A combination of being away in England, followed by days of pouring rain has meant that we haven't been as vigilant against pests. At dusk last night I noticed that lots of holes had appeared in the brassica beds, so I went out to investigate first thing this morning.
As suspected, I found loads of caterpillars - both Large Whites (Pieris brassicae) and Small Whites (Artogeia rapae), as well as clusters of little eggs on the cabbages. Usually the children love the task of hunting them down and picking them off but the rain has kept them indoors a lot more than usual this year.
Armed with my old 2ltr milk bottle containing a solution of hot, salty water in the bottom, I started picking the caterpillars off the leaves and dropping them into the container, as well as squishing the eggs between my fingers as I went along. (This method also works well against slugs.) This proved especially tricky on the Savoy Cabbages as the ridges on the leaves give fantastic camouflage! I used to feel quite squeamish about this job until I found out just how much damage they can do. It's also a lot easier to stomach if you wear gloves.
Next year we'll try using netting over the beds (with holes a max of 1cm) which should prevent the butterflies laying their eggs in the first place! We'll also be encouraging more birds into the garden over the following months by ensuring the feeders are kept topped up and nesting boxes hung up.