As any gardener knows, caterpillars can equal disaster for an otherwise healthy plant.
Caterpillars have a voracious appetite, munching on leaves, vegetables, and flowers. Until there’s nothing left.
If you find caterpillars in your garden, take steps to remove them as soon as possible before they do irreparable damage.
Fortunately, this doesn’t necessarily mean turning to toxins and pesticides. There are plenty of solutions to help you get rid of caterpillars on plants naturally.
Check Out: How To Get Rid of Caterpillars In My Garden
What Are Caterpillars?
Caterpillars are the larval form of moths and butterflies. During this early stage of their life, caterpillars are typically long, thin, and fleshy. They move using a set of six legs along with stumper “prolegs.”
This gives them a somewhat worm-like appearance when they move.
Once a caterpillar is mature enough, it spins a silky case around itself called a cocoon. It’s in here that the caterpillar makes its transition to moth or butterfly.
Building a cocoon is no easy task, and caterpillars need plenty of energy for the task. As such, they have a notorious appetite for garden plants.
In fact, a caterpillar will end up eating around 27,000 times its body weight in a lifetime.
If you see signs of munching around the edges of a leaf or irregular holes bitten through the leaf itself, it may be a sign you have caterpillars feasting on your flowerbed.
There are thousands of different species that inhabit gardens, depending on where you live and the time of year. The tomato hornworm is one of the most well known.
It’s a good idea to know what species are common in your area, what they look like, and which plants they prefer to eat. This will make it easier to monitor your garden for the presence of caterpillars, as they’re not always easy to see.
What Damage Can Caterpillars Cause?
Caterpillars can damage all parts of a plant. This includes flowers, leaves, fruits, and even shoots. Many caterpillars are specific to certain plants. You may only see damage in particular areas of your garden.
Most caterpillars tend to chew on foliage, though they can cause harm to plants in other ways. Cutworm caterpillars chop away at healthy parts of the plant. Leafrollers fold and damage delicate foliage to make nests.
As they destroy leaves, caterpillars diminish a plant’s capacity to absorb and use sunlight. This can lead to long-term damage, in flowering or fruiting species, and may even kill the plant. Bites also open the plant up to illness and infection.
Some caterpillars, such as borers, are attracted to plants already shownig signs of damage. They lay their eggs in leaves, bark, or other parts of a compromised plant. Once the new larvae hatch, they can damage plants all the way down into their vascular system.
How To Control Caterpillars on Plants Naturally?
Many people prefer natural solutions instead of chemicals for garden pests control. It’s safer for your family and more environmentally friendly than traditional pesticides.
If you are growing vegetable crops, it’s vital that you use a safe and natural method to control bugs, kill caterpillars, and other pests.
Some gardeners remove caterpillars by hand when they see them. Doing this can be an effective control method for small or emerging infestations. But you have to be diligent. It’s also a good idea to check plants for signs of new or recently hatched caterpillar eggs.
To make sure the caterpillars you remove don’t come back. Drop them in a bucket of soapy water to kill them. You can also collect them and move them to a more caterpillar-friendly environment.
For larger infestations, you may need to use a safe and natural insecticide like Neem oil to tackle the problem. You can find or make effective solutions that do not contain any chemicals. Solutions that are not harsh or toxic to your family.
Neem oil is a popular natural insecticide strong enough for caterpillar control. But Neem oil will not harm children or pets. You can also find microbial insecticides that are safe for bees and other beneficial wildlife.
Bacillus thuringiensis, or BT, is a popular microbial insecticide used to target caterpillars. Others use beneficial insects.
More on beneficial garden insects.
Do not forget one of the home remedies “Bug Juice” using bugs to repel bugs.
Preventing an infestation is the best natural way of controlling caterpillars. People lay like cardboard, tin foil, or another barrier fabrics around the plant base to block caterpillars from encroaching.
By taking steps to protect your plant from caterpillars, you also protect it from damage, disease, and even death.