How to Get Rid of Caterpillars: 6 Natural Methods That Work
Caterpillars can be pests because they like to eat the greens and leaves of gardens and trees. This damage can also look unsightly and create a big mess for the homeowner. Unfortunately, many people resort to dangerous chemicals to get rid of them, which can cause just as much damage as the insects. So, keep reading as we provide you with several natural methods that work just as well and are safer for you and the environment.
The 6 Natural Methods to Get Rid of Caterpillars
1. Remove Them by Hand
- Materials: Soap, water, hand protection
If you have many caterpillars in your yard, one of the best and fastest ways to reduce the population is to pull them out of your garden by hand. We highly recommend wearing protective gloves because many caterpillars have sharp spines. Carefully lift the caterpillars off the leaves, and place them in a bucket of hot water and dish soap to destroy them. Make sure to look under the leaves where they like to hide to capture as many as you can. You will often need to venture out several times to reduce the population successfully.
- Requires multiple attempts
2. Destroy the Nest
- Materials: Broom, soap, hot water
An extremely inexpensive way to get rid of caterpillars on your property is to destroy any nests that you find hanging in the trees. These are easy to destroy with anything long enough to reach them; we recommend a broom handle. Puncture the nest with the handle, then twist and scrape until you get it all off of the tree. Dunk the nest in hot soapy water to kill any living caterpillars. This idea works best when you do it right after the sun comes up or right before it gets dark, as most of the caterpillars will be in the nest. This idea works much faster than picking them up individually, but you will still need to watch the trees carefully to see if any new nests appear, and some nests may be too high to reach safely. This method also requires you to wear protective eyewear and clothing as the insects can fall on you as you work.
- Might require multiple attempts
- Requires eye protection
3. Use a Safe Poison
- Materials: Bacillus Thuringiensis pesticide
Whether you don’t have the time to pick up caterpillars by hand or are simply looking to be thorough, there is a pesticide that is safe for humans, pets, plants, and beneficial insects, which you can use to destroy the caterpillars on your property. The name of the pesticide is Bacillus Thuringiensis, and you can get it in any home improvement store or online. Simply spray it over your vegetation to kill caterpillars and other harmful insects. You may need to reapply it once or twice, but it is extremely easy to use. The only downside is that it’s more expensive than the other options on this list.
- Easy to use
4. Use a Natural Deterrent
- Materials: Dish soap, garlic, vegetable oil, dish soap, warm water
Once you successfully reduce the population of caterpillars on your property, you can create a natural deterrent to help drive away the rest and prevent them from returning. Create your deterrent by crushing three cloves of garlic and mixing them with 1 tablespoon of vegetable oil, 1 tablespoon of dish detergent, and 1 liter of water. Spray the solution over your lawn to convince the bugs to move elsewhere. It’s easy to make and spread over your lawn but doesn’t kill, so it works slowly.
- Easy to make
- Is only a deterrent
5. Attract Birds
- Materials: Bird feeder, bird food
One great way to eliminate the caterpillars on your property is to invite birds that might eat them as food. The easiest way to attract birds to your property is to install a backyard feeder and keep it stocked with food. The birds tend to come quickly and are colorful and fun to watch, and you won’t need to do any extra work except watch the caterpillar population decline. However, caterpillars tend to reproduce faster than the birds can eat them, especially if you see nests, so this method is best as a deterrent.
- Easy to implement
- Attracts colorful birds
- Only suitable as a deterrent
6. Create a Burlap Trap
- Materials: Burlap
If you have caterpillars living in one or more of your trees, you can wrap burlap around the trunk and branches. The burlap will provide the caterpillars an excellent place to get out of the hot sun, and they will flock to it. Once they get comfortable inside, you can remove the burlap and put it in hot water to kill them or smash them while it’s still on the tree. This method works especially well for the gypsy moth caterpillar, but it usually won’t eliminate all the caterpillars and will only help reduce the population.
- Easy to implement
- Requires more effort
- Only reduces the population
Other Tips and Tricks
- Never touch a caterpillar that looks fuzzy, as many have sharp spines that can deliver a painful sting.
- Plants like lavender, mugwort, and peppermint produce a strong smell that caterpillars don’t like, so adding them to your garden can act as a deterrent.
- Plants like fennel, dill, and aster can attract helpful insects that eat caterpillars, so adding them to your garden can help you control the population.
- Caterpillars eat specific plants, so identifying and eliminating them can help cause the insects to move on.
Caterpillars can cause a great deal of damage, but if you follow the methods listed here, you should be able to reduce the population considerably or even eliminate it. If your population is already out of hand, we recommend starting with the safe poison method and destroying any nests to get it under control. Spraying the natural deterrent and walking around your property every few days to hand pick them out will help keep your property safe and looking great.
Featured Image Credit: 2017343, Pixabay