Caterpillars can be a serious problem if you don’t address its presence right away. It can eat through your garden, leaving you with damaged leaves and dead plants. These leaf-eating worms are always hungry and will ravage your foliage in just a matter of weeks. You should know how to get rid of caterpillars naturally before this happens.
Many newbie gardeners disregard the damage caterpillars can do in a plant. As much as some of them will turn into beautiful butterflies, their foraging habits will leave ugly results.
Below, we discuss some natural methods that you can consider for your garden:
1. Organic Bt
If you want a guaranteed way to get rid of caterpillars in your plants, organic Bt is your best bet. Bt or Bacillus thuringiensis is a type of natural bacteria found in the soil. The protein content of the bacteria is toxic to soft-bodied pests, including caterpillars.
Upon ingestion, Bt will paralyze the caterpillar’s digestive system, which will stop the worm from eating. Soon enough, the caterpillar will die.
Aside from that, Bt is safe for organic gardening and even for harvest day.
However, avoid Bt products with modified ingredients.
2. Vinegar solution
Another tried and tested solution in eliminating plant pests is the vinegar solution. You can dilute one cup of vinegar in three cups of water. Spray this directly to the caterpillars, and it will kill them after several applications.
You can also mix the solution with one teaspoon of dish soap. However, if the dish soap will harm your plant, you can skip this component. Regular application of the vinegar solution will help get rid of the caterpillars in just a few weeks.
3. Natural predators
If you don’t want to use any pesticide or concoction, you can encourage the proliferation of direct predators of caterpillars. Some of the most effective in getting rid of the worm are ladybird bees. Although this insect is known to feed on aphids, it also has an appetite for caterpillars.
Another insect that eats caterpillars are Yellow Jackets. Aside from caterpillars, they also feed on aphids and other garden pests.
However, you should mind what insects you let in your garden. Make sure that it will not become another pest in the long run.
4. Chili spray solution
If the vinegar solution didn’t work, you could use a more abrasive approach in the form of a chili spray. You just have to combine 3 ounces of ground chilies into half a gallon of boiling water. Let this simmer for five minutes before removing from the stove.
After that, add another half a gallon of cold water as well as 2 drops of dish soap. Mix the mixture properly and let it cool down for several hours.
Before spraying this all over your garden, we recommend trying it on a small portion of your plant.
5. Pepper and garlic solution
Another homemade solution that you can use against caterpillars is a combination of pepper and garlic. This is very potent and will surely kill caterpillars and other garden pests.
To prepare this, you need one tablespoon of red pepper flakes as well as one minced onion. You have to mix this with one teaspoon of dish soap into a gallon of water.
Shake this well and allow the ingredients to blend with the water for at least 24 hours. After that, you can start spraying the mixture into the caterpillars. Again, like the chili spray above, always try this mixture on a small portion of a plant before using on the entire garden.
6. Welcome some birds
A natural way to get rid of caterpillars in your garden is to allow some birds to visit your garden. Birds are massive eaters of caterpillars and other crawling pests.
However, this solution isn’t the best if the caterpillars are present in fruit-bearing trees. The birds may only cause more damage than help. Instead of eating the caterpillars, the birds will only eat the fruit, which is very counterproductive.
7. Use diluted neem oil
One of the widely used solutions in the agriculture sector is neem oil. This natural oil can be diluted in water before spraying around the garden. It’s effective in getting rid of caterpillars and other pest worms.
When diluting pure neem oil, mix two ounces in one gallon of water. Always wear protective gear when handling neem oil, diluted or not, to prevent skin irritations.
Always purchase pure and commercial-grade neem oil. Some neem oil products can be used to cure skin problems in pets or in making beauty products.
8. Remove them by hand
If the infestation isn’t advanced yet, you can take the caterpillars out of the plants by hand. You can pick it out and squish it on the ground.
If crushing the caterpillars sounds gross, you can place it inside a sealed plastic bag and spray it with vinegar before placing the sealed bag to the trash.
Frequently Asked Questions
Q: What causes caterpillars to invade my garden?
A: Caterpillars flock to your garden because there’s a food source in it – your plants. The most notorious are clothes moth and Indian meal moth caterpillars. They can infest both indoor and outdoor caterpillars.
Q: What pesticides kill caterpillars in my plants?
A: The only effective and safe pesticide to use against caterpillars is Bt or Bacillus thuringiensis. This is safe for beneficial insects but will kill caterpillars right away.
Q: What damages can caterpillars do in my plants?
A: Caterpillars will chew and eat leaves, stalks, flowers, and even fruits of your plants. If you notice that your plants have rolled, webbed, and chewed leaves, there’s a high chance that caterpillars are foraging in your garden.
Q: Do all caterpillars in my garden turn into butterflies?
A: No, chances are most of them will become moths. So if you’re thinking of letting caterpillars eat through your plants, you may want to think twice. Some of these moths will become pests too.
Q: Will caterpillars harm my tomato plants?
A: Yes! The likes of tobacco hornworms and tomato hornworms are the most common and most destructive for tomato plants. It will only take days to weeks for you to see extensive damage to your fruit-bearing plant. Worse, the caterpillars may spread on other plants.
Knowing how to get rid of caterpillars naturally will let you handle the infestation without using synthetic pesticides. It’s also a money-saver since you no longer have to spend your money on expensive sprays and products.
Have you encountered a caterpillar infestation before? How did you deal with it? Share some tips below!