Bok Choy · Vegetables

Beginner meets pest: something is eating my bok choy

I now realize that I was living in an ideal bubble for the first two weeks of my farming journey, where bugs and insects eating my crops was a non-existent idea.

Then, kaboom! Reality had to come knock on the door. And hence began the suspense thriller of beginner farmer/detective solving the mystery case of: who is eating my bok choy.

Mar 25-16

Suspects: Slugs OR larvae of white butterflies

I didn’t recall seeing any butterflies flying around so I was leaning towards slugs. Hence SOS Plan 1:

  1. Switch watering schedule to morning
    Supposedly will help detract slugs due to lack of soil wetness by the end of the day
  2. Clean up damp areas
    I did find a couple identifiable bugs while cleaning up.
  3. Water affected plants with insecticidal soup
    I used an all-natural organic agriculture product derived from soapnut
  4. A website said you HAVE TO ACT. So I moved the containers together and created a “salt barrier”.
    Hahahaha. I now feel slightly embarrassed about it.
  5. Inspect randomly after sunset with torchlight.

Mar 24-02

The next two mornings, I didn’t notice any additional crops being eaten. I thought maybe crisis averted? But I was feeling uneasy and wasn’t convinced… if the culprit was in fact slugs, wouldn’t there be slug bodies lying around?


On day 3, I woke up to obvious signs of more vegetables being eaten, with a number of plants without most of their leaves.

Code red. Code red.


I started flipping through the leaves and found additional clues. Black dots underneath the affected leaves.

Small white worms

Many different thoughts were racing through my mind:

  • Is it a virus attack?
  • Why would some plants be totally unaffected while others are totally gone?
  • I had already pulled out the ones that were munched up, should I pull out the ones that were partially eaten?

Even after searching the internet, I was having a hard time making up my mind. So I decided to return to the crime scene and look at the partially eaten plants.

And then, the truth was revealed.

Mar 27-29

These sneaky worms are pale green and camouflage really well against the leaves.

Small white worms3.png

I came across a green larvae on soil, which was much easier to identify due to the difference in color.

Mar 27-30

And now, after seeing it, there’s no unseeing it. I freaked out a little when I realized I have already met them earlier in the morning, while pulling out the munched up tiny ones.

Small white worms2.png

I proceeded to check under the leaves of all plants, handpicked (with scissors) over 15 of these worms, throwing them away, and followed by watering all plants with insecticidal soap again. I was shivering throughout the process.

Now I know they are:

  1. The green larvae of small cabbage white butterflies (Pieris rape)
  2. They LOVE Brassicaceae plant, and yup, bok choy is a brassica rapa.
  3. The black dots are most probably their droppings from having a bok choy feast.

So what’s the plan moving forward? Some people use butterfly/mosquito nets to wrap up their plants, and hence avoiding the butterflies from laying their eggs on the plant.

Even though it totally seems practical, I’m not ready to put out nets right now for two reasons:

  1. I know it sounds vain, but I want my garden/farm to look free and pretty
  2. I don’t want to jump into investing on nets and sticks to prop them up

So, here’s what I’m going to do:

  1. Check every morning (especially the undersides of the leaves) for eggs and larvae
  2. Spray plants with insecticidal soap + diatomaceous earth mix weekly
  3. Cross my fingers and hope these bok choys will survive until harvest.

Mar 26-02

3/29 update

Since picking off the larvae, the bok choy have been growing very well, with some plants starting to show more than two true leaves. I’m still checking the underside of leaves every morning, and since Monday, I have only found one green larvae (which thankfully I caught without it causing too much damage).

Mar 29-30

Some of the plants that were partially munched on are also showing signs of regrowth.

Mar 29-31

Today, I suddenly recalled an article I read online where farmers sometimes tie white-colored strings near Brassicaceae plants to ward off the small cabbage butterflies. The theory was that the butterflies would mistakenly think the plants were already occupied by other fellow butterflies and move on.

Just for fun, I decided to add an experimental aspect, by lightly sprinkling vermiculite to all but one container. I will still be continuing the previous two planned steps with all containers:

  1. Check every morning (especially the undersides of the leaves) for eggs and larvae
  2. Spray plants with insecticidal soap + diatomaceous earth mix weekly

Will see what happens!


The journey of Ms. Bok Choy

The Vege Girl Project: Day 23


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