Dre Campbell Farm
11 Natural Ways to Get Rid of Caterpillars on Plants

This post may contain affiliate links. Click here to view our affiliate disclosure

11 Natural Ways to Get Rid of Caterpillars on Plants

Most people think that caterpillars can’t cause too much damage in a garden. After all, they’re cute and turn into beautiful butterflies or moths—how bad could they be?

It turns out that they are hungry leaf-eating insects that can quickly destroy many of your crops. They can devour tomatoes and the bases or heads of broccoli, cauliflower, basil, lettuce, and cabbage without getting noticed.

Here’s how to get rid of caterpillars naturally:

1. Soap and Water

An inexpensive remedy to stop little green caterpillars from eating your plants is soap and water.

Completely dissolve a small amount of organic liquid soap in warm water. Next, pour the solution into a spray bottle. Finally, spray your vegetables, nasturtiums, roses, or whichever plants they are eating.

Does soapy water kill caterpillars? No, it doesn’t. The mixture won’t harm them or your plants, but it will create a slippery surface that discourages or stops the caterpillars from walking on or eating your plants.

2. Bacillus Thuringiensis

Bacillus thuringiensis (Bt) is a naturally occurring bacteria that is found in the soil.

This bacteria contains a protein that is highly toxic to certain insect pests, such as hairy caterpillars (higad) and mosquito larvae. It breaks down in their gut, causing them to stop eating and later die.

Though Bt insecticide is toxic to these critters, it is non-toxic to humans, animals, and most beneficial garden insects, such as ladybugs.

It is also safe to use in your organic garden, though all produce should be washed thoroughly before consumption. Look for an organic brand or one with the OMRI (Organic Materials Research Institute) stamp.

3. Neem Oil

Neem oil is a great natural pesticide for controlling caterpillars in the garden. Additionally, it will keep tomato worms, cabbage worms, and other plant-eating worms under control.

Dilute 2 ounces of neem oil in one gallon of water. Next, shake well and apply to the affected plants. It will kill leaf-eating caterpillars within hours.

4. Pepper and Garlic Mixture

This potent mixture is a home remedy that kills caterpillars. It also works well as a natural repellent for aphids and cabbage moths.

Combine 1 tablespoon of dried red pepper flakes, 1 whole bulb of minced garlic, 1 teaspoon of liquid soap, and a full gallon of water.

Blend, and then let the mixture stand for at least 24 hours. Spray wherever needed to keep these hungry eaters and their friends off of your plants.

5. Chili Spray

This is another effective DIY remedy for getting rid of caterpillars outside. Read: 13 Homemade Caterpillar Repellent Sprays.

Combine 3 ½ ounces of ground chili pepper with ½ gallon of boiling water. Let it boil for five minutes, then remove it from the heat. Next, add ½ gallon of cold water and 2-3 drops of liquid soap.

Stir well, and let the mixture sit and cool for a few hours. Try it on a small section of an affected plant, then check it after 24 hours. If there are no adverse effects, then use it all over the plants as needed.

6. Create a Habitat Friendly to Birds

One caterpillar killer method that works great for affected tall trees is attracting birds. In case you’ve forgotten your basics about birds, most like to eat crawly things.

They are also the perfect helpers to control sawflies and their larvae. If you see small leaf-eating caterpillars on your roses, gooseberry bush, or hibiscus, they might be sawfly larvae.

Therefore, install a birdhouse and/or put some feed near the affected trees, and birds will likely fly in and eat the critters.

Point to note: This is not the best idea if the caterpillars are on apple trees or other fruit trees at home, as it will likely entice more birds to eat the fruits.

If you have space, you can also keep chickens. Let them wander throughout your yard and around the house to help take care of bad garden worms and other pest problems.

7. Vinegar Solution

Vinegar can be used as a great insecticide and natural pesticide to deter many types of insects and related pests that destroy crops. A light vinegar solution will keep away the critters.

Mix 2 tablespoons with 4 liters of water and spray where those fat green worms are visible, eating the leaves or other parts of your plant. Raw vinegar can also eradicate snails and slugs if sprayed on them.

8. Use Burlap

Another great strategy for protecting trees from caterpillars is the burlap barrier band trap.

Wrap a piece of burlap (about 12 inches tall) around the tree. Next, tie twine or rope around the middle to fasten it to the tree. Now drop the top half of the burlap over the rope or twine so it hangs over the bottom half.

The caterpillars will then crawl under the “shade” during the heat of the day. Once they are all under the burlap covering, squish them or remove them by hand.

9. Cover Your Plants

You can use a thin mesh covering to cover your plants to keep off caterpillars and other crawly pests.

Row covers can also prevent moths and butterflies from laying their eggs on your crops, which can prevent a caterpillar insect infestation from arising.

10. Complement Your Plants

Certain plants will naturally repel caterpillars and other pests. Peppermint, lavender, mugwort, and sage are some of the most potent plants that repel garden caterpillars.

Not to mention, these smell great and are easy to maintain. Therefore, incorporate these plants into your vegetable garden or flower bed to help deter caterpillars.

11. Remove Them By Hand

Removing caterpillars by hand is one of the safest ways to get them out of your house and off your plants.

Afterward, you can either squish them or place them elsewhere in your yard. Squishing them will kill them instantly.

For tent caterpillars, drop the nests into a bag and dispose of the bag. But wear gloves when dealing with them.

This is also an easy method to get rid of tomato hornworms, gypsy moth larvae, bagworms, armyworms, and other harmful insect larvae.

Other Organic Caterpillar Control Methods

  • Spraying them with enough water to drown them can also be an easy fix.
  • Look for the eggs and dispose of them immediately.
  • Make sure that you don’t have any sort of light on in your garden or flower bed at night. Lights will attract moths, which may then lay their eggs on your plants.
  • Buy caterpillar control pesticides such as Molt-X, JMS Stylet Oil, Diatomaceous Earth, and Monterey Spinosad. These products are OMRI-listed, which means that they are safe for use in organic gardening.


Caterpillar infestation is one of the biggest problems that organic farmers face in some areas, like Australia and Florida. If left alone, these pests can cause a lot of damage.

Be sure to check your tomato plants, pepper plants, kale, and other crops regularly. If you think you have an issue, follow these natural solutions for getting rid of the critters.

Sasha Brown

Sasha Brown is a blogger and lover of all things natural.


  • I have got 100’s of caterpillars on my plants

    Do you know how to get rid of them ?

  • I have a serious blood condition called
    ET (essential thrombosythemia) this
    Condition is very rare BUT it is
    believed to be caused by
    non organic insecticides in the
    air we breath.

Organic pest control

DIY Pest Control