's mouth or other natural orifice. Once there, they release a bacterium that lives in their gut.The bacteria kills the insect within 2 - 4 days. The nematode continues to eat the insect from the inside out.

Totally harmless for you. Even so, read the label, 5X! You'll be buying live, infective larvae suspended in a storage medium of moist peat, vermiculite or gel. You'll have to be refrigerating the package until you can apply. Good luck!

  • Wow! Thanks so much. I've actually added nematodes a few weeks ago to all of the soil in my various planters. I used Scanmask and did my best to not over- or under- populate my garden based on the instructions. Cool stuff, and I hope my like nano-warriors brings terror to these cabbage maggots! – Charney Kaye Jun 23 '14 at 14:39
  • Hey @stormy should I dig out the entire root system of the infected cabbage? – Charney Kaye Jun 23 '14 at 16:09
  • Nope but how are your other cabbages, broccoli doing? They most likely have badly damaged roots as well. I'd dig up some of the root just to have a good look. There are other problems that could be in play as well that the nematodes won't solve. I'd use this as a chance to get to know my plants under the soil. I have a loop (magnifying lens 10X) and a lighted hand microscope (40X). The loop is about $30, the microscope $15. Fascinating world these tools can show you. – stormy Jun 23 '14 at 16:59
  • Neighboring Mesclun, Red Sail, Collards, Arugula and the other cabbages are all basically well. They are in groups of 4, so I harvest the bottom 1/4th of each of them for a meal. However, all of my lettuces are in a planter together (and your point about diversifying the species' locations makes sense!) I'll update this post as the cabbage root excavation continues. Please let me know any tried-and-true manufacturers for those two items. Thanks! – Charney Kaye Jun 23 '14 at 17:55
  • The correct answer goes back to you @stormy, because this question really is about preventing the death of the cabbage! – Charney Kaye Jun 24 '14 at 4:14
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Note that I agree with Stormy on this one, Cabbage Maggots likely are what ate the stem.

enter image description here

I wasn't being facetious with the comment on your question though, as what is shown has a well defined head and legs, so it's not a grub. Section from your picture:

enter image description here

Makes me identify these as common Subterranian Termites which are also living in the planter. Note the well defined head, feelers, jaws and legs, which the grubs do not have. They are probably in there after woody and dead plant matter after the culprits pupated.

enter image description here

  • seconding that I agree with stormy on all points, you do in fact get the +1 for the correct ID of those bugs. What an outright terrifying little species those are. And the way they were "feasting" when I saw them; the motion of it is unmistakable. I've relived the cold spine chills in YouTube videos. So.. are the beneficial nematodes any match for termites? Can termites just appear out of thin (local) air? Thanks! – Charney Kaye Jun 24 '14 at 0:33
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    Termites have a winged stage where the males and females leave the nests. Here in the Pacific Northwest, you have clouds of them, they chew their wings off on landing and head for the nearest moist rotting woody matter. They do appear out of thin air, mate and set up nesting. And yes, there are specific nematode predators you can buy for subterranean termites, Onion maggots and other soil infesting grubs. – Fiasco Labs Jun 24 '14 at 1:30

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