Summer is approaching and so are caterpillars! While you may love watching butterflies, we’re sure you don’t necessarily love the damage caused to your garden by their caterpillar offspring.
Caterpillars feed on plants, causing damage that makes them even more vulnerable to other pests. Left unchecked, the destruction can be devastating for your yard and gardens.
Don’t worry – we’re here to help you keep your garden looking its best with a caterpillar spray.
What Are Caterpillars – Identifying A Caterpillar Problem
Caterpillars are the larva of moths and butterflies.
Caterpillars are the larval stage of butterflies and moths, which are in the order Lepidoptera. They can range in size from about 1/4 inch to almost 4 inches long. Caterpillars can vary widely in color, pattern and shape depending on species.
These critters can be found feeding on plants throughout the year in the United States and Canada, though are most common during spring months. Unfortunately there are very few plants that caterpillars cannot eat.
While caterpillars can and do feed on a wide range of plants, some species have preferences for specific types of plants. Pestiferous caterpillars include the corn earworm (Helicoverpa zea), fall webworm (Hyphantria cunea), gypsy moth (Lymantria dispar) and tomato hornworm (Manduca quinquemaculata) are some of the more picky caterpillar species you might come across, though they’ll still dine on a wide enough variety of foliage to make them a havoc to your garden.
So, which types of plants are at the highest risk?
Many caterpillar species enjoy feeding on trees like the black-headed budworm (Acleris hastiana). The eastern tent caterpillar (Malacosoma americanum) and fall webworm feed on a wide range of landscape trees and shrubs, including crabapple, flowering cherry, birch, oak, elm, willow and apple.
Caterpillars also feed on a wide variety of garden vegetation like parsley, carrot, fennel, and dill.
But before you run to the store and invest in a good caterpillar spray, it’s important to make sure you do indeed have a caterpillar problem.
How to Identify Caterpillar Damage in Your Garden
Caterpillars have an insatiable appetite and will eat almost any type of foliage.
The first thing to do is look for visible damage. Each type of caterpillar has its own characteristic damage, but one or two basic signs will help you identify a particular type of caterpillar.
Here are some visual clues that caterpillars have been in your garden:
Caterpillars feed on leaves, flowers and fruit, but they also chew small holes in soft green stems. Look down into the center of your plants to spot these tiny holes and other damage not visible from above.
Holes In Leaves
Caterpillars eat big holes in leaves, flowers and fruit. Sometimes these holes are all you see. This damage is usually not fatal for established plants, but it can make young seedlings less vigorous or kill them outright.
Why Do I Have Caterpillars In My Garden?
Aside from a butterfly or moth laying eggs in your garden, there are other ways caterpillars may come to find themselves devouring your plants.
Are you wondering why you might have caterpillars in your garden?
Caterpillars tend to appear in our gardens when their natural food sources are not available, or if we’ve planted something new that they like to eat. They also benefit from the higher temperatures and the longer daylight hours of summer.
When caterpillars are still young and small, they can be almost impossible to spot. As they grow and become larger, their presence becomes more obvious.
What garden plants are caterpillars attracted to?
As we discussed above, caterpillars will eat most garden plants, but some popular caterpillar food includes:
- cabbages and cress
- carrots and parsnips
- lettuce and brussels sprouts
- potatoes and tomatoes
- peas and beans
The most effective way to control caterpillars is with natural methods, like using predators that include parasitic wasps and parasitoid flies. You can invite these insects to your garden using attractants or you can purchase them through specialist suppliers.
Other ways to control different caterpillar species could include hunting down their eggs, cocoons and pupae and disposing of them. For large infestations, you can apply a contact insecticide spray or dust for immediate relief.
What To Know Before Looking For Caterpillar Spray
It’s important to identify if you have a caterpillar problem and to look for the best sprays for the specific plants you are trying to protect.
There are a wide variety of caterpillar spray products on the market, and it can be difficult to know which one is right for you. It’s important to take a look at the ingredients used in caterpillar spray, and to understand their benefits and the effectiveness of these caterpillar spray products on your lawn or garden.
Caterpillar spray is an effective means of fighting caterpillars. Most sprays are made of a highly concentrated insecticide that uses a combination of chemical ingredients and natural oils to kill insects.
As the spray breaks down, it releases its deadly chemicals into the soil. The effectiveness of caterpillar spray depends on three things:
The type of insecticide used – If the caterpillar spray does not contain the proper amount of insecticide, then it will not be effective in killing the insects on your lawn or garden.
The quantity of insecticide used – Caterpillar sprays that use high concentrations of insecticide may kill all other insects living in your yard and garden as well as destroy plants growing there, so be aware of not only which type of insecticide you are using, but be aware of the concentration as well.
The application method – It is important to apply the caterpillar spray as directed on the label in order to get the best results possible.
Keep in mind that the best caterpillar spray should kill existing caterpillars and repel new ones from coming. It should also help destroy caterpillar eggs. The best caterpillar spray will also depend on the type of plants you want to protect.
For example, Bt caterpillar spray products work well on roses in flower beds but won’t kill caterpillars on the foliage of trees and shrubs.
It’s best to choose the product based on the specific types of plants you have and test the product on a small area first.
Types Of Caterpillar Spray
There are several products available to help control caterpillar populations in your gardens. These include sprays, gels, and granule applications that can be applied directly to plants or spread on the soil.
Sprays are effective against a broad range of pest insects, such as aphids and scale insects. They are also less likely to damage beneficial bugs because the spray kills them on contact rather than lingering for days after application like other methods might do.
If you’re looking for something more environmentally friendly than traditional chemical pesticides, there are always organic pest control products specifically for those passionate about organic gardening!
Regardless of what type of plant protection strategy you go with, make sure that it’s applied consistently throughout all seasons so there are no gaps where bugs could sneak through unnoticed. This way there won’t be any surprises later down the road when those pesky critters start eating up all your hard work!
How To Use Caterpillar Spray
Be sure you read the label of the spray you are using so you know how to use it properly.
Before applying the caterpillar spray to your entire garden, test it on a small area first. It’s possible that the pesticide could have an adverse reaction with some of your plants and you don’t want to risk ruining your entire garden by using a product that is incompatible.
Sometimes even the right product applied at the wrong time can harm your garden so it’s important to check out all information before applying full strength.
Make sure you’re using the right caterpillar spray for your plant type. For example, Bt works well on roses in flower beds but won’t kill caterpillars on the foliage of trees and shrubs. There are also other products that are specifically effective against certain types of caterpillars, such as tomato hornworms.
Before applying any kind of pesticide, always read the instructions carefully to make sure you apply it properly and safely.
First and foremost, you must choose the right product for the specific kind of plant you want to protect. Remember, you don’t want to spray your tomato plants with a product made specifically for roses. You can find this information on the label or by consulting a professional lawn care service who can also help apply these products if needed.
Finally, look for products that are effective against caterpillar eggs and those that will kill off caterpillars already present as well as repel future ones.
Best All-Purpose Caterpillar Spray
All purpose caterpillar sprays can help control caterpillars and other insects on a variety of different plants.
If you’re looking for an all-purpose spray to protect your garden this summer, here are a few strong choices:
- Garden Safe Brand Insecticidal Soap Insect Killer
- Wondercide Natural Outdoor Pest Control Spray for Yard and Perimeter with Ready-to-Use Hose End Sprayer
- Captain Jack’s Deadbug Brew Captain Jack’s Deadbug Brew is a concentrated formula that kills bagworms, borers, beetles, caterpillars, codling moth, gypsy moth, loopers, leaf miners, tent caterpillars, thrips and more.
Take a look!
Southern AG Thuricide BT Caterpillar Control
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Southern Ag Thuricide BT Caterpillar Control is a biological, microbial insecticide that controls worms and caterpillars. It works by killing caterpillars upon ingestion of the product.. To use this product, apply it when worms or caterpillars are first seen. Please note that larger larvae may require a second application.
For best results we suggest using at least one gallon of water for every 200 sq ft of area treated. The active ingredient in this product is Bacillus thuringiensis subspecies kurstaki (Btk), and it is safe to use on ornamentals, fruits, vegetables and lawns.
The product is designed to control a variety of pests, including armyworms, bagworms, cabbage loopers, corn earworms, cutworms, fall armyworms, gypsy moths, imported cabbage worms, leafrollers, sod webworms and more.
Captain Jack’s Dead Bug Brew
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Captain Jack’s Dead Bug Brew is another popular caterpillar spray you can use to protect your garden and lawn. This spray is made from pyrethrins, which is a natural insecticide found in chrysanthemum flowers.
Captain Jack’s Dead Bug Brew is considered an effective all purpose (and even organic) caterpillar control spray because it kills caterpillars and other insects on contact.
This is a product that comes in a concentrate, so you must dilute it with water. We like that it has a pleasant smell when applied, and that it can be safely used on on vegetables and fruit up to the day of harvest
Monterey Bacillus Worm & Caterpillar Killer
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Bacillus thuringiensis (Bt) is a bacterium that kills caterpillars and other insects on contact. Bt is also known as “the spray that saves the crops.” It’s used as a pesticide to protect both crops and domestic animals from insect damage.
While Bt is not an organic insecticide, it has been approved for use on organic farms, such as those that sell to organic certification programs.
In the United States, Bt is sold in several products including granular formulations for agricultural use, or liquid formulations for residential use and dust formulations for industrial use. These Bt products are commonly sold under the names “Monterey” or “Monterey Ultra.”
One of the most important steps when applying Bt to your garden is to know how much to use. The label on the product will tell you how much Bt will be contained in each gallon of solution.
You should always follow the directions and test the product first by spraying it at low or medium concentrations before using it at full strength — usually 30 or 40 gallons of solution per acre of crop.
Best Natural Caterpillar Spray
Natural caterpillar sprays may be ideal for those who are passionate about organic gardening.
While there are many chemical-based caterpillar control products available, organic gardeners or those with children and pets may prefer to look for a natural solution to kill or control these damaging pests.
The best natural caterpillar spray can come in a variety of forms and include a number of different natural ingredients.
Many natural caterpillar sprays include essential oils like peppermint oil or eucalyptus oil to repel caterpillars and other pests. These sprays may also include other plant-based ingredients and even natural chemical insecticides like Bt.
Not sure which type of natural caterpillar spray would be right for you? Here are a few of our favorites.
Wondercide Lawn And Garden Spray
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Wondercide EcoTreat Outdoor Pest Control Spray is an effective and safe caterpillar spray for your entire lawn and garden. It is an all natural pest repellent spray that we like as an alternative to chemical-based sprays as it can be used on gardens, lawns, flowers, trees and shrubs.
There is no spray and wait time with this product, meaning children and pets can continue to play in the yard immediately after the spray is applied.
Wondercide kills and repels a variety of insects including fleas, ticks, mosquitoes, ants, spiders, flies and more on contact. It is perfectly safe to use around kids and pets when applied as directed, as mentioned above, as it is made with cedar oil.
Cedar oil is a natural insect repellent for plants, making Wondercide an outdoor caterpillar spray that is safe for use on vegetables up to one day before harvest.
EcoTreat is made with naturally occurring ingredients in sustainable packaging and is never tested on animals. As with most pest control products, use it only as directed and keep it out of reach of children.
Garden Safe Pest Control
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Garden Safe HG-93078 Pest Control contains botanical insecticides for a ready-to-use pest control solution around veggies, roses, houseplants, ornamentals and more. The formula kills listed insect pests on contact outside the home and keeps protecting your yard and garden for up to 30 days, even after rain or watering.
This is a natural pest control spray that is made from plant-based ingredients and is safe for use around children and pets when used as directed.
Safer Brand Caterpillar Killer
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Safer Brand Caterpillar Killer is a highly effective organic insecticide that gives you the ability to protect your yard and garden from caterpillars without the use of harsh or potentially hazardous ingredients.
This concentrate can be easily applied with a tank sprayer for a variety of applications. It contains spinosad, which is a naturally occurring substance made from fermented bacteria that specifically targets caterpillars, yet it won’t harm beneficial insects like honey bees and earthworms when used as directed.
Safer Brand’s Caterpillar Killer RTS is OMRI Listed and compliant for use in organic gardening!
Summit Caterpillar and Webworm Control
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The Summit Caterpillar and Webworm Control is a highly effective caterpillar spray and works against tent caterpillars, webworms, gypsy moths, red humped caterpillars, evergreen bagworms and fall cankerworms. It can be used on fruit trees, shade trees, ornamentals and pine.
This caterpillar spray is easy to use as it has a convenient hose end sprayer that allows for an evenly applied spray from almost any angle. This allows you to reach all foliage, even plants beneath dense leaves. Its concentrated formula makes up to seven gallons of spray for maximum coverage.
The package contains complete directions for use and application instructions for optimal results.
Mighty Mint Peppermint Spray
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Mighty Mint Peppermint Spray is a caterpillar spray that is made with all natural ingredients and is effective against a number of insects and garden pests. It is completely safe to use around children and pets and includes non-toxic, organic ingredients.
We like that this caterpillar spray uses natural peppermint oil as an effective form of repellent, and it is perfect for those looking for a natural insect repellent that can be used both inside the home and outside.
Mighty Mint is effective pest control for patios, entryways, garden areas, yards, decks and more. For indoors, you can even use this spray on furniture and mattresses!
Home Remedies – How To Make Your Own Caterpillar Spray
Along with using traditional sprays to get rid of caterpillars, you can also use a number of household ingredients.
If you would prefer to use DIY methods when it comes to caterpillar spray, you’re in luck. There are several recipes and home products you can use to create a caterpillar spray that is effective.
Remember, you will want to use a spray that is concentrated. This way it is easier for you to make sure that you are spraying the plant thoroughly and with enough product that you are able to kill the caterpillars.
When using a homemade caterpillar spray, be sure you spray both the top and underside of the leaves. It may also be wise to spray in the evening as this is when caterpillars are most active.
Before using your homemade caterpillar spray, take a look at what plants in your garden have the most damage or the most severe damage. These plants should be sprayed first, as they are likely a favorite food source for any caterpillars in your garden.
Making your own organic pest spray is simple, and requires the use of ingredients from around the house that are often ont only effective, but also nontoxic and inexpensive.
Here is how to make your own concentrated caterpillar spray at home:
Fill a 1-gallon jug with water. Add 2 tsp. liquid soap or detergent per gallon of water for an effective caterpillar spray.
Stir the mixture thoroughly, and pour it into a handheld sprayer. Use 0.25 gallons of solution per plant and apply it only to the leaves and stems of the plant, not to its roots or flowers. Spray both sides of leaves thoroughly so that water drips from them, ensuring that all leaf surfaces are coated with your homemade caterpillar spray.
Apply your homemade caterpillar spray early in the morning or late in the evening when temperatures are cooler, so you don’t burn leaves by applying the mixture on hot days. Spraying during these times will also ensure you are spraying when caterpillars are most active.
Other Home Ingredients You Can Use To Protect Your Plants From Caterpillars
You can also try spraying your plants with a homemade solution of ground cayenne pepper and water. The hot pepper spray is an irritant to caterpillars and will cause them to stop eating the plant.
This is a great method to try if you don’t want to harm the caterpillars and simply wish to deter them or protect specific plants.
Garlic also works as a natural repellent for pests like caterpillars. Try mixing diced or ground garlic with water and spraying it on your plants. The strong scent and taste of garlic will repel not only caterpillars, but a number of other garden-destroying pests like rodents.
Last, try making a soap spray by mixing one ounce of soap in one gallon of water. Spray this on your plants while caterpillars are active to kill and repel them.
More DIY Ways To Keep Caterpillars At Bay Include:
Many plants are good for repelling pests like caterpillars. You can plant them in your garden or place them near the plants you want to protect. Some of these plants include but are not limited to:
- Mint (but mint is invasive, so it is not recommended)
When tomatoes, peppers, and other plants in your garden are beginning to grow, caterpillars can destroy them before they are even mature enough to eat. Luckily, there are many essential oils that repel caterpillars.
In order to make the best caterpillar spray, it’s important to use the most effective essential oils. The below list of essential oils is especially good at repelling caterpillars:
- Citronella oil
- Lemon eucalyptus oil
- Lavender oil
- Tea tree oil
- Peppermint oil
Other Methods For Caterpillar Control This Summer
Caterpillars may be an important part of our healthy ecosystem, but in large numbers they can be quite damaging.
In addition to knowing how to get rid of caterpillars in your garden and which types of caterpillar spray works best, it’s also important to know how to prevent a caterpillar infestation in the future.
Here are our expert tips:
- Plant certain herbs and vegetables that have strong smells. For example, marigolds and nasturtiums deter caterpillars.
- If you use mulch in your garden, don’t use too much of it; keep it away from plants that are vulnerable to caterpillar attacks. Mulch can be a place where they nest for the most effective results.
- Spray leaves with water early in the day; this may help get rid of some caterpillars by washing them off your plants.
- If you prefer not to use chemical pesticides, try using organic pesticides like neem oil or insecticidal soap for bad infestations.
And remember, caterpillars are a natural part of the life cycle of many plants and they are also an important part of our healthy ecosystem. Plus, who doesn’t love watching butterflies flutter around their garden?
Still, caterpillars can ruin a garden if you let them.
As caterpillars can be a nuisance it is important to know how to get rid of them, and we feel that one of the best ways to get rid of caterpillars is with a caterpillar spray. These types of products are not only easy to use, but they are also very effective in getting rid of these critters.
We hope that this article has been a helpful guide on the best caterpillar spray for your yard and garden! If you have any questions or comments regarding the products or methods listed above, please do not hesitate to leave them below!
Thanks for reading!
Jack founded our blog after two decades of working in the pest control industry. His vast experience dealing with a wide array of pests allows him to diagnose issues quickly and get to the heart of pest problems quickly and effectively. He has serviced more than 2,000 homes over his career and there is hardly any pest situation that he has not seen before.