As the name suggests, budworms especially enjoy munching on — you guessed it — buds. They may also snack on maturing ovaries, new leaves, stems, and blossoms. Basically, if it’s fresh, green, and sprouting, bud worms will probably find it delicious.
To control these hungry critters naturally, there are some home remedies and organic products that you can try.
As highlighted, budworms are common garden pests that feed on the buds, flowers, and newly set fruits of certain plants . These little caterpillars — about 1.5 mm to 40 mm long — can do some serious damage if left unchecked.
The moths lay their eggs on plants, and once the eggs hatch, the budworm larvae start munching. They bore into buds, burrow into fruits, and feed on leaves.
Some of the plants they target include petunias, geraniums, roses, sweet corn, nicotiana, tomatoes, and gardenias.
The caterpillars’ color can vary depending on the plants they feed on .
How to Get Rid of Budworms Naturally
To get rid of these pesky flower worms naturally, try out one or more of the solutions below. With vigilance and the right natural remedies, you can win the war against budworms!
1. Chili Spray
One natural pesticide you can make at home is a chili spray. Chili peppers contain capsaicin, which gives them their spicy heat and also acts as an irritant to many insects.
To make a homemade budworm spray, blend 1/2 cup of chopped chili peppers (like jalapeño or cayenne) with 2 cups of water.
Next, strain out the solids. Now add a few drops of dish soap to help the spray stick to the leaves.
Dilute the spray with water until it’s the strength you want. Start with 1 part chili solution to 3 parts water and adjust as needed.
Finally, spray the diluted chili spray on the leaves, especially the undersides. Reapply this natural budworm treatment every few days or after rain.
The chili spray will irritate the budworms and deter them from feeding on your plants.
Removing damaged or infested parts of the plant can also help control budworm populations and prevent future infestations.
Prune off any buds, leaves, or stems that show signs of budworm damage or activity. Look for holes, chewed edges, or spots where they have entered the plant.
Remove these areas by cutting them off at least half an inch below the visible damage. Dispose of all clippings to avoid budworms continuing to feed on them.
3. Turn Off Lights
The key to keeping away bud worm moths is to turn off any outdoor lighting around your garden at night.
The moths are attracted to light. So outdoor fixtures, porch lights, and any other illumination can draw them in, allowing them to lay eggs on your plants.
By turning off outdoor lighting, you remove the attraction for budworm moths. This will decrease the chances of them infesting your garden.
4. Pick Them Off
One of the simplest ways to eliminate caterpillars on petunias, geraniums, roses, and other plants is to manually remove them. Check the undersides of leaves, buds, and other areas for small yellow to green caterpillars.
Use your fingers to pick them off. Next, drop them into a container of soapy water to drown them. You may need to do regular inspections to catch them before they burrow deep into the buds.
5. Natural Predators
Releasing natural predators is an eco-friendly way to control budworm populations. Some options to consider:
- Ladybugs: Ladybugs, also known as lady beetles, feed on budworm larvae. You can purchase live ladybugs to release in your garden.
- Lacewings: Lacewings are insect predators that will also feed on budworm eggs and larvae.
- Some parasitic wasps: these tiny wasps lay their eggs inside budworm eggs, killing the budworm caterpillar.
- Birds: Attract insect-eating birds to your garden by providing birdhouses, bird feeders, and a bird bath. Some birds will feed on spruce budworms.
Releasing multiple types of natural predators together can be an effective biological control method.
6. Neem Oil
Neem oil is a natural insecticide that can kill budworms if it touches them.
To use it, mix 2 tablespoons of pure neem oil with a tablespoon of mild liquid soap and a gallon of water. Next, spray the solution directly on the bud worms and leaves.
The oil disrupts the worms’ feeding habits. Reapply this DIY bud worm spray every two weeks until the infestation is under control.
7. Bacillus thuringiensis (Bt)
Bt is a natural bacterium that produces proteins toxic to budworm larvae. When they ingest Bt, it paralyzes their digestive system, and they stop feeding within hours.
You can apply Bt in either powder or liquid form. The powder form contains live spores that you mix with water to create a spray. The liquid form comes pre-mixed.
Either way, thoroughly coat the leaves, especially new growth. Budworm larvae feed on new shoots, so spray them as soon as they emerge.
It works best when the pests are actively feeding. Therefore, spray in the early morning or evening, when temperatures are cooler and humidity is higher.
For the most effective control, start spraying the product at the first sign of budworm damage.
8. Monterey Garden Insect Spray
This organic spray uses spinosad, a natural substance made by soil bacteria, to kill rose bud worms and other common garden pests.
To use, simply mix 2 oz. of the concentrate with a gallon of water in a spray bottle or pump sprayer. Spray the solution directly on budworm larvae, webs, and the leaves around them.
The spinosad will paralyze the budworms’ nervous system, stopping them from feeding within hours. Within a day or two, the budworms will die. But you may need to reapply the spray every 7 to 10 days to kill any newly hatched larvae.
Moreover, Monterey Garden Insect Spray is non-toxic to humans, pets, and beneficial insects like ladybugs and lacewings when used as directed.
9. Deliver Bioinsecticide
Deliver contains Bacillus Thuringiensis Kurstaki. This product is unique and powerful. It is an organic bioinsecticide that has a potency that is up to five times higher than conventional Btk.
When using, thoroughly coat the leaves, especially the new growth. The budworm larvae must ingest the Btk to be effective, so complete coverage is important.
It works great against tobacco budworm, tomato fruitworm, cotton leafworm, corn earworm, and others.
So there you have it: some simple and natural ways to get rid of those pesky budworms in your garden. Regularly inspect your plants and handpick the worms.
You can also use natural repellents or attract beneficial insects. By doing all this, you can organically control a budworm infestation and limit damage to your crops.