Some people think caterpillars cannot cause critical plant damage. These critters will evolve into gorgeous butterflies and moths. Then, they can swiftly ruin your crops. So, let’s dive into natural ways to get rid of caterpillars on plants.
Caterpillars are super hungry leaf-eating worms. Furthermore, they will feast on the heads or bases of the garden plants such as cabbage, lettuce, basil, and broccoli without notice.
These wiggly villains also eat tomatoes. Meanwhile, moth caterpillars are more detrimental to autumn crops than butterfly ones.
Moreover, caterpillars are not an unavoidable nuisance. You can try various things to hold these small yet ravenous plant pests at bay.
Table of Contents
- How to Identify Caterpillars
- Identifying Caterpillar Damage
- How to Get Rid of Caterpillars Naturally
- How to Prevent Caterpillars
- Final Thoughts
How to Identify Caterpillars
First of all, you need to learn about the identification of caterpillars. They represent the larval stage of butterflies and moths.
Moreover, caterpillars are the 2nd part of the 4-stage life cycle of these critters.
Additionally, there are thousands of different types worldwide. While some caterpillars inhabit all the continents, others hail from specific geographic areas.
The kinds of caterpillars that invade the gardens will vary depending on the location. Be sure to buy a guide featuring color photographs.
Hence, it helps you recognize the caterpillars easily. So, here are some common caterpillar species:
This type of caterpillar dwells in hedgerows, fens, and grassland. Additionally, oak eggar loves to crawl across paths in season.
Oak eggar moth caterpillars are tiny and bluish. Furthermore, they feature orange diamond patterns.
Besides, you can identify them quickly once they become furry and large while boasting orange-brown hairs in spring.
These creatures have black bands between their body segment. Additionally, you can spot white dashes on both sides.
Yellow-tail caterpillars are fond of scrubby habitats like hedgerows. These black caterpillars possess grayish-white hairs that can irritate.
Also, this caterpillar species boasts two red lines with white blotches on either side of the lines. Moreover, they run along both sides.
Drinker moth loves to dwell in various habitats like boggy areas and marshes. It can attain a length of 7 cm or about 2.7 inches.
In addition to golden speckles, the drinker moth has brown hairs. Meanwhile, this dark caterpillar boasts white hairs that run down both sides of its body.
This type of caterpillar is ubiquitous in Wales and southern England. You can find it in numerous habitats, including gardens.
Privet hawk-moth can be 8.5cm long.
Moreover, this green, chunky creature boasts white and purple stripes on its body. It has a yellow-and-black horn as well.
Cinnabar caterpillar likes to launch attacks on ragwort. Besides, this species dwells in grassy habitats.
These moth caterpillars have yellow and black stripes. Additionally, they fool predators into thinking they taste terrible.
Fox moth caterpillars become easy to spot in spring. They are typically either in coastal grassland or heathland.
These caterpillars measure nearly 7 cm long.
Apart from having long dark hairs on the body’s sides, they boast orange hairs that are shorter on top.
As for immature fox caterpillars, they are dark. Furthermore, they showcase orange-colored bands.
Usually, garden tiger caterpillars live in different kinds of habitats, including gardens. They attain a length of 6 cm.
People nickname this utterly hairy caterpillar the woolly bear. Also, the hairs are predominantly ginger and black.
In addition, they have longer white hairs.
These black caterpillars make open woodlands and wetlands their habitats. They have brown hair as well.
Knotgrass caterpillars feature red lines and spots on top with white-colored dashes on either side. There are also dashes and spots on both sides.
These caterpillars have black bodies with yellow stripes. As the name implies, they love to appear en masse.
Also, they will gorge on anything, from corn to beans.
Identifying Caterpillar Damage
Caterpillars can be a disheartening sight in any garden. These creepy crawlers get very active in autumn and late summer when garden plants begin to flourish.
While some species are showy and not hard to spot, others can camouflage cleverly and become practically invisible.
Therefore, caterpillars can brutally damage garden plants in a super short time. Here are a few telltale signs of caterpillar damage:
- Unpleasant Holes
Caterpillars love to attack burgeoning plants. Affected plants typically seem ragged and have some unsightly holes.
Pesky caterpillars munch on foliage from the outer edges.
Additionally, they chew the foliage down to their stems. When caterpillars infest young plants, these critters can kill them.
To make things worse, caterpillars dine on shoots, flowers, and fruits of host plants.
- Moth or Butterfly Eggs
To tell if there is caterpillar activity, you must inspect the foliage’s undersides. If you find caterpillars, moth eggs, and butterfly eggs, remove them.
Without a doubt, such eggs can render the plants hideous.
- Rolled or Webbed Leaves
Also, look for webbed or rolled leaves. Since these leaves make a perfect caterpillar hideout, you need to discard them from your plants.
Another sign of caterpillar damage is frass or caterpillar poop. Frass resembles tiny black pepper grains.
Furthermore, caterpillars will leave the excrement behind where they are feeding actively.
This kind of plant damage is not hard to recognize. However, spotting wood-boring caterpillars can be frustrating.
RELATED: How to Control Inchworms
How to Get Rid of Caterpillars Naturally
After learning how to find caterpillars on plants, you must act quickly. We will give you some terrific and eco-friendly tips to exterminate those little beasts.
They will help you realize your caterpillar-proof garden too.
Eliminate Caterpillars Outside
Caterpillars can be a threat to garden crops. If you are facing an outdoor caterpillar infestation, do these things below:
- Create a Bird-Friendly Habitat
There are tons of natural ways to get rid of caterpillars on plants. To eliminate caterpillars, you must give birds a conducive environment.
Try installing a birdhouse.
Furthermore, set up the feeders near affected plants in the garden. The birds will approach and gorge on the caterpillars.
While some backyard birds lunch on caterpillars, others give them to their chicks. Attract chickadees, Carolina wrens, sparrows, and American robins.
- Use Soapy Water
This remedy is budget-friendly. The soapy solution will drive caterpillars away from your plants in the outdoor garden.
Mix some warm water with organic liquid soap. Next, bottle the solution. Finally, spray the affected plants.
Otherwise, does soapy water kill caterpillars? The answer is no. This solution will not harm caterpillars and plants.
However, this solution discourages them from walking on and consuming the plants since it makes the surface slippery.
- Treat Affected Plants with Bacillus thuringiensis
Bacillus thuringiensis (B.t) contains a protein that is lethal to mosquito larvae and hairy caterpillars.
It kills caterpillars through starvation and infection.
This biological control is excellent at controlling tiny caterpillars that have just hatched. Manufacturers sell B.t under certain brand names like Dipel and Thuricide.
Spray the bacteria in a solution or dust it over the affected leaves. Use B.t every 3-5 days to keep caterpillars in check.
- Neem Oil
Does neem oil kill caterpillars? The straight answer is yes. It helps you eradicate caterpillars, aphids, and beetles.
Combine a gallon of water with 2 oz of neem oil. After shaking the solution well, apply it to the infested plants.
Then, just wait for it to exterminate caterpillars within hours.
Exterminate Caterpillars on Plants
Undoubtedly, caterpillars can ravage your plants. They are particularly bothersome in vegetable gardens because they fancy leafy greens.
To win the war against pesky caterpillars, apply the following treatment methods.
If you are into tomatoes, learning how to get rid of caterpillars on tomato plants is crucial. Hornworms specialize in attacking tomatoes.
These green caterpillars devastate the leaves in less than a day.
You can spot tomato hornworms easily because of their pretty large size. Also, they boast a sizeable horn on their tail ends.
When you see tomato hornworms, manually remove them. Next, throw the caterpillars into a bucket.
Make sure it contains a substantial amount of soapy water.
Cabbage moth caterpillars can harm Brassica plants such as Brussels sprouts, cauliflower, and broccoli.
Protect brassicas from these ravenous caterpillars using row covers.
Likewise, make the covers yourself or purchase them at nearby garden centers. Install a series of plant support hoops over broccoli.
Next, cover them with a thin mesh covering or insect barrier fabrics.
The row covers for broccoli will let in sunlight and airflow. However, they keep off the caterpillars and ensure the moths do not lay their eggs on broccoli.
Hornworm caterpillars tend to feed on nightshade plants. Not only do they invade tomatoes, but also they attack potatoes and peppers.
Put an end to a caterpillar infestation by complementing the pepper. Companion planting helps discourage caterpillars.
For instance, plants that repel caterpillars include sage, mugwort, lavender, and peppermint. These strong-smelling herbs will keep caterpillars at bay
Gardens with brassicas typically suffer from cabbage caterpillar infestations. Moreover, to ward them off, you must try companion planting.
Grow plant species that drive cabbage caterpillars away. Likewise, do plant hyssop, oregano, and thyme near the cabbage.
Banish Caterpillars on Trees
Caterpillars invade shrubs and trees in autumn. However, they will not damage established plants. Their feeding only lasts two weeks too.
These critters, in good numbers, can ravage the leaves of trees, though.
- Cut the Limb Off
Organic pesticides help eliminate caterpillars, but they are not always necessary. If you find caterpillars on a limb feasting, just cut it off. Dispose of the limb.
- Introduce Natural Predators
You can ask natural enemies of caterpillars for assistance. For example, spiders and parasitic wasps will stave off soft caterpillars.
- Use Burlap
Burlap barrier band traps come in handy to overcome caterpillar infestations. To make this trap, wrap the burlap around the infested tree.
Then, securely fasten the burlap to the tree by tying the twine around the middle. Next, drop the burlap’s top half.
The caterpillars will gather under the burlap covering to escape the heat. If you see the pesky caterpillars, handpick or squish them.
Eliminate Caterpillars on House
Some caterpillar species munch on cloth fibers and grains in addition to houseplants. Banishing caterpillars in the house is possible.
Furthermore, just use the following things.
- Vinegar Solution
A light raw vinegar solution can deter caterpillars, slugs, and snails. To make this homemade caterpillar spray, dilute two tbs of vinegar in 4 liters of water.
- Garlic and Pepper Mixture
This home remedy enables you to kill cabbage moths and caterpillars. Mix one tsp of dish soap with 1 gallon of water, one bulb of chopped garlic, and one tbs of dried pepper flakes.
After that, let it sit for about 21 hours.
Once the mixture is ready, use this spray to protect the houseplants from caterpillars. Furthermore, it can ward off aphids.
How to Prevent Caterpillars
There is a selection of prevention methods to deter caterpillars. Rather than using dangerous chemicals, do these things:
- Be Watchful
Excellent caterpillar control requires you to be observant. Therefore, examine the plants regularly.
If you find little green caterpillars eating plants, snip the affected leaves. Next, throw them away.
- Crop Rotation
Try switching out the planting locations and garden crops. Hence, this method helps prevent dreaded caterpillar infestations.
- Separate Flowers from Food Crops
Nectar-rich flowers attract butterflies. Grow flowers and food crops separately to ensure the caterpillars won’t infest the vegetables.
- Avoid Lighting the Garden at Night
You should not light your garden during the nighttime. Moths find lights attractive. If you insist on lighting your garden, be ready to welcome these pests.
Caterpillars are fluffy yet frightening critters. Since they can threaten the garden, you need to solve a caterpillar problem immediately.
Some species of caterpillar are poisonous. Thereupon, be sure to inspect ornamentals and edible crops regularly.
If there is an issue, apply the natural methods above. They allow you to regain control of your garden once more.