It all starts when a moth lays eggs on your plants, whether it’s a single egg or a cluster. A few days later, a caterpillar hatches. Finding a good repellent spray at this moment is vital before an infestation begins.
The caterpillar insect (higad in Filipino) is the immature life stage of moths and butterflies. Typically, they are more of a problem for gardeners and can emerge in any color.
As it eats, it continues to grow, becoming a major pest for a range of plants, especially vegetables like kale, collards, cabbage, and all varieties of tomatoes.
If you detect them early, they’re much easier to control. Sure, you might see them hiding out behind leaves, but they might also be hard to spot. Look for ragged holes left in plant foliage. That is a huge sign of leaf-eating worms.
Fortunately, there are quite a few home remedies that can stop them in their tracks. Below are 13 homemade spray recipes to keep caterpillars off your plants.
1. Insecticide Oil
An oil insecticide spray can repel caterpillars in the garden and a range of other insects, including mites, aphids, and more.
Mix 1 tablespoon of mild liquid soap with 1 cup of vegetable oil of choice. When ready to apply, combine 2 tsp. of the mix into a quart of water. Shake and spray directly on the plant.
2. Diatomaceous Earth
DE is a naturally occurring substance made from fossilized remains of organisms called diatoms.
Diatomaceous earth has many uses; however, it makes a great caterpillar spray. Its abrasive qualities and incredible absorbing abilities allow it to dehydrate them.
Make a solution by combining 4 tablespoons of the product with 1 gallon of water. Shake until dissolved and douse the plant.
When dry, it will leave a powdery residue which is what will naturally kill them.
You can also sprinkle the powder directly on the ground around your plants and on the foliage.
Use this simple concoction to make a natural spray for caterpillars, beetles, broccoli bugs, whiteflies, and more.
Mix 1 quart of water with 1.5 teaspoons of mild organic liquid soap. Shake well and spray directly on the affected area.
While soapy water does not kill caterpillars, it will encourage them to leave. Aim to apply it in the evenings or early morning rather than during hot parts of the day.
Is there anything more pungent than the smell of fresh garlic? This is another incredible pest control home remedy.
This scent will repel all sorts of harmful insects to plants in your garden.
Puree 2 whole bulbs with a small amount of water, then let the mixture sit for at least 12 hours.
Once you’re ready to apply, add ½ cup of vegetable oil, 1 teaspoon of mild soap, and water before spraying.
Combine this deterrent recipe with hot peppers to get rid of armyworms and cabbage worms.
Vinegar is one of the best home remedies to make a pest control spray. Because of its acidic nature, it is used as a natural pesticide to kill many harmful insects.
To create a caterpillar killer spray that will not harm your plants, combine 2 tablespoons of raw vinegar in 4 liters of water. Apply to affected areas.
6. Neem Oil
Neem oil is pressed from the seeds of the neem tree. It is capable of getting rid of all sorts of bad insects in all stages — from larvae to adults and everything in between.
Essentially, it disrupts hormones and acts as a fungicide to combat various infections.
Mix 1 teaspoon of mild liquid soap with 2 teaspoons of neem oil, then add 1 quart of water and spray.
7. Chili Pepper
You can use fresh peppers or chili pepper powder, which works quite similarly to garlic.
If you’re using fresh peppers, puree ½ cup with 1 cup of water, then add another quart of water and boil. Once cooled, strain and add a few drops of mild soap before spraying.
If you’re using the powder, mix 1 tablespoon with 1 quart of water and a few drops of mild soap.
Citrus is effective at repelling soft-bodied insects.
To make a DIY spray for green caterpillars, grate the rind of a lemon, add to a pint of boiling water, and let the mixture sit overnight.
In the morning, strain through cheesecloth and spray the mixture onto affected plants and insects.
9. Chilli and Wormwood
This creative concoction can be used to discourage insects, as well as possums and rabbits. However, you want the hotter varieties of chilies for it to be most effective.
Blend your chilies and wormwood with a cup of water. Once it’s all blended, add 5 cups of water and boil.
Let it stand until cool, then strain and spray. Keep the solution away from your eyes.
10. Organic Bacillus Thuringiensis Spray
Bacillus Thuringiensis (bt) is a soil-dwelling bacterium that is used as a biological insecticide. It is highly toxic to soft-bodied pests like gypsy moth caterpillars and tent caterpillars.
Once the larvae ingest the bt pesticide, feeding will stop and death will follow. However, it will not harm beneficial insects or birds.
Mix the recommended powder amount in water and coat plants. For a ready-made solution, Monterey B.t. caterpillar killer spray and/or Bonide Thuricide are available for purchase. Follow the instructions on the bottle.
Some thick, gooey molasses will do the trick; fighting against all types of critters in your garden!
Mix 1 cup of molasses with 1 liter of water, then shake and diffuse all over your plants to help get rid of the critters naturally.
This is an incredibly easy, quick way to defend all sorts of plants against destructive insects.
12. Hose ‘Em
This is the simplest, most straightforward option. After all, you’re likely out there with the hose watering your plants anyway!
Take a few minutes to blast those critters right out of the way.
Spray your plants directly, and as the green worms fall off, you can remove or kill them right away.
13. Tomato Leaf
The leaves of tomatoes can be a great way to get rid of pests.
Tomato plant leaves contain compounds that are toxic to aphids and other insects. When the leaves are crushed, these compounds are released.
Chop up 2 cups of tomato leaves and mix into 1 quart of water, then leave overnight. In the morning, strain and spray your homemade insecticide.
If none of those DIY remedies catch your interest, you can purchase a ready-made product.
Below are our top 3 recommended caterpillar deterrent products that are safe for organic gardening use.
Molt-X gets rid of a caterpillar infestation, tomato worms, bagworms, cabbage maggots, and other leaf-eating worms almost instantly.
It contains the naturally occurring azadirachtin — a very potent compound derived from neem.
Not only is it incredibly effective, but it’s safe for people, pets, birds, earthworms, and other harmless creatures.
It can even be used up until the day of harvest, so you don’t have to worry about having a timeline when it comes to keeping them out of the garden. Besides, it also works on trees, roses, and ferns.
Similar to Safer Brand, Monterey is a formulation product that is produced from fermentation. It contains spinosad which is a substance made by a soil bacterium that is toxic to hairy caterpillars, sawfly larvae, and other pests.
You can use it on your lawns, vegetable gardens, fruit trees, and much more. Furthermore, this organic caterpillar spray is fast-acting, odorless, and easy to use.
Diffuse onto the affected area to control cutworms, caterpillars, gypsy moth larvae, leaf miners, and more. You can also use this product on edible plants such as basil, lettuce, broccoli, and cauliflower up until the day of harvest.
It is particularly useful if you have vegetables and fruits that you’re picking on regularly.
3. JMS Stylet Oil
JMS is another fantastic brand. Offering a range of solutions that are natural with botanically derived formulas, helping gardeners control pests and fungal plant diseases.
They have OMRI-listed pesticides, fungicides, and much more — products that are safe to use in organic farming.
Caterpillars will eat just about any plant, presenting a huge problem in your garden. Fortunately, there are ways to keep them away without the use of dangerous chemicals.
Whether you’re a DIY kind of person or you’d rather purchase a tried-and-true solution, there’s bound to be something on our list that will resolve your pest problem once and for all!