Bug of the Week: Cabbage Looper

It’s cabbage looper season here again. In some places cabbage loopers might be considered to be pests, but in our yard they are considered to be pets. They are hardy, will eat a wide range of foods, and they show up every year.

cabbage looper

The looper gets its name from the fact it “loops up” in the middle while walking. The caterpillar has two sets of appendages. Its six true legs are right behind the head. Towards the rear is another set of fleshy, wider appendages called “prolegs.” Scientists don’t count the prolegs, so the caterpillar still has the six legs characteristic of insects.

cabbage looper

The caterpillar holds on with the true legs and brings its back end forward. The prolegs meet the true legs, and the back forms a loop. Then it releases the true legs. The head and front spring forward. The looper holds on with its true legs and the process repeats.

This one was nibbling my mint, but I’m not too concerned. The mint is prolific and the caterpillar has a lot of enemies. It is eaten by birds, wasps and parasitic flies. So, loop on little buddy.

Edit: The cabbage looper moth is featured in a later post.


  1. jane powell

    I have a cabbage looper at the moment. it has begun pupating but as it is not outside I have put a bit of soil over him. I read that they pupate either in a cocoon or in the soil. can’t wait for the moth to appear,:)

  2. Roberta

    Hi, Raising cabbage loopers is a fun project. Ours formed their cocoons in leaves. The moths have amazing scales if you look at them close up. Good luck!

  3. bob the dinosaur

    hi, i have a cabbage looper , but…my little caterpillar has gotten sick because he/she is not eating i think its because it don’t like the leaves i’m feeding it does anyone here know what to feed it?


    WHAT DO I FEED IT?!?!?!?!??!?!?!??!

  5. Roberta

    Lettuce is always safe, preferably organic.

  6. Roberta

    Sorry, I’ve been away from my desk. Lettuce is a good choice when you don’t know what to feed a caterpillar. Organic (without pesticides) is the safest.

  7. Steven Horner

    Hello fellow bug/insect enthusiasts !
    My 11yr old son and myself love to catalog, and even host many different types of bugs/insects. Our current guest is what we believe to be a cabbage looper. We were hoping to nurture our little friend until he/she pupates and then release the moth back into the wild so that it may complete its life cycle. If anybody has any advice or tips we would welcome them as this is the 1st caterpillar/worm we’ve taken care off. We are feeding it cabbage(I know it’s a bit on the nose but…..)and leave small droplets of water. We also have a few sturdy sticks in case he/she wants to hang. Thanks for any helpful hints you can give !

  8. Roberta

    Sounds like you are doing everything right so far. Only one suggestion. Cabbage loopers are moths rather than butterflies (that is the cabbage worm – you can see on in this post: https://blog.growingwithscience.com/2019/11/caterpillars-in-october/ ). They don’t pupate on sticks as much as crawl into an old leaf to make a cocoon before pupating. If you have some room in the container, putting a small amount of loosely wadded up paper towel will mimic an old dried leaf. Don’t worry too much though. It will find the right place when the time comes.

  9. Grace

    It is November 22 now in MN. I found a cabbage loop caterpillars in my lavender clippings that I brought inside. It is now getting ready to pupate. In 4 to 13 days when it turned into a moth, wi it survived MN winter when I realize it? If now what can I do to keep it alive?

  10. Roberta

    Adult cabbage loopers migrate south. It’s possible if the weather is mild at least part of the day, it will be able to do so.

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