dealing with caterpillars in the gardenWhile the majority of caterpillars will develop into beautiful butterflies that we all love, the threat of these critters chowing down on your plants is one many growers prefer to avoid. Typically, we encounter caterpillars in outdoor setups, but if you slack off on cleaning an indoor grow room or keep a nearby window open, you may very well find yourself dealing with caterpillars in your indoor garden, as well.

Most Common In…

  • Outdoor Gardens, but may be found indoors if there is an open window nearby, or gardening area is dirty.

Dealing with a Caterpillar Problem

Caterpillars are a nuisance for a number of reasons, but home gardeners primarily find them annoying because of the destruction they cause by feeding on the plants’ leaves.

The best way to prevent the destruction of leaves is through the installation of a barrier before the caterpillars can access the plant. It is very important to ensure that the barrier is in place prior to the caterpillars having a chance to lay their eggs. Otherwise, the developing larvae are simply protected from their natural predators, like birds and larger flying insects.

One of the methods for constructing a simple overhead barrier for your garden to place bamboo poles around the edges of your vegetable plants, and drape garden fabric – available at most landscaping or home supply retailers – across the top. If the fabric is snagging on the wood, you may place overturned plastic pots on the tops of the poles to create a smooth surface. (Note that this method is not suitable for crops requiring pollination.)

Types of Problems Caused:

  • Most commonly, you will find caterpillars chowing down on the plant’s leaves. But, you can prevent this with an overhead barrier. Simply, build one yourself with bamboo poles and garden fabric!

Getting Rid of Caterpillars

The best method for dealing with caterpillars in the garden is to pick them up by hand. Then, simply relocate them to another area outside of your garden. You can also spray Spinosad on areas affected by caterpillars. However, take care not to spray any flowering plants during the growing season. When removing caterpillars, do not forget the small, brown eggs they will have left behind on your leaves. Check the undersides and look especially for clusters, though individual eggs are also common.

Methods for Removal:

  • Search plant for caterpillars and eggs. And, remember, once you see one there are almost definitely more. Eggs are generally found on the underside of leaves, often in clusters. Crush eggs or place in a bucket of soapy water to destroy.
  • Place caterpillars outside of the garden.
  • Treat plants with Spinosad only when outside of growing season.

Though butterflies are some of the most beautiful and appreciated creatures that grace our gardens, the creepy-crawly caterpillars from which they develop do serious damage to our crops. A few simple steps to prevent those caterpillars from calling your garden home will prove very beneficial in the long run. And more than likely, those butterflies will still come around!

And as always, Happy Gardening!