The fable of the cabbage moth and the desperate cabbages

As everyone knows who has ever grown cabbage or any other member of the cabbage family, cabbage worms will find you.  How do they do that??  There were no cabbages there before we planted them; there are no cabbages anywhere to be seen, not for miles around.  No matter.  Those little white cabbage moths will find your cabbage and broccoli.  And where there are cabbage moths, hungry cabbage worms are soon to follow; think of it as a miracle of nature.  When we used to have a garden with long rows of cabbage, cauliflower, broccoli, and Brussels sprouts, I would watch in dismay as the little white moths fluttered into sight.  If I were responsible for a market garden with a field full of cabbage-family plants, I undoubtedly would have sleepless nights worrying about clouds of delicate white moths arriving to settle in.  For individual cabbage-family plants, that nightmare is ever-present.  After all, what defenses do they have?

A possible defense strategy might go something like this:

When Molly Moth emerged from her cocoon, her mother was very proud.  Molly was the prettiest little white moth she’d ever produced.  And she knew that before this beauty could head out on her own, there were some important lessons she needed to learn.  “Molly,” she said, “you are a cabbage moth.  This means you need to find a cabbage patch where you can lay your eggs and make new cabbage worms.  Cabbage worms love cabbage leaves.   In order to find a nice cabbage patch, you want to look for leaves that look and smell like this one.”  She indicated the leaf they were on.

Molly took a close look at the cabbage leaf, which was sort of thick, with a pretty silvery green colour.  She checked out its look, feel, and smell.  And then, in her excitement, she flew off before her mother could finish her lessons or even say good-bye.  “Oh dear,” thought her mother, “I didn’t get a chance to tell her about cauliflowers, broccoli, and Brussels sprouts.  Oh well, I’m sure she’ll be fine; she’ll recognize the smell.”

Molly flew over fields of hay, fields of oats, and stands of maple trees.  She didn’t see any fields of silvery green leaves, but she did notice a brown moth fly into a stand of pointy trees, so she followed her.  She landed on a branch next to the brown moth, although the leaves were thin and prickly and didn’t smell very good.   “Hi,” said Molly to the brown moth.  “I’m a cabbage moth and I’m looking for cabbages.  Are you a cabbage moth?”  “No,” replied the brown moth, “I’m a spruce budworm moth.  My mother told me to go look for Christmas trees and lay my eggs there.  That’s why I’m on this tree.  Doesn’t it smell wonderful?”  With that, Molly knew she was in the wrong place.  She said good-bye and flew on.

Finally, when her little wings were getting really tired, she spotted a patch of green that looked promising.  She landed on a plant with thick silvery green leaves and a big white ball in the middle.  Her mother hadn’t said anything about a big white ball, although the leaves looked right, and it sure smelled good.  “Hello,” said Molly to the plant, “are you a cabbage?”  “Oh, no,” replied the plant nervously, “I’m not a cabbage, I’m a cauliflower.”

Molly was disappointed and a little confused.  The cauliflower’s leaves looked right, and the smell made her feel like staying, but she knew she was supposed to find a cabbage.  “Mr. Cauliflower, do you know where I can find some cabbages?”  “No, there are no cabbages around here, as far as I know,” said the cauliflower, who was trying hard not to make the moth suspicious.

Molly flew off to the next field, where she noticed some other green plants.  She landed on one that looked hopeful.  “Hello,“ said Molly to the plant, “are you a cabbage?”  “Oh, no,” replied the plant, trying to sound calm and confident, “I’m not a cabbage, I’m a broccoli.”  Molly could see that Mr. Broccoli didn’t look like a cabbage, but he smelled so good she felt like she should stay.  However, she knew she was supposed to find cabbages.  “Mr. Broccoli, do you know where I can find some cabbages?”  “No, I don’t think there are any cabbages around here,” said the broccoli, who hoped the moth wouldn’t ask any more questions.

Molly was starting to wonder if she had left her mother too soon when she came across a field of plants that looked like cabbages and smelled like cabbages.  She landed on one of them and said, “Hello, are you a cabbage?”  The plant tried to look as wilted as possible and replied, “Oh, no, I’m not a cabbage, I’m a lettuce.  There are no cabbages around here, this whole fields is full of lettuce.”

Molly was very discouraged.  How could everything smell right and look right, but not be right?  And then, just as she was going to fly off, she noticed a green worm munching on the lettuce next to her.  “Hi,“ said Molly, “you must be a lettuce worm.”  “Heck, no,” relied the worm, “I’m a cabbage worm, silly.  That’s why I’m nibbling on this delicious cabbage, here in the middle of this wonderful cabbage patch.”

“Wait a minute,” said Molly, “that plant told me he was a lettuce.”  “Oh, honey,” said the cabbage worm, “didn’t your mother tell you that you can’t trust a cabbage as far as you can throw him, or a cauliflower or broccoli either, for that matter?  Now, why don’t you join us here and start laying some eggs?!”

Moral of the story:

A cabbage cannot live by its wits alone … or … Without a foolproof disguise, a cabbage is a sitting duck.

`
Other fables on Robby’s Journey:
The fable of the porcupine and the cows
The fable of the Kleenex and the mouse
The fable of the fox and the ducks

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10 Responses to The fable of the cabbage moth and the desperate cabbages

  1. jane tims says:

    Hi. I say the Cabbage Worms and the Slugs should all go on vacation….. I like the frown on the Cabbage Butterfly’s face! Jane

    • Jane Fritz says:

      Slugs, you are so right! They seem to be generalists rather than specialists, starting with my iris before any vegetable has seen the light of day. I’ll have to think about including them in a future story. They don’t inspire any poetry, do they?!

  2. cute little picture of the cabbage moth…doesn’t turn him into a monster ha ha makes me want to set him free amongst my cabbages!

  3. When they got done with my kohlrabi this year I had a bed of purple spires left… the whole crop had been eaten to the spines of the plants over night. It was a strange sight indeed! I know how your cabbages must have felt! 🙂

    • Jane Fritz says:

      Kohlrabi, too! Those cabbage worms are busy, busy, busy. I have admit that I used to take some pleasure in watching them float up to the surface, dead and arched backwards, when I blanched batches of broccoli that the worms had nestled in!

  4. Linda says:

    This is just too cute…nice story!

    • Jane Fritz says:

      Thanks, Linda.. I wish I had a better answer for how to foil the cabbage worms! BTW, I enjoyed looking at your blog.

      • Linda says:

        The bane of all gardeners…! They devoured my kale last year and went after my nasturtium this year. Didn’t realize they had such the variety of host plants. Lol. Thanks for looking at our blog, btw. :] Glad you enjoyed it.

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