Pest Away Tips

6 Ways to Control Garden Caterpillar Pests and Protect Your Harvest

Gardening is a rewarding hobby that allows you to nurture plants and watch them grow. However, it can also attract unwelcome visitors in the form of garden pests, and caterpillars are one of the most common culprits.

These little crawlers can cause significant damage to your plants, which is why it’s important to learn how to identify them and get rid of them. In this article, we’ll take a closer look at common garden pests, the importance of getting rid of caterpillars, how they get into your garden, and the plants and weeds they prefer.

Common Garden Pests:

Garden pests are a fact of life for any gardener. They come in many different shapes and sizes, and some are more destructive than others.

One of the most common garden pests is the caterpillar. These little guys are the larval stage of butterflies and moths, and they can do a lot of damage to your plants.

Caterpillars are often attracted to newly grown leaves and flowers. They have chewing mouthparts that allow them to eat through the plant’s tissues, which can result in ragged edges or holes in the leaves.

Some caterpillars also secrete a sticky substance that can gum up the leaves, making them more vulnerable to other pests and diseases. Importance of Getting Rid of Caterpillars:

Caterpillars may seem harmless, but if left unchecked, they can cause significant damage to your plants.

Not only can they ruin the appearance of your garden, but they can also weaken your plants and make them more susceptible to other pests and diseases. In severe cases, they can even kill your plants.

Getting rid of caterpillars is important for the health and vitality of your garden. There are many methods you can use to get rid of them, such as handpicking, using organic pesticides, or introducing natural predators.

The key is to act quickly before the damage becomes too severe. How Caterpillars Get Into Your Garden:

Caterpillars come from the offspring of butterflies and moths, which means that they can get into your garden in a number of ways.

For example, they may hitch a ride on your clothing or shoes, or they may be carried in on the wind. Some species of caterpillars may also migrate to your area in search of food.

Once they’re in your garden, caterpillars will start searching for their preferred plants and weeds. Different species of caterpillars have different feeding habits, so it’s important to know which plants they’re attracted to.

Some caterpillars prefer vegetables like cabbage, broccoli, and kale, while others prefer ornamental plants like roses and daisies. Plants and Weeds Caterpillars Prefer:

As we mentioned earlier, caterpillars have different plant preferences depending on the species.

Here are some common plants and weeds that caterpillars are attracted to:

1. Broccoli: The cabbage worm is a common caterpillar that loves to munch on broccoli leaves.

2. Cabbage: The same cabbage worm that likes broccoli also likes cabbage.

3. Kale: Another favorite of the cabbage worm, kale is a tasty snack for these little critters.

4. Roses: The rose budworm is a species of caterpillar that loves to feed on the buds and leaves of rose bushes.

5. Daisies: The daisy sawfly is a type of caterpillar that feeds on the leaves of daisy plants.

Other common caterpillar favorites include tomatoes, peppers, beans, corn, and sunflowers. Conclusion:

Caterpillars can be a real headache for gardeners, but with the right knowledge and tools, you can keep them at bay.

By understanding their lifecycle, plant preferences, and feeding habits, you can take steps to prevent infestations and minimize damage to your plants. If you do notice caterpillars in your garden, act quickly to get rid of them before they can do too much harm.

With a little bit of effort, you can keep your garden healthy and beautiful all season long. 3) Most Common Types Of Garden Caterpillar Pests:

Caterpillars can differ in size, color, and feeding habits, but they all share one thing in common: they can eat your favorite plants down to the ground.

Some caterpillar species like the tomato hornworm and armyworm can cause severe damage to your garden, leaving you with nothing to harvest. In this section, we’ll look at the different types of caterpillar pests and the damage they can cause.


One of the most destructive caterpillar pests is the hornworm, which feeds on plants like tomatoes, peppers, and eggplants. These caterpillars can grow up to four inches long and have a distinctive horn protruding from their tail.

They are usually green with white stripes and have a voracious appetite. Hornworms can strip the leaves and fruit from your plants, leaving them bare and lifeless.


Cutworms are another type of caterpillar that can cause damage to young plants by chewing through their stems at the base. They are commonly found in gardens with moist soil and feed on plants like broccoli, lettuce, and corn.

These caterpillars are nocturnal and will curl up during the day, making them hard to spot. However, you may notice seedlings that have been completely cut off at ground level, indicating a cutworm infestation.


Armyworms are a type of caterpillar that can cause significant damage to lawns and pastures. They are fond of feeding on crops like corn, wheat, and soybeans, and can easily move from one area to another in large numbers.

Armyworms are usually green or brown with stripes running down their bodies. They can quickly strip a crop of its leaves, leaving farmers with little or no harvest.


Loopers get their name from their unique way of moving, which involves stretching their bodies out and bringing them back in a looping motion. These caterpillars feed on a wide range of plants, including broccoli, kale, and beans.

They are usually green, but they can also be brown or yellow. Loopers can cause damage by chewing through leaves, causing holes and ragged edges.

Damage Caused:

No matter the species, garden caterpillar pests can cause a considerable amount of damage to your plants. They can strip the leaves from trees and shrubs, cause distorted and curled leaves, or destroy fruit and vegetable crops.

Some caterpillars, like the hornworm, can also leave droppings on the plants, making them less appetizing to eat. To avoid significant damage from garden caterpillar pests, it is important to quickly take action to get rid of them.

Gardeners need to be vigilant and monitor their plants regularly to catch caterpillars before their feeding habit results in substantial damage. 4) Identifying The Most Common Garden Caterpillars:

Identifying caterpillars in your garden is key to helping you determine the type of pest you are dealing with.

Knowing what they look like and their feeding habits can help you understand how and when they are most active. In this section, we’ll look at the physical appearance of the most common garden caterpillars to help you identify them.


Tomato and tobacco hornworms are the most common hornworm species in gardens. They have green bodies that can grow up to four inches long and eight dark V-shaped markings on each side.

They also have a distinctive horn protruding from their tail and can be found chomping on your tomatoes, peppers, and eggplants. Cutworms:

Cutworms are plump, worm-like caterpillars that can grow up to 2 inches long.

They are usually brown, gray, or green and have a smooth body with distinct rings. Cutworms are often confused with wireworms, a similar pest that causes damage to seeds and young plants.

Cutworms curl up during the day and are active at night, making them difficult to spot. Armyworms:

Armyworms are caterpillars that get their name from their tendency to march in large groups across fields and gardens.

They can be green, brown, or black and have distinct stripes running down their bodies. These pests can grow up to two inches long and can chew through large areas of crops in just a few days.


Looper caterpillars are usually green but can also be brown or yellow. They have three pairs of legs in the front of their body and two pairs of prolegs at the rear.

Loopers get their name from the looping motion of their bodies as they move across plants. They can cause significant damage to plants by chewing through the leaves, making them appear ragged.

General Appearance:

Garden caterpillar pests can differ in size, color, and shape, and knowing their general appearance can help you identify them. Caterpillars usually have a long, cylindrical body that is segmented and covered with tiny hairs or spines.

They have a distinct head capsule that contains their powerful mandibles for chewing through plant tissue. Most caterpillars will display a range of colors such as green, brown, and yellow and will often have patterned stripes or spots running along their body.

In Conclusion:

Identifying garden caterpillar pests is essential for maintaining a healthy garden. Understanding the different types of caterpillars and their damage, as well as their general appearance, can help you properly diagnose the problem and take steps to solve it.

With the right knowledge and tools, you can keep these pests at bay and enjoy a bountiful harvest from your garden.

5) 6 Things To Do If You Find Caterpillars In Your Garden

Caterpillars are known to be common pests in gardens, and finding one or two in your garden should not come as a surprise. However, if the infestation grows, it can cause significant damage to your plants, destroy the beauty of your garden, and prevent you from having a successful harvest.

In this section, we will outline six things to do if you find caterpillars in your garden. 1.

Identify the Caterpillar

The first step to controlling caterpillar infestation is to identify the specific species of caterpillar that is causing the damage. Different caterpillar species have different feeding habits and can cause varying degrees of damage to your garden.

Identifying the type of caterpillar you are dealing with will enable you to choose the appropriate control measures. 2.

Handpick the Caterpillars

If the population of caterpillars in your garden is low, one effective control measure is handpicking them. Using gloves, gently remove the caterpillars from the plants, and crush them or dispose of them far away from your garden.

Handpicking is a safe and organic way to control caterpillar populations. 3.

Use Organic Pesticides

If the infestation is severe, organic pesticides can be used. These pesticides are made from natural sources such as neem oil, pyrethrum, or Bacillus thuringiensis (Bt).

These products can be purchased at gardening stores and are safe for beneficial insects and birds while targeting caterpillars. 4.

Introduce Natural Predators

Introducing natural predators to your garden can help control caterpillar populations. Such predators include birds, frogs, and beneficial insects like ladybugs, lacewings, and parasitic wasps.

These natural predators will feed on the caterpillars and their eggs, reducing their populations. 5.

Use Physical Barriers

If a certain type of caterpillar is attacking a specific plant, placing a physical barrier around the plant will prevent the caterpillars from reaching it and causing damage. A physical barrier can be anything from a plastic cup, plant collar, or plant netting.

6. Practice Good Garden Hygiene

Practicing good garden hygiene is crucial in reducing the infestation of garden pests, including caterpillars.

Proper sanitation involves removing and disposing of plant debris and regularly tilling the soil to expose and kill any overwintering pests and eggs. Fall and winter tilling can reduce chances of spring emergence of caterpillar pests.

In conclusion, finding caterpillars in your garden is not unusual. If the infestation is severe, it can cause significant damage to your plants and reduce your chances of a successful harvest.

Implementing the above measures can help control caterpillars in your garden and protect your plants. Proper identification of the caterpillar species is key to control measures with reduced damage to beneficial insects.

In conclusion, caterpillar pests in your garden can cause significant damage to your plants and reduce your chances of a successful harvest. Understanding the different types of caterpillars, their feeding habits, and their physical appearance is key to identifying them and choosing the appropriate control measures.

Handpicking, using organic pesticides, introducing natural predators, using physical barriers, and practicing good garden hygiene are all effective ways to reduce their populations. Diligence in identification and control measures will help to defend your garden and protect the health and vitality of your plants.

By taking these steps, you can enjoy a beautiful and healthy garden all season long.

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