Caterpillars can attack mint overnight and you can wake up to an almost completely stripped plant. Green caterpillars can move in overnight and head off to hide before you see them. Caterpillars can be removed with gloved hands or a spade and moved off your mint to save them.
Caterpillars can eat lots of mint leaves before you even notice them. In one night a green caterpillar managed to eat almost all of my new mint plants.
This article will explore what to do if your mint is getting eaten by caterpillars and how to prevent this problem.
How to work out if caterpillars are eating your mint
Caterpillars can be sneaky and can move in overnight. By the time you wake up in the morning a single caterpillar can eat most of the leaves off the stem. If you catch it too late most of the leaves can be gone.
You can save your mint plant if you catch it early so here are my tips to saving your mint from caterpillars.
Search early in the morning or use a flashlight at night
Caterpillars can move in during the night but might still be on your mint plants in the morning. I caught this green caterpillar eating my new mint plant at about 7am before the sun had come up completely. This caterpillar had spent most of the night eating my mint leaves.
I was able to remove this caterpillar before it ate all the leaves on my mint.
Remove green caterpillars using garden gloves or trowel
Removing caterpillars manually is the best way to get rid of them before they eat all of your mint. This is the best and safest way to remove them without using pesticides.
Take care with any caterpillars as some can squirt poison and can irritate skin and eyes. Wear eye protection and garden gloves if you are planning on removing them by hand or use a small trowel to scrape them off.
Get rid of the caterpillars by moving them out of your garden, squish them or give them to your chickens.
Check the plants everyday and repeat
There may be more than one caterpillar eating your mint or new caterpillars can move in over a few days. This will happen more commonly in spring as new caterpillars hatch out.
Check your plants early in the morning to see if any new caterpillars have moved in or if there are any that you have missed. Keep removing them until no more appear.
After you remove caterpillars for about 1-2 weeks they should be gone but keep a look out for new visitors.
Move the mint to higher ground if they are in pots
Moving potted mint plants to the top of your raised beds or on a garden bench can place them out of reach of green, hungry caterpillars. Lifting the pot off the ground can keep the new mint leaves out of the way until they are established.
Caterpillars can attack new mint plants
These are new cuttings that I had planted a week ago and are not quite established. The caterpillars attacked these cuttings while leaving a while lot of mint next to it completely alone.
Mint will bounce back on its own. Take some new cuttings and grow them in some water and you can grow new plants in no time. Mint will sprout new leaves from the stems or you can cut the tips to encourage them to branch out and become bushier.
What else eats mint plants?
Slugs and snails can also be eating mint plants, particularly in spring. You can usually tell that it is a slug or snail because you will see a shiny trail left on the leaves and stem of your plant. Snails and slugs can be hard to catch but a shallow tray of beer can attract and trap them away from your mint.
Snails and slugs can move in during the night so look out for them early in the morning or head out later at night with a flashlight to see if you can see what is eating your mint.
How to help mint recover from caterpillar attack
There are a few easy steps to help your mint to recover quickly after caterpillar attack. Here are my easy tips for a healthy mint plant.
1. Trim long stems
Trimming off long stems of mint plant can encourage them to send out new leaves and branches to replace any eaten by caterpillars. Mint is a rapidly growing plant that adds lots of leaf growth in spring and summer.
Mint can quickly recover from caterpillar attack once they are removed.
2. Water the mint
Watering the mint after removing caterpillars will help it to grow and recover. Mint loves regular water so will be ready to send out new leaves if it is watered well.
3. Add dilute liquid fertilizer or pelleted chicken manure
Add a slow release nitrogen fertilizer or a liquid fertilizer to give a quick nitrogen boost. This will give the plant an extra feed of nutrients to help it to grow new leaves to replace the old ones. Mint benefits from a natural fertilizer like pelleted chicken manure or an organic liquid fertilizer.
These generally deliver a balanced dose of nutrients to feed your mint compared to a synthetic version.
Mint is a very easy to grow herb that is forgiving and recover from caterpillar attack. Caterpillars usually attack new plants or plants that are suffering from a lack of nutrients. Feed your plants well and place new plants out of harms way and lift them off the ground.
Caterpillars eating mint | Summary
Caterpillars can attack mint early in the morning or during the night quickly devouring mint leaves in one night. I woke up to a big green caterpillar eating my new mint cuttings and with quick action could save the plant.
Don’t wait and get rid of the caterpillars as soon as you see them. Another hour or two could have meant that almost all my leaves would be gone. These mint plants will be fine after I water them for the next few days. It is now spring so mint is thriving in my new front garden patch.
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.