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How to Control Caterpillars Naturally With Eco Friendly Methods


By Karl Schultz, Austin, Texas


Caterpillars are the scourge of many a garden.

One or two caterpillars in your garden will not do much damage and the ones you see may be butterfly larvae which do not consume much. You will want to learn to recognize these and not kill them. Many butterflies are in danger, including the Monarch which migrates all the way to Mexico.

Below are some photos that will help you recognize bad caterpillars from good caterpillars.



Monarch Butterfly Larvae monarch butterfly larvae Swallowtail Larvae swallowtail butterfly larvae Gulf Fritillary gulf fritillary butterfly larvae


Pest caterpillars, such as the tomato horn worm, tent caterpillar, genista and spring cankerworm can do damage to your plants.

Tomato Hornworm tomato hornworm larvae Tent Caterpillar tent caterpillar larvae. Spring Cankerworm spring cankerworm larvae.


Keep an eye on caterpillar infestations. Natural caterpillar controls like predators such as wasps or weather may get rid of them first. There is no need to treat native trees since infestations are normal and the trees have evolved to survive them.  Expect some damage from butterfly larvae, but it is give and take. Give them some food and enjoy their beauty as butterflies.

Use a gloved hand and pick masses of caterpillars and eggs, dispose of them in a closed coffee can with soap and water solution inside.

Dislodge small caterpillars with a blast of water from a garden hose and step on them on the ground.

Don't kill all of your wasps. Allow some to nest on the eaves of storage buildings and houses. They are normally aggressive only when the nest is threatened.

Treat young caterpillar infestations with BT or bacillis thuringensis  but don't use it near your butterfly gardens.



If you have to use pesticides to kill caterpillars, do so very sparingly and treat only infected plants. Any topical pesticide, especially broad spectrum ones will kill your beneficial insects such as lacewings and ladybugs so use caution and use them sparingly.

To kill caterpillars with natural remedies ou can try Bonide Dipel 150 Dust for Vegetables, Safer Bioneem, and Safer Caterpillar Killer.

Good luck and happy gardening.





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