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Past Articles Library | Organic Pest Control | Control Cabbage Maggots


Delia radicum

Cabbage maggots tunnel into roots and stems of cabbage family plants such as: radish, cabbage, broccoli, and cauliflower causing plants to wilt. Look for white larvae and brown pupae below the soil line.



Adults are gray flies about half the size of the common housefly. They are 1/4 inch (6 mm) long, with long legs. Larvae are white, tapering maggots that burrow into roots.



Pupae overwinter in the soil. The adult flies emerge from late March onward. Females lay eggs in the soil beside the plant roots. After they hatch, the larvae tunnel in the roots for 3 to 4 weeks, then pupate in the soil for 2 to 3 weeks. Two, and up to four, generations each year.




Cabbage family plants such as: cabbage, cauliflower, broccoli, Brussels sprouts, kohlrabi, turnip, Chinese cabbage, radish, and horseradish.




The first signs of damage or injury are sickly or stunted plants that suddenly wilt in the midday heat. This is because maggots have bored into the roots. Plants may die, most often because the entry wounds from the maggots allow diseases to infect the roots. Plants that survive will have stunted growth and produce poorly.




1. Plant radishes earlier and cabbages later than usual to avoid main generations of cabbage maggots.

2. Cover seedlings with Floating Row Covers and make sure the edges are buried in the soil.
More Information About Floating Row Covers

3. Plant transplants through slits in tar-paper squares to prevent females from laying eggs.

4. Burn or destroy roots of cabbage family plants when you harvest the tops.


1. Apply beneficial parasitic nematodes such as Grub-Away Nematodoes to the soil around the roots. These nematodes are more effective than other commercially-available nematodes. More Information about Grub-Away Nematodes

2. If pest populations are moderate, repel females by mounding wood ashes, diatomaceous earth, hot pepper, or ginger powder around the base of stems without mounding onto the stems themselves.

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