It's a nightmare to find your hard-won plants have been demolished by caterpillars. If you're dealing with this scenario, don't panic just yet: you can take steps to reverse the damage and build a healthier, more beautiful garden. Likewise, you can take preventative measures if you're worried about a future caterpillar infestation.
Even the most stubborn insects are no match for these tried-and-true tips. Here are some simple but effective strategies for getting rid of these unwanted pests and keeping them from invading your garden in the future.
You can use everyday household items to create a natural repellant for pesky caterpillars. To concoct a powerful garlic solution, follow a few simple steps.
First, combine three crushed garlic cloves, one tablespoon of vegetable oil, one teaspoon of dish soap, and a liter of water.
Next, transfer the solution to a spray bottle to allow for easy application.
Once you have your bottle ready, directly spray the solution onto your plants. Be sure to repeat the process regularly to keep any unwanted critters at bay in the long run.
A simpler way to eliminate caterpillars is to remove them by hand. While this method may be more time-consuming and tedious than other strategies, it's a good way to do damage control and immediately eliminate any caterpillars that are currently invading your space, especially if they're on a delicate plant.
Begin by grabbing a pair of rubber or gardening gloves and filling a bucket with soap and hot water. You can then proceed to lift each caterpillar off of your plants before dropping them into the bucket. Tweezers can also help snag the little bugs.
Companion planting is a great preventative protection against caterpillars. Fragrant flowers and herbs like sage, mugwort, peppermint, and lavender give off a strong scent that helps distract caterpillars, keeping them from finding your plants. Not only do these flowers smell amazing, but they also require very little upkeep.
For bonus points, many of these strongly scented plants enrich the overall appearance of your garden. This might just be the most aesthetically pleasing way to keep annoying caterpillars out of your space!
If you're a fan of birds, today is your lucky day. As it turns out, those irritating caterpillars are the perfect feast for a feathered friend! Some common birds, like hummingbirds, can consume up to two thousand small insects a day. Consider hanging feeders and birdbaths around your garden to attract birds and keep caterpillars away.
Make sure you stay on top of local warnings if you're feeding the birds — sometimes feed can spread disease and needs to be removed.
If you don't have any garlic on hand, vinegar is a perfectly viable substitute. Mix 2 tablespoons of vinegar with 4 liters of water and pour the solution into a spray bottle. Spray it onto any parts of your plant that have been damaged by caterpillars.
A simple plant cover can confuse insects and stop them from invading your garden. Thin mesh netting will usually do the trick, and it can also help protect your plants from larger pests like rabbits and deer.
You can also opt to lay down ground cover, which deters moths and butterflies from laying eggs that will hatch into new caterpillars. Ground cover offers a slew of other benefits as well, such as reducing the risk of soil erosion, staving off weed growth, and even keeping maintenance costs down.
Lighting may be a nice touch in your garden, but caterpillars only see it as an invitation to munch on your plants. Garden lights are also known to attract moths, especially at night. To keep these critters from laying eggs on your plants, keep your garden dark overnight.
If you must add lights, try to keep them away from the plants themselves so that caterpillars and other pests don't use them as runway lights directing them to dinner.
If moths or butterflies have already begun to lay eggs on your plants, it's best to go straight to the source. Inspect each of your plants carefully and dispose of any eggs that you spot on the leaves. In addition, because removing eggs is a more proactive approach, it's an effective solution for a long-term caterpillar infestation issue.
If hazardous chemicals aren't your thing, neem oil is an effective natural pesticide that can help get the infestation under control. Not only does it keep caterpillars at bay, but it's also highly effective in deterring cabbage worms, tomato worms, and other harmful pests.
For best results, dilute 2 ounces of neem oil or less in a gallon of water and apply the solution to your damaged plants in the evening.
It's important to be familiar with the differences between good and bad caterpillars. Though most caterpillars are undeniably pests that will wreak havoc on your garden if you let them, there are one or two that shouldn't be eradicated. Learn to recognize the kind that will flourish into monarch butterflies, and look up any others that might not be too nasty on a local gardening website.