General gardening topics

10 Organic ways to stop caterpillars eating your plants

Last updated on September 6th, 2021

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If you’ve ever thought a caterpillar wasn’t a threat to your garden, you were wrong. Caterpillars might seem cute, but while they prepare to turn into a butterfly, they destroy entire plants finding energy. A single caterpillar can grow exponentially in a given week, surviving off your garden plants. In fact, if you don’t check your garden daily, you might not notice the damage to your tomatoes or cabbage and many other plants until it’s too late. 

So, what can you do to get rid of these critters before they eat your entire plant, but without using pesticides or chemicals? Below are 10 organic ways to remove your pesky caterpillar problem. 

Before we get into it, some of the measures include mixing organic sprays. With all sprays with highly recommend spraying a small part of the plant first and leaving it for a couple of days. If everything in fine and the plant has not been affected negatively, then spray the rest of the plant.

Organic ways to stop caterpillars

1. Spray plants with soap and water

Start with regular soap and water. If you dissolve organic liquid soap in a container of warm water, then spray it on the affected plants it will make the surface of your plants slippery so that they won’t be able to walk on it and eat your plants. So don’t worry–it won’t harm them, just force them to look elsewhere for nourishment.

2. Bacillus thuringiensis 

This is a natural bacteria that exists in your soil. It has a protein in it which, to soft pests like caterpillars, is highly toxic. This will paralyze their digestive system and force them to stop eating. It is toxic to caterpillars, but for humans, good insects, and animals it is completely safe. And don’t worry about using it in your garden with produce; just wash your produce before you eat it.

*Tip: Make sure you get Bacillus thuringiensis that is organic and labelled thusly by the Organic Materials Research Institute.

3. Make garlic and pepper spray

You can make a potent mixture not just for dinner, but for pests. A mixture of 1 tablespoon dried red pepper flakes with 1 whole onion-minced, 1 teaspoon of soap and one gallon of water, should be blended well. Let the mixture remain for 24 hours, to really allow the contents to bind with one another. After that, you can fill a spray bottle and tackle any hungry caterpillars. 

*Tip: This mixture works well on worms or aphids as well, so you can make a large mixture and save it for any pest problems like these throughout the season. 

4. Mix some chili spray

You can make a similar mixture that is a chilli spray to ward them off as well. On the stove, boil ½ gallon of water with 3.5 ounces of dried, ground chillies for five minutes. Remove it from heat and mix ½ gallon of cold water with 3 drops of organic liquid soap. Stir the mixture and allow it to cool for a few minutes. 

*Tip: With this, you should run a test. Place a small amount of a leaf or two of the affected plants. If there are no adverse effects for your plants within 24 hours, then you can fill a spray bottle and apply it as needed to the entire plant. 

5. Make your spray using vinegar

Vinegar will naturally deter many pests, caterpillars included. A mixture of 4 litres of water with 2 tablespoons of vinegar is all you need. Spray it on the affected plants and it will keep away the caterpillars. 

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*Tip: If you have a snail or slug problem, spray vinegar directly onto the pests and in its raw form it will kill them.

6. Neem oil – use with care

Neem oil acts as a natural pesticide to ward off caterpillars and similar tomato worms like the horned worm. This method should be used in small amounts as they can prove harmful to beneficial bugs as well. To do this, dilute a very small amount of neem oil, no more than 2 ounces, into a gallon of water. Mix it well and apply it to the affected in the late afternoon. 

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7. Encourage birds into your garden

Choosing the right bird box for the right type of birds

Another option is to bring a natural predator into the mix, figuratively. Birds eat caterpillars, so you can place a bird feeder or birdhouse near the affected plants and let the birds naturally reduce your caterpillar population. 

You can also introduce chickens into your garden. They will wander about and eat all the caterpillars for you. 

Learn more about how to attract birds into your garden

*Warning: If the caterpillar problem is on your fruit trees, avoid this method as it draws more birds to your fruit too. 

8. Grow plants for the caterpillars

Just as you can introduce birds as natural predators, you can introduce new plants that naturally repel caterpillars. These include sage, mugwort, peppermint, and lavender. All of these will strongly repel caterpillars. Of course, you also get the benefit of delightfully smelling plants and some can even be used when cooking. 

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9. Burlap

You can wrap your trunks with burlap and it will encourage the caterpillars to crawl under the burlap for shade during the heat of the day. This is, in effect, a trap as the purpose is to give a large infestation of caterpillars a place to hide when it is hot, and then once they are hidden, you can move them or kill them by hand. 

10. Cover plants with fine mesh netting

Finally, you can give your plants a cover with thin mesh to prevent caterpillars from getting onto them or more importantly stop the butterflies that lay their eggs on your plants. This prevents the bugs from making direct contact, eating, or subsequently laying eggs which begets more caterpillars. 

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While these organic measures will help remove the caterpillars, it is in your best interest to keep them out. Preventative measures include keeping an eye out for eggs and disposing of them when you find them, making sure you don’t have lights in the garden that encourage moths to land and lay eggs, and making sure any infestation is done away with immediately.

Last update on 2022-01-14 / Affiliate links / Images from Amazon Product Advertising API

Welcome to my site, my name is John and I have been lucky enough to work in horticultural nurseries for over 15 years in the UK. As the founder and editor as well as researcher, I have a City & Guilds Horticultural Qualifications which I proudly display on our About us page. I now work full time on this website where I review the very best gardening products and tools and write reliable gardening guides. Behind this site is an actual real person who has worked and has experience with the types of products we review as well as years of knowledge on the topics we cover from actual experience. You can reach out to me at

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