How to Spot Broccoli Worms and Get Rid of Them for Good

How to Spot Broccoli Worms and Get Rid of Them for Good

Rebekah started a small farm with her husband in 2016 in upstate New York, just north of the pristine Adirondack Mountains, where she grows vegetables and herbs and also raises sheep, chickens, and pigs. There’s nothing she loves more than helping others learn more especially about sustainable living as it pertains to health and homesteading. An avid cook, she works hard to grow and preserve enough food to support her family throughout the year.

When you spend hours watering, weeding, planting, fertilizing, pruning, and otherwise toiling over your organic vegetable garden, it can be incredibly frustrating to have a completely inedible crop.

While broccoli worms don’t necessarily render your broccoli inedible, they make it unappetizing, to say the least. These pests are not only unpleasant to find crawling around on your dinner plate, but they eat so voraciously that they have the potential to wipe out your entire crop.

If you’re sick of dealing with broccoli worms in your garden, rest assured – there are several easy ways you can get rid of these pests for good.

What Are Broccoli Worms?

Before I can tell you how to prevent and treat broccoli worms in your garden, I need to first tell you what these pests actually are.

Although broccoli is the most common plant to be affected by broccoli worms, other related plants – like cabbage, cauliflower, kale, and Brussels sprouts – can be impacted. These pests typically chew on the undersides of plants, gnawing holes and eating the entire plant from the bottom up.

There are technically three types of broccoli worms: cabbage worms, cabbage loopers, and diamondback worms.

Cabbage worms are the most common, a pale velvety-green in color. These pests are technically caterpillars, the larvae of white butterflies. Cabbage loopers, on the other hand, are the larvae of brown moths. They are also smooth and green, but a bit lighter in color than cabbage worms.

Diamondback worms are the least common pest that you might see on your broccoli plants. These are the larvae of gray moths and, as the name implies, they have a diamond shape imprinted on their backs.

While there are some differences in the anatomy and behavior of these pests, they all, for the most part, behave in the exact same way. Since they are all a light green color, they blend in easily with your plants. Once they’re present, they can completely defoliate your plants and ruin your hard work.

Think you might have a broccoli worm infestation? The most common sign is many large, irregular holes chewed into the foliage. You might also notice that the growth of your plant is stunted. Sometimes, there is even a greenish-brown excrement left behind on the heads.

The Life Cycle of a Broccoli Worm

Knowing the life cycle of a broccoli worm can be incredibly helpful as you work toward controlling these pests in your garden.

A broccoli worm is typically about 1¼ inch long and a velvety green in color. It has many fine hairs and is usually noticed in the spring to late fall. Adult females typically emerge in the early spring, hatching as green pupae after overwintering in your soil or garden debris. Adults appear as pale yellow or white butterflies with black spots.

These butterflies lay up to 200 small yellow eggs on plants, typically on the bellies of the leaves. These hatch in about a week, turning into young caterpillars – or worms. They feed for about 15 days and then pupate into butterflies. There can be three to five generations of these pests each year – up to eight in warmer climates. This means there is some serious potential for these pests to wreak havoc on your garden!

Do Broccoli Worms Affect Other Types of Plants Besides Broccoli?

Unfortunately, you can’t prevent broccoli worms by simply not planting broccoli in your garden anymore. Broccoli worms feed on other plants, too, including:

  • Kale
  • Cauliflower
  • Cabbage
  • Brussels Sprouts
  • Collards
  • Mustards

If you notice worms on other plants, like carrots, dill, fennel, parsley, or anise, it might be another caterpillar species – such as the Anise Swallowtail – wreaking havoc.

How to Remove Broccoli Worms

Luckily, getting rid of broccoli worms isn’t challenging – you just need to select one of these solutions.

1. Bt Spray

One of the best ways to control broccoli worms is to apply a Bacillus thuringiensis (Bt) spray. It’s a natural treatment that consists of a bacterium that makes the worms extremely sick – eventually killing them off.

It’s perfectly safe for other plants, humans, and insects – it just affects the worms. You can find this spray at most garden centers. It should be used in the afternoon at the ratio of 1 teaspoon of liquid detergent per gallon of Bt.

2. Herbal Insecticides

There are plenty of herbal remedies out there to help you get rid of broccoli worms, too. One involves soaking garlic cloves for a few days in cold water. Then, you can blend it up and apply it directly to your plants.

Garlic is a powerful natural insecticide and parasiticide, so it’s definitely worth a try if you don’t want to resort to chemical treatments! You can also try adding things like hot peppers or wormwood to your spray. A good blast of hot, soapy water can often do the trick, too.

3. Clean After Harvesting

If you don’t want to deal with broccoli worms while your plants are still outside, you can always deal with the pests after the harvest.

You probably already do a good job of cleaning your produce after you’ve brought it inside, but broccoli worms are tough little buggers. Unfortunately, your regular methods of cleaning your produce probably aren’t going to cut it. You need to get more hands-on.

To draw broccoli worms out, you will need to soak the heads of broccoli in a pot of warm water with 2 Tbsp and ¼ cup of table salt added in. Keep the heads submerged for at least half an hour. Rinse the heads thoroughly afterward to remove any salty or vinegary residue.

Cooking your broccoli before eating it can also help remove the worms. This is admittedly not the most appetizing way to rid your heads of the pests, but it will nonetheless get the job done. When you heat up broccoli, any worms inside will turn a nasty pale color and wiggle out of the heads. If they don’t crawl out, they will die inside – you will just need to remove them before eating.

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How to Prevent Broccoli Worms

1. Use Row Covers

One of the easiest and most organic ways to prevent broccoli worms from becoming a problem is to use row covers. Row covers provide protection from a variety of common broccoli pests, particularly during the high-infestation months of summer and spring.

If you don’t want to go through the effort of putting out DIY row covers, a good (and quick) alternative is to place the entire head of the plant in pantyhose or nylon stockings.

2. Hand Picking

If you see broccoli worms on your plants, handpick them and drown them in a bucket of soapy water immediately. Or you can feed them to your chickens!

3. Water and Fertilize Plants Regularly

Plants are more likely to fall victim to insects, diseases, and other problems when they are weakened by a lack of water or nutrients. Following a good watering and fertilizing regimen can help prevent broccoli worms as well as other pests like aphids, flea beetles, slugs, and mites, too.

A healthy crop is naturally more pest resistant. Before planting broccoli, make sure your garden is rich in nitrogen and has adequate drainage. This will ensure a more successful, pest-free harvest later on.

4. Rotate Your Crop

Crop rotation is one of the most effective ways to keep broccoli worms at bay. Remove crop debris after harvest and pull up weeds three weeks before planting, too. This will remove potential spots where the pests could have overwintered.

5. Try Companion Plants

Another easy way to prevent broccoli worms – and to ensure the health of your garden – is to plant companion plants. Strongly-scented flowers, like chamomile, as well as other herbs like sage and dill can keep cabbage butterflies (and their worms!) away. Some people even plant certain species to attract creatures that eat broccoli worms, like frogs, toads, and birds.

6. Add Some Predatory Wasps

There are plenty of beneficial insects that can help keep broccoli worms at bay, but one of the most common ways to prevent these pests from damaging your plants is to introduce predatory wasps. These wasps lay eggs on the larvae of cabbage butterflies. When they hatch, the adult wasps burrow into the caterpillars and eat them.

Gross and violent, but effective! To invite predatory wasps into your garden, simply plant some fennel or dill (the favorites of predatory wasps) near any plants that have the potential to be affected.

Are Broccoli Worms Harmful to People?

If you’re panicking because you just found a wiggly green worm crawling out of your otherwise-scrumptious head of broccoli, rest assured – broccoli worms aren’t harmful to people. They’re just gross.

Broccoli worms hold on tight, so you might notice these pests crawling out of even pesticide-controlled, supermarket-sold produce. However, if you accidentally eat one, don’t worry. You aren’t going to get sick and die. It just might make your stomach turn a little when you realize it!

That said, controlling and preventing broccoli worms is definitely preferable to finding one on your dinner plate, or worse, half of one. Follow these tips, and you won’t have to worry about experiencing such an unpleasant sight!

Computer Worms: What They Are and How to Stop Them

We hear a lot about viruses and Trojans, but not much about worms. What exactly is a computer worm, what does it do and how can you protect yourself from one?

Computers linked to a network are vulnerable to different forms of malware, among which are network worms — small software applications that independently reproduce themselves and travel across network connections.

A worm typically does not infect computer files, but instead copies itself to a folder or directory on a remote machine. It is different from a computer virus, which needs to infect a host file and is not a stand-alone program.

Different kinds

There are several different types of computer worms. Email worms, such as the ILOVEYOU worm of May 2000, spread via email attachments or embedded links and activate when the attachments are opened or the links clicked. New emails are generated by the worm and sent to addresses in the infected computer’s address list.

Instant-messaging worms spread through messaging services by sharing Web links or files with addresses on contact lists. Similarly, Internet Relay Chat worms can attack users on chat channels by sending out links or infected files.

Another type of worm, known as an Internet worm, hops onto a local network and from there tries to escape to the full Internet to search for unprotected machines. Both the oldest known worm, the Morris worm of 1988, and the most pernicious, the Conficker worm that first appeared in 2008, are Internet worms.

File-sharing worms arose with the rapid adoption of peer-to-peer file-sharing networks after the centralized file-sharing network Napster was shut down in 2001. They disguised themselves with innocuous names, but would rapidly copy themselves from one shared directory to another.

What they do

Once they’re in your machine, malicious worms will often try to install a «backdoor» to enable the installation of more malware. In such instances, the worm is only the beachhead of a larger malware invasion.

For example, variants of Conficker installed botnet herders that grouped infected machines together for criminal purposes, such as pumping out spam or flooding Web servers with useless data. Other worms may install «scareware» that tricks victims into paying for fake anti-virus products, or banking Trojans that hijack online banking sessions.

Worms are not always created with malicious intent, but even benign worms can clog networks as they spread and reproduce themselves.

How to protect yourself

Three basic steps should protect most users against most computer worms. First, a computer’s user accounts should be set so that day-to-day use is run as a «limited» user who cannot automatically install software. Administrative accounts with full installation rights should be used only to install, modify or delete software.

Second, all network firewalls, whether in a computer or on a network, should be turned on to limit unauthorized network activity, and the computer’s operating system should be set to automatically install system updates.

Third, robust anti-virus software should be installed and set to automatically update and scan. Free anti-virus software will do the job, but paid products add important features such as download and attachment scans and malicious website screening.

Worm Treatment

There are many worms that can affect humans and cause problems in children across the globe, including threadworm, hookworm, roundworm, whipworm and tapeworm. Fortunately, apart from threadworm, these worms are common in regions with a high population density and poor hygiene and sanitation facilities – and therefore considered rare in Australia and New Zealand. The most common worm infection in Australia and New Zealand is threadworm (also known as pinworm) infection. This information focusses on infections, how they occur and spread, and how to effectively treat them.

It is safe to say that a lot of families have had to deal with worms in kids from time to time. Although parents tend to get embarrassed if their children have worms, they shouldn’t be, Threadworm infections are highly contagious and easy to catch – but they’re also easy to treat, thanks to COMBANTRIN ® — with several different deworming products to choose from, in 2 formats to make them easier for little ones as well as the adults to stomach.

The Threadworm Lifecycle

You can be infected with threadworm no matter how clean or careful you are! Adults can be carrying eggs even if they have no symptoms. An infection is passed from person to person by swallowing worm eggs, allowing them to then go through what we call the threadworm life cycle.

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The worms will carry on their lifecycle as normal if they’re not treated quickly and effectively. Here’s how that lifecycle occurs:

  1. Infection begins when eggs are swallowed, usually directly through contaminated hands or indirectly through contaminated food, bedding, clothing or other articles.
  2. The eggs then travel to the small intestine where they hatch and mature.
  3. A few weeks after ingestion, the adult female worm moves down the gut and exits the body via the anus to lay eggs. This usually occurs during the night, when the infected person is asleep (which is why checking the anus during the night is a good way to identify whether there’s a worm infection or not).
  4. The female adult worm then dies, having successfully completed her reproductive mission!
  5. Eggs are then excreted in the faeces or spread by contaminated hands.

Eggs can be spread by contaminated hands to the external environment, where they are highly contagious and can survive for several days — especially in cool, humid areas such as bathrooms. Due to the eggs being laid around the anus, they may cause intense itching, especially at night. This means children can easily reinfect themselves by scratching the anus, which results in them scraping eggs under their fingernails. Naturally, transfer of eggs from contaminated hand to mouth can occur if you don’t wash your hand. For example, the eggs can be transferred to your mouth or on to food or objects, such as toys and kitchen utensils — and the whole threadworm life cycle starts again. If someone else touches a contaminated object, or eats contaminated food and then touches their mouth, they’ll become infected. Children are more likely than adults to pick up an infection, most likely due to a child’s tendency to put their fingers in their mouths!

For families with dogs and cats, you’ll be pleased to know that dogs or cats do not get threadworms, so pets do not cause threadworm infections in humans.

The importance of treating worms

It’s crucial to treat worm infections as soon as the signs and symptoms start to appear. The good news is that threadworm infections, though very annoying, are not generally serious and are easily treated with the correct medication 1 .

Due to the fast reproductive cycle of these worms, an infection which is left to develop can mean it takes a few treatments to get rid of all the worms and the eggs that they’ve laid. This is another reason why it’s so important to act fast if you suspect a worm infection.

COMBANTRIN ® and COMBANTRIN ® -1– for your deworming needs

COMBANTRIN ® and COMBANTRIN ® -1 provides a comprehensive solution to mums’ and dads’ deworming needs. With chocolate squares that are perfect for child-friendly dosages, to tablets that help mum and dad to deworm after one of their little ones pick up an infection, there’s a COMBANTRIN ® product to suit everyone.

Remember, to properly prevent reinfestation, make sure you treat the entire family with COMBANTRIN ® or COMBANTRIN ® -1 when one member starts to show symptoms of a worm infection.

Read more about different types of worm infections:

Bristle Worms In Your Saltwater Tank: Everything You Should Know

If you have bristle worms in your saltwater aquarium and aren’t sure what to do, you’re not alone.

There are a million questions floating around online about bristle worms by new and experienced reef tank owners.

Are they good or bad for your tank? What’s a bristle worm vs a fireworm? How do you get rid of them?

The list goes on and on.

That’s why we put together this resource to answer all of your bristle worm questions. You’ll find everything you’re looking for and will be ready to deal with them by the time you’re finished reading.

Table of Contents

What are bristle worms?

Bristle worms (polychaetes) are segmented worms that comprise the Polychaeta, which in Latin means “many hairs”, class of animals. They belong to the phylum Annelida, which includes the more than 22,000 species of ringed and segmented worms.

Earthworms and leeches are also included in this phylum, so just think of the bristle worm as a type of marine-dwelling earthworm.

Of the more than 10,000 species of bristle worms, also spelled bristleworms, over 98 percent live in saltwater. Fewer than 200 species live in freshwater. From microscopic in size to more than 50 feet long, bristle worms are found worldwide in habitats ranging from cold to hot.

Most aquarium species range from 3 to 8 inches in length, although some may grow as long as 2 feet.

The bristle worm’s cylindrical-shaped segmented body features a pair of fleshy leg-like appendages known as parapodia on each segment. In addition to a means of movement, the parapodia serve as respiratory organs in larger species.

Smaller species, however, breathe through their general body surfaces. The segments also include bristles known as chaetae that are formed of a material that makes up the exoskeletons of arthropods.

The bristle worm’s highly-developed head features between two and four pairs of eyes that can typically distinguish only light from dark. However, some species are totally blind, while others feature large, more well-developed eyes with lenses.

Also located on the head are a pair of antennae, appendages known as pedipalps and a pit-like nuchal organ that helps the animal detect food. The mouth, which includes a pair of jaws and a pharynx, is located underneath the head.

Although simple, the bristle worm’s circulatory system is relatively well developed for an annelid and consists of two main blood vessels, along with smaller vessels that provide blood to the digestive system and parapodia.

Because most species feature blood vessels that contract to move the blood, there’s no need for a heart. Some species, however, feature muscular pumps located throughout the system and others have no circulatory system at all but instead move oxygen within coelomic fluid throughout their bodies.

Located in the upper part of the head, a relatively large brain is central to the worm’s nervous system, which includes either a single or a double nerve cord running along the length of its body and clusters of nerve cells and smaller nerves found in each segment.

Bristle worms are divided into two orders: errant and sedentary. As their name suggests, sedentary worms move very little and either live in tubes or are burrowers. Their special types of appendages give these “lazy” worms the ability to wait to capture food until it passes by. Errant species move about using their parapodia.

Bristle worms vs fireworms

As you might know by now, there’s a difference between bristle worms and fireworms. To put it simply, fireworms are a kind of bristle worm.

The reason why it’s so important to understand the difference between them is simple, one can help your aquarium and the other can hurt it.

Let’s explore the difference!

Which are beneficial for your fish tank?

The bristle worm might look like it came right out of a Creepy Crawlers Thingmaker, but don’t let its appearance intimidate you. Aside from their prickly bristles that feel like a bee sting when you touch them, most bristle worms are harmless. Because they’re scavengers, “good” bristle worms can actually clean your tank just snails and some species of starfish can.

That means these kinds of bristle worms can be an aquarists best friend!

Beneficial species of bristle worms are very thin and can get into small crevices more easily than can other scavengers. They’re certainly not fussy eaters and will eagerly consume anything from leftover food to algae and leaves to dead animals and even fish feces. Most bristle worms feed nocturnally as well and prefer detritus.

If you’re concerned your tank might become overrun with bristle worms, even the beneficial kind, take care not to overfeed them. Their reproductive rate is actually based on how much food they eat, so the more they consume, the more they’ll reproduce.

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Beneficial species feature a wide variety of colors, from dull gray to pink to bright hues. Their bright white, evenly-spaced bristles aren’t so prominent as those of “bad” bristle worms.

Which are bad for your tank?

Bristle worms of the family Amphinomidae, known as fireworms, feature toxin-containing hollow bristles that burn when touched. There are fireworms native to both the Pacific and Caribbean regions.

Unlike bristle worm species that feed on dead animals or leftover food, fireworms are carnivores and will actually attack small live fish, often when the fish are asleep. They’ll readily consume invertebrates such as mollusks and crustaceans too.

One species, the bearded fireworm, is especially fond of corals. Unlike beneficial bristle worms that wait until dark to feed, the fireworm will feed any time of the day or night.

Fireworms are usually larger than other types of bristle worms and can grow up to a foot long. They’re also more brightly colored and can be found in hues from gray to red to yellow or green. Their red-based, white-tipped bristles feature short tufts.

Unfortunately, fireworms can reproduce at rates as high as those of beneficial bristle worms. This means if you’re not paying attention to your tank, fireworms can pop up and become a problem very quickly.

How do bristle worms get into your tank in the first place?

If your tank contains live rock, it probably already contains beneficial bristle worms. The creatures are notoriously good at hitchhiking on live rock, so you get a bonus house cleaning machine when you purchase live rock for your tank.

How can you get rid of them?

Unless they’re reproducing too profusely, you won’t want to rid beneficial bristle worms from your aquarium. If, however, you find fireworms have invaded your tank, you need to remove them as soon as possible to protect the other living things.

Option 1: Find out what eats bristle worms and introduce them into your tank

One way to remove fireworms is to introduce their natural predators into the tank. Some species you might consider adding are the arrow crab, the hawkfish, the dottyback, certain species of wrasse, the coral banded shrimp and some species of butterflyfish and puffer fish. Not only is introducing these animals into your tank one of the safest ways to eliminate fireworms, but the latter two species will add a lot to the beauty of your aquarium.

One group of valuable predators is the coral banded shrimp, which includes the red and white banded coral shrimp, the golden coral shrimp, the yellow banded coral shrimp, and the blue or purple banded coral shrimp. Also known as banded prawns or banded cleaner shrimp, the coral banded shrimp isn’t technically a true shrimp. Ranging in length from 2 to 4 inches, the coral banded shrimp will eagerly consume bristle worms but is not a threat to fish.

Another natural predator of the bristle worm is the arrow crab, also known as the spider crab for its exceptionally long legs. You need to be cautious about introducing this crab into your tank if you already keep coral banded shrimp, however, as it can attack these crustaceans, as well as small, slow-moving fish.

A colorful active fish, the six line wrasse, also known as the sixstripe wrasse, features six horizontal blue lines that contrast with its orange body. In addition to its taste for bristle worms, however, this fish can attack small crustaceans and other peaceful fish, especially if it’s extremely hungry or lacks an adequate environment in which it can hide. The hawkfish is another natural predator of bristle worms. This fish is typically motionless and can also, unfortunately, grab any small invertebrate that passes by.

Although introducing natural predators is generally a safe way to eliminate unwanted bristle worms from your aquarium, make sure you choose a species that won’t harm the other animals that live in the tank.

Option 2: Using a bristle worm trap

If your tank doesn’t have room for more fish, you can try a store-bought or homemade trap to capture fireworms. If you prefer to make your own simple trap, just cut the top off a plastic water or soda bottle at the neck. Then turn over the cutoff part and glue this piece on the top of the bottle, creating a funnel.

Fill the bottom of the bottle with food as bait and bury it upright in sand on the floor of the tank. The bait will attract the fireworms, who will enter the bottle and not be able to crawl out.

Ladies, here’s a practical reason to hang onto your nylon stockings that have been ruined by runs or snags. Use them to make a simple bristle worm trap! Wrap a piece of fresh food, such as a scallop or a shrimp, in the stocking and allow the trap to sink to the bottom of the tank.

The worms will be attracted to the food; and when their bristles contact the nylon, they’ll stick and won’t be able to escape.

The nylon stocking method is especially effective for catching smaller worms. Now you can discard the stocking, knowing it’s served another purpose!

You can also buy one if you don’t want to go the DIY route. Here’s a link to a very reliable and well-reviewed bristle worm trap made by JT Aquatics.

Option 3: Dig around your tank and hunt them down!

There are other methods for ridding your tank of fireworms. You can try to grasp each one individually at the center of its body with tweezers; but if your tank is inundated with worms, this process can be tricky and time-consuming. You also need to remove the entire worm because if part of the animal breaks off and remains in the live rock, it could actually regenerate.

If you suspect fireworms are hiding, you can remove pieces of rock or sediment and immediately place them in fresh, dechlorinated water. The worms will quickly evict the rock or sediment. Use this method only as a last resort, however, as other creatures living in the rock might be harmed.

Preventing fireworms from entering your tank in the first place will save you the trouble of removing them. Carefully inspect all the new rock you purchase before you put it in your tank. You could designate a special tank set aside for the purpose of holding the new rock. The rock will remain alive while you monitor it for a period of time. The process may take longer than you’d like but is worth the extra time it takes to ensure the safety of your main tank.

Now you’re ready

You should now have the essential info about bristle worms to deal with them in your tank. You can identify them, remove fireworms, and make your own decision on if you want to keep regular bristle worms in your tank.

While there is a lot of confusion surrounding these creatures, it’s really not so bad once you understand the basics.

As always, if you have any questions about bristle worms that we didn’t cover in this guide you can always get in touch. We’re more than happy to help!

Alison Yang

Alison has been interested in fish and aquariums for over five years. When she’s not writing about fish you can find her hiking, swimming, and doing yoga.

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