What you see: A white capsule on the underside of your kale leaf
What it is: The cocoon of a pupating insect
Eat or toss: Flick off the cocoon, give the kale a good rinse and proceed with dinner
So why is there a cocoon on your kale?
Certain types of insects go through several distinct stages: they hatch from their eggs as larvae and run around eating everything they can (looking at you, turnip-snarfing maggot). Then, they curl up into chrysalises, cocoons or other protective coverings and use all the energy gained as larvae to metamorphose into their final form: little, six-legged creatures, many of which we generally love to hate.
When it comes time to make a cocoon like the one pictured above, larva try to find a protected area for their inactive pupa stage. Some burrow into dirt. Others hide among leaf litter on the ground. This individual chose to attach itself to a kale leaf’s underside.
While it’s cocooned, the insect isn’t eating or damaging the leaf. So, you can just flick off the cocoon and rinse the kale leaf before proceeding with your meal preparations, said Ric Bessin, an extension entomologist at the University of Kentucky.
Bessin and Jeffrey Hahn, a University of Minnesota entomologist, both suspected that this could be a wasp cocoon. While that may sound alarming, Bessin pointed out that this could be the type of wasp that is masterful at eating the insects that can really damage crops.
- Ric Bessin. Extension entomologist. University of Kentucky.
- Jeffrey Hahn. Extension entomologist. College of Food, Agricultural and Natural Resource Sciences. University of Minnesota.
- Insect Biology and Ecology: A Primer. Insect Growth and Development (Metamorphosis). BIOLOGICAL CONTROL: A Guide to Natural Enemies in North America. Anthony Shelton, Ph.D. Professor of Entomology. College of Agriculture and Life Sciences. Cornell University.