Caterpillars are more than an inconvenience for your plants, they can also eat through the leaves and the stems causing it to die. Many products on the market today use harsh chemicals to get rid of caterpillars which can be harmful to pets and small children and can damage the environment.
The best natural ways to get rid of caterpillars on plants include a soap spray to prevent them crawling on the plants, a chili spray to stop them chewing on the leaves, Bacillus thuringiensis which is a natural bacteria and Neem Oil.
There are lots of natural remedies that do a great job of getting rid of any caterpillars you might have on your plants. Below are 10 natural ways to get rid of caterpillars on plants that you can use at home.
1. Basic Soap and Water
The best type of soap to use on your plants if you’re trying to use natural products is an organic liquid soap. Simply put some of this soap in a container of warm water, mix it up, and place the mixture in a spray bottle. Spray the affected plants on both the leaves and the plant itself.
The good news is that with this type of soap, you won’t kill or even harm the caterpillars. What it does is cause the plant to be extra slippery; therefore, the caterpillars aren’t able to walk on it and eat anything.
2. Chili Spray
Ground, dried chili peppers can keep away the caterpillars, but you have to run a test on a small portion of the plant before using it on the entire plant.
In a saucepan, boil a half-gallon of water with roughly three and a half ounces of ground, dried chili peppers for five minutes. Remove from heat and add a half-gallon of cold water plus three drops of organic liquid soap. Stir well and allow the mixture to cool for several minutes.
Apply a small amount to a section of one of the leaves of the plant. After 24 hours, check the leaf and if there are no negative effects, you can put the mixture in a spray bottle and apply it to the entire plant. The caterpillars will be put off by the taste of the spray and will keep away from your plants.
Repeat after rain as it will wash off the chilli spray.
3. Bacillus Thuringiensis
Bacillus thuringiensis is a natural bacteria found in soil. It is also filled with a protein that is toxic to soft pests such as caterpillars. This substance paralyzes their digestive system and makes them stop eating the plant.
Bacillus thuringiensisis not toxic to humans, animals, and the “good” or helpful insects like ladybugs. Always wash your vegetables before eating them to remove any left over Bt.
4. Use Neem Oil
Neem oil can be found online and at home-improvement stores or garden centers. It is a natural pesticide that gets rid of caterpillars and similar insects such as the horned worm. You have to use this oil with care because if you use too much, it can be harmful to good insects as well as the ones you’re trying to get rid of.
Use only very small amounts of neem oil, adding no more than two ounces of the oil to a gallon of water. Mix it well afterwards and apply it to the affected plants late in the afternoon.
5. Use Fixtures That Attract Birds to Your Garden
If you place a birdhouse or bird feeder in your garden to attract birds, the birds will eat the caterpillars for you and you won’t have to do anything special. Birds love eating caterpillars and will eat as many of them as possible, allowing you to eliminate most or all of the caterpillars in your garden.
Chickens do the same thing and are the perfect options for big backyards. Check with your local municipality to see if you can keep chickens in your local area. You can remove caterpillars carefully with a small spade into a bucket and give them straight to your chickens.
6. Choose Plants That Naturally Repel Caterpillars
There are a large range of plants that are natural predators of caterpillars, and most of them are very easy to grow and are low cost. These include sage, lavender, peppermint, and mugwort. Just plant a bush or an herb garden and the caterpillars will naturally stay away simply because they hate these plants.
Of course, it offers advantages to you as well because the plants smell great and are will attract beneficial insects to your garden. You can use the herbs for cooking and add some delicious flavor to your dishes.
7. Use a Pepper and Garlic Spray
Combine pepper and garlic to make an easy home made spray to get rid of caterpillars. Just mix one tablespoon of dried red pepper flakes, one whole garlic clove (minced), one teaspoon of soap, and one gallon of water.
After it’s thoroughly combined, let it sit for 24 hours so that the mixture’s ingredients can bind with each other. Afterwards, all you have to do is spray the mixture onto your plants and this should eliminate your caterpillars. Even better, it works on other pests as well, including aphids.
8. Use Fine Mesh Netting to Cover the Plants
Covering your plants with a mesh covering prevents the caterpillars from getting onto the plants in the first place. It can also prevent butterflies from laying their eggs on the plants.
Because of this, caterpillars aren’t able to come into direct content with the plants; therefore, they just stay away. They also won’t be able to eat the plants or lay any eggs on them. If your crops need to be pollinated, make sure that you remove this mesh netting during the flowering step of the process.
9. Use a Spray Made with Vinegar
Simply mix a gallon of water and two tablespoons of vinegar, and spray it on the affected plants. You can use any type of vinegar you like, and it also deters many other types of pests.
In fact, if you have snails or slugs that you wish to get rid of, spray undiluted vinegar onto them to get rid of them. Vinegar can be used all over your household for numerous problem areas, and it is one of the easiest and fastest ways to get rid of caterpillars on your plants.
10. Use Burlap to Trap Your Caterpillars
A great way to trap the caterpillars so that you can move them or kill them by hand is to use burlap. To do this, simply wrap the trunks of the plants with burlap or hessian.
For outdoor plants, this encourages the caterpillars to crawl under the burlap in order to escape the heat and be more comfortable. They’ll have a place to hide, and once they’re hiding, you can swoop in and get rid of the caterpillars by hand.
Bonus Tip: Avoid lights in your garden
Avoid including lights in your garden is another useful tip because pests such as caterpillars are naturally attracted to light sources. If you do your due diligence, you can easily find other natural, organic ways to get rid of caterpillars, and most of them are very inexpensive.
10 Natural Ways to Get Rid of Caterpillars on Plants
If you have caterpillars and you’re not a fan of harsh chemical-filled treatments, there are lots of all-natural ways to get rid of these pests. The best thing to do is check your plants regularly so that you catch the caterpillars before the problem becomes too difficult to deal with. Try a home made spray, netting or burlap to catch the critters before they eat your plants.
I am an accredited practicing dietitian, experienced gardener and a dedicated cook. I love writing and sharing my experience so you can learn from my successes and mistakes.