Caterpillars are the immature life stage of moths and butterflies. Typically, moth caterpillars are more of a problem for gardeners. So how do they infest your plants?
It all starts when a moth lays eggs on them, whether it’s a single egg or a cluster of eggs.
A few days later, a caterpillar hatches, and as it eats, it continues to grow — becoming a major pest for a range of plants, especially fall vegetables like kale, collards, tomato, cabbage, and more.
If you detect them early, they’re much easier to control. But how do you know if you have a caterpillar problem?
Sure, you might see them hiding out behind leaves, but they might be hard to spot. If you’re not sure, look for ragged holes left in plant foliage. This is a huge sign of a leaf eating worm problem.
Fortunately, there are quite a few homemade caterpillar killer sprays you can make to help rid your garden of caterpillars:
1. Oil Spray
An oil insecticide spray can get rid of caterpillars and a range of insects, including mites, aphids, and more.
Mix 1 tablespoon of mild liquid soap with 1 cup of vegetable oil of choice. Shake and spray directly on the plant.
When you’re ready to apply to your garden, mix 2 teaspoons of the mix with 1 quart of water, shake, and spray on the affected area.
2. Diatomaceous Earth Spray
Diatomaceous earth is naturally occurring soft, made from fossilized algae and the skeletal remains of organisms called diatoms.
The substance has many uses, however, it makes a great natural pesticide as its abrasive qualities and incredible absorbing abilities allow it to dehydrate insects.
You can make a wet solution by combining 4 tablespoons of diatomaceous earth with 1 gallon of water. Shake until dissolved and spray onto the plant.
When dry, it will leave a powdery substance which is what will kill caterpillars. You can also sprinkle the powder directly on the ground around your plants and on the foliage.
3. Soap Spray
This is quite similar to the oil homemade caterpillar killer sprays mentioned above.
You can use this soap spray mix to control beetles, caterpillars, whiteflies, and more.
Mix 1 quart of water with 1.5 teaspoons of mild liquid soap, shake and spray directly on the affected area.
Aim to apply in the evenings or early morning rather than during any hot part of the day.
4. Garlic Spray
Is there anything more pungent than the smell of fresh garlic? This scent makes an incredible insecticide. That’s right… Garlic will get rid of all sorts of bad insects 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.
5. Neem Oil Spray
Neem oil is an oil pressed from the seeds of the neem tree.
It’s capable of getting rid of all sorts of insects in all sorts of stages — from larvae to adult and everything in between.
Essentially, neem oil disrupts hormones and acts as a fungicide to combat various infections.
Mix 1 teaspoon mild liquid soap with 2 teaspoons neem oil, then add 1 quart of water and spray.
6. Chile Pepper Spray
You can use fresh peppers or chile pepper powder for this natural insecticide, which works quite similarly to garlic insecticide.
If you’re using fresh peppers, puree ½ cup peppers 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 chile pepper powder, mix 1 tablespoon with 1 quart and a few drops of mild soap before spraying.
7. Citrus Spray
Citrus is effective at getting rid of caterpillars and other soft-bodied insects.
You simply grate the rind of a lemon, add a pint of boiling water, and let the mixture sit overnight.
In the morning, strain through cheesecloth and spray the mixture onto affected plans. Make sure you’re spraying the insect too.
8. Chilli and Wormwood Spray
This creative concoction can be used to repel insects, as well as possums and rabbits. You want the hotter varieties of chilies, in order for the spray to be most effective.
Blend your chilies and wormwood with a cup or so of water. Once it’s all blended, add 5 cups of water and boil.
Let stand until cool, strain, and spray. Keep the solution away from your eyes.
9. Molasses Spray
Some thick, gooey molasses will do the trick — fighting against caterpillars and other critters in your garden!
Mix 1 cup of molasses with 1 liter of water, then shake and spray all over plants to help get rid of caterpillars naturally.
This homemade caterpillar killer spray is an incredibly easy, quick way to defend all sorts of plants against caterpillars and other insects.
10. 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 caterpillars and other critters right out of the way.
Spray your plants directly, and as the caterpillars fall off, you can remove or kill them right away.
11. Tomato Leaf Spray
Lastly, tomato leaves can be a great way to get rid of pests. Why? Tomato plants contain alkaloids, including the aptly known as “tomatine,” which gets rid of aphids and other insects.
Simply cut up 2 cups of tomato leaves and mix into 1 quart of water, then leave overnight. In the morning, strain and spray.
Commercial Caterpillar Killer Sprays
If you don’t have the time or you simply can’t be bothered to whip up any of these DIY recipes, you can opt to buy a commercial natural caterpillar killer spray.
Here are our top 3 recommended caterpillar killer products that are safe for organic gardening:
Safer Brand Caterpillar Killer Concentrate gets rid of caterpillars and other lead-eating worms almost instantly.
How? It contains a naturally occurring bacterium that makes them stop feeding immediately after ingesting.
Not only is this product 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 getting rid of pests in your garden.
Monterey Garden Insect Spray is a bacterial product that is produced from fermentation.
It contains spinosad which is a substance made from a soil bacterium that is toxic to caterpillars and other pests.
It can be used on lawns, vegetable gardens, fruit trees, and much more. It’s fast-acting, odorless, and easy-to-use.
Simply spray onto the affected area to control caterpillars, moths, leaf miners, and more. You can use this product on any edible plants all the way up until the day of harvest.
This is particularly useful if you have vegetables and fruits that you’re picking on a regular basis.
Garden Safe is a fantastic brand if you’re looking for organic garden care products.
They offer a range of solutions that are natural with botanically derived formulas — helping gardeners control pests and diseases without the use of harsh, dangerous chemicals.
They have fertilizers, insecticides, fungicides, and much more. These products are safe to use in organic farming.
Caterpillars and other insects can present a huge problem when they’re infesting your garden. Fortunately, there are safe, natural options in terms of getting rid of them.
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!