How to Keep Bugs Off Broccoli Plants [7 Key Tips]

Keeping bugs off broccoli starts with adding companion plants and beneficial bugs to your garden. On top of that, consider attacking harmful insects with water, spraying with neem oil, or applying bacillus thuringiensis (BT) to your plants. Covering your broccoli plants with mesh and keeping them healthy can help, too. The most common bugs on broccoli include aphids, diamondback moth caterpillars, cabbage worms, cabbage loopers, cutworms, flea beetles, and cabbage root maggots. Organic pesticides work best in keeping insects from eating your broccoli plants.

How to keep bugs off broccoli plants

What Bugs Eat Broccoli Plants?

The bugs that eat broccoli plants most often include:

  • Aphids
  • Diamondback moth caterpillars
  • Cabbage worms
  • Cabbage loopers
  • Cutworms
  • Flea beetles
  • Cabbage root maggots

Most of the pests spend their time on the leaves and heads of the broccoli. The main exception is the cabbage root maggots. They’re found in the soil and on the lower stems instead.

7 Tips to Get Bugs to Stop Eating Your Broccoli Plants

You can use any or all of the following methods to get bugs to stop eating your broccoli plants.

  • Put beneficial companion plants around your broccoli.
  • Release beneficial bugs in your garden to eat the bad ones.
  • Use a hard blast of hose water to dislodge the insects.
  • Apply bacillus thuringiensis (BT) when the bugs are in the larva stage.
  • Spray the broccoli plants with neem oil on a weekly basis.
  • Cover your broccoli plants with mesh as soon as they sprout.
  • Keep your plants healthy by giving them plenty of nutrients.

Make sure you’ve got all the bugs out by soaking any harvested broccoli heads before eating. Mix a soaking solution by adding ¼ cup salt (90 grams) and 2 tablespoons (30 ml) of white vinegar to a gallon of water. Completely submerge the broccoli and soak the heads for about 20 minutes. Remove the heads from the water, rinse, and then let them air dry.

Add Companion Plants

Add beneficial companion plants alongside the broccoli to deter pests. Thyme, nasturtium, marigolds, and geraniums help get rid of cabbage worms and cabbage loopers. Rosemary, dill, and other strong-smelling herbs keep cabbage root maggots away. Caterpillars won’t go near gardens with German chamomile. Fava beans are great for deterring flea beetles. Adding the wrong plants with broccoli can spell disaster.

Bring in Beneficial Bugs

Beneficial bugs help control pests in your garden by eating the larva and adult insects. You can buy certain beneficial insects, like ladybugs, from garden stores. Alternatively, attract helpful insects to your yard by planting zinnias, marigolds, yarrow, parsley, and lemon balm. Ladybugs and lacewings love munching on aphids. In fact, they even lay their eggs near the aphids. That way, their larvae have plenty of food to eat. Soldier beetles and praying mantises go beyond aphids to eating caterpillars as well.

Blast the Critters Away

A quick blast of water from your hose can blast aphids and other insects off your broccoli plants. Use a spray nozzle and start with a low-pressure blast. Slowly increase the pressure until the water removes the bugs without harming the plant. Apply watered-down dish soap to get rid of stubborn bugs. Just mix one tablespoon of dish soap in a spray bottle full of water. Then, spray the bugs with the mixture. The next day, blast them with the hose again.

Apply Bacillus Thuringiensis (BT)

Apply this bacillus thuringiensis (BT) spray to your plants when the bugs are still in the larva stage. As the bugs eat this all-natural pesticide, the toxins attack their digestive tract. The bugs then die of starvation within five days. BT is not toxic to people or pets. You should only spray it in the evening to keep the sunlight from deactivating the product. Reapply BT if it rains within a week of the first application.

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Spray the Plants with Neem Oil

Spray your plants with this neem oil if you notice harmful adult bugs on your plants. This naturally occurring pesticide coats the bodies of the insects and causes them to suffocate. Soft-bodied insects dehydrate instead. You can buy neem oil as a ready-to-use spray or concentrate you mix up according to the package directions. Either way, apply it at night, and then repeat a week or so later if you still see bugs.

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Cover Your Broccoli with Mesh

Cover your broccoli plants in mesh to keep the bugs from getting to them in the first place. A cheap way to do that is by purchasing mesh laundry baskets from the dollar store. Pop each basket open, and then invert it over the plant. Stake the baskets down to keep them from moving in the wind. Floating row covers are a better option if you have a lot of broccoli plants in your garden. Hoop houses provide the most protection, but they’re also the biggest investment.

Keep Your Plants Healthy

Always do all you can to keep your broccoli healthy and thriving. Insects attack unhealthy, nutrient-deficient plants over healthy ones. To avoid that, add plenty of organic matter to the soil before planting. Then, apply a balanced 10-10-10 fertilizer when you put your seeds in the ground. Reapply the fertilizer one month later.

Despite your best efforts, bugs still happen. So, plan to soak your broccoli heads after harvesting. Create the soaking solution by mixing 1 gallon (3.75 liters) of water, ¼ (90 grams) cup of salt, and 2 tablespoons (30 ml) of white vinegar. Let the broccoli soak for 20 minutes, and then air dry.

What Can You Spray on Broccoli for Bugs?

Organic pesticides work best in removing bugs from your broccoli plants. BT and neem oil are the most popular options. Both options are chemical-free, all-natural solutions that kill bugs without putting your pets, family, or other wildlife at risk.

  • Organic pesticides are the best way to remove bugs from your broccoli.
  • BT and neem oil are the most popular options for home gardens.
  • Plain and soapy water can knock bugs loose well enough if you catch the infestation early.
  • Heavy insect infestations overwhelm plants and increase the difficulty of their removal.

Try to use plain and soapy water first to see if the bugs get knocked loose. Repeated sprayings can keep most bugs from setting up shop. You have to catch the problem early, however. Otherwise, the bugs will overwhelm the plants and evade your removal efforts.

How to Keep Bugs From Eating Broccoli Plants

To keep bugs from eating your broccoli plants, use these tips:

  • Plan companion plants that deter bugs near your broccoli. 
  • Purchase or attract beneficial bugs that eat harmful insects.
  • Spray your broccoli with water, BT, or neem oil to get rid of infestations.
  • Cover your plants to keep harmful bugs from attacking your plants.
  • Fertilize broccoli to promote healthy, insect resistant plants.

The bugs that will cause you the most problems are aphids, diamondback moth caterpillars, cabbage loopers, cutworms, flea beetles, and cabbage worms. You’ll find all these bugs on the leaves and heads of the broccoli. Cabbage root maggots cause problems as well. They’re in the dirt and around the stems, however. When you take the time to remove bugs from your broccoli, you’ll get much better harvests. Just remember to soak the heads after harvesting to avoid any startling surprises while munching on your veggies.

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