There is a fine line between the beauty of the sight and crop failures and ruined flower and vegetable beds. Because many hobby gardeners enjoy the colorful butterflies in the garden in summer. But these and many other insects lay their eggs in the garden plants from which the voracious caterpillars arise. And so it can quickly lead to a caterpillar infestation, which can be combated with various means. The chemical club should not always be used directly if baldness is observed. But there are also many home and natural remedies that help against the caterpillars.


  • many different types of caterpillars
  • can be a few millimeters
  • can also be up to 15 cm long
  • often hairy
  • usually have eight pairs of legs
  • six point eyes on each side of the head
  • Colors can be very diverse
  • from simple green to black and yellow to brown with dots
  • pupate after a while
  • usually herbivores

Recognize caterpillar infestation

The pests can appear in the garden from April to September, this is often also dependent on the weather, because if a spring is cold and rainy, the butterflies and other insect species do not lay their eggs on the leaves of plants until later in the summer, from which the voracious pests then Hatch. Caterpillars are found on almost all plants in nature, not only vegetables are affected by caterpillar infestation, flowers, fruit trees and even hedges and bushes can show signs of being eaten. As a rule, when they lay their eggs, the butterflies and the hatched caterpillars are then specialized in one type of plant and then do not spread to neighboring plants of another variety. A caterpillar infestation on one or more plants is recognized by the following characteristics:

  • Leaves are pitted or eroded
  • often only the leaf veins remain
  • this goes relatively quickly in the event of an infestation
  • are very voracious
  • below the plant there are small black “balls”
  • this is caterpillar droppings
  • usually hide under the leaves
  • not easy to spot depending on the color of the caterpillars

Tip: Even if you have not yet discovered a caterpillar on your plant, eaten leaves and caterpillar droppings will show up under the plant on the ground, then there is clearly an infestation. The caterpillars usually hide well. Some are green in color that doesn’t distinguish them from the leaves of the plant.


Preventive measures are always useful. Especially when it is already known from previous years which of the butterflies and thus also caterpillars can be found in your own garden. Since mostly only one type of plant is used by the various butterflies and insects to lay eggs, preventive countermeasures can be taken here. The following preventive measures can be applied in the various areas:

  • Cover vegetable patches, especially cabbage, with cultivation nets
  • wrap the crowns in a net even in the case of eastern trees
  • attach glue rings to endangered trees
  • so the pests cannot migrate from the bottom up
  • Create a near-natural flower and kitchen garden
  • give so many birds the opportunity to nest
  • Plant garlic in the beds between flowers and vegetables
  • Other odorous herbs can also help here

Butterflies have a problem targeting the one desired and preferred plant in order to lay their eggs when there are many other smells around them. For example, planting many different herbs in a mixed bed in the kitchen garden as well as in the flowerbed is a good choice to keep the butterflies from laying their eggs on the plants they prefer. It also looks nice when various fragrant herbs, which also bloom beautifully in summer, are planted between the flowers in the bed. In the vegetable garden, on the other hand, it is especially helpful to plant garlic plants, for example right next to the cabbages, which also give off an intense smell.

Tip: If glue rings are attached to fruit trees, then the green specimens should be used here. Otherwise, small useful insects could stick to the white rings, which are also commercially available.


The first option, if a caterpillar infestation has been discovered on a few plants, is to collect them. To do this, the entire infected plant must be carefully examined, as the pests can be anywhere here. The caterpillars can then be placed in a container and released in a nearby forest so that they can pupate into beautiful butterflies. But the caterpillars can also be used as fresh bird feed, for example when a blackbird has brooded in its own garden and has to look after its offspring. Then the collected pests can be provided as food in a high bowl near the bird’s nest. If the caterpillar infestation is very large, special vacuum cleaners can also be borrowed from well-stocked gardening shops, which can be used to vacuum the plants. Gloves should always be worn when collecting, as it is often uncomfortable to touch the small, slippery or hairy large herbivores with your bare hands. When collecting, you should therefore proceed as follows:

  • lift every single sheet
  • the larvae like to sit under the leaves
  • also examine the stems as a whole
  • look very carefully, especially with very small animals
  • the droppings show the way of the animals
  • in large plants, therefore, look more often over the excretions

Tip: Anyone who knows a little about which caterpillar species belong to which native butterflies, which are unfortunately threatened with extinction, should definitely release the collected animals in a nearby forest or an uncultivated piece of land so that the preservation of this species can be guaranteed .

Home remedies

Many home remedies can be used against the pesky pests. Unfortunately, not every species of caterpillar reacts in the same way to the various home remedies. A caterpillar species can be driven away with the smell of tobacco, but another species is not interested in this smell. It is precisely with this application that the various home remedies have to be tried out. If one remedy does not help within a few days, another should be used. This includes:

  • Spread tobacco and ash on the infected, moistened plants
  • Also distribute the garlic powder on the plants
  • Algae lime, simply sprinkle over the plants
  • Rinse the plant with high water pressure
  • do not use on delicate plants
  • Apply lubricating or core soap
  • Dissolve this in water and spray the plant

Tip: Before fighting a caterpillar infestation, you should find out which butterfly or moth species it could be. Because of the species protection law, some butterfly species are protected in the local latitudes because they are threatened with extinction. Therefore, prevention always makes more sense than fighting an infestation that has occurred.

Fight with parasitic wasps

Another good way to sensibly combat the voracious plant inhabitants is the use of parasitic wasps, which are a natural enemy that is not easy to lure into the garden. Therefore, the well-stocked gardening trade offers parasitic wasp cultures that are simply released on the affected plants or the affected garden bed. The wasps use the larvae of butterflies or moths to lay their own eggs. You should proceed as follows:

  • release as soon as the parasitic wasps have been acquired
  • are usually delivered as dolls
  • then hatch at their place of use
  • Ideally in the immediate vicinity of the infested plants
  • Ichneumon wasps do not grow to be more than one to three millimeters in size
  • look like flying ants

Tip: The term “wasp” is misleading here. Because the ichneumon wasps do not target people and neither do they sting. It is therefore safe to release these animals in a busy area of ​​the garden.

Attract birds

Since the voracious pests are natural and good bird food, a near-natural garden area can be created, where many native bird species are offered nesting places. This is the most natural way to combat a caterpillar infestation. Because when the birds breed in the garden and the chicks hatch, father and mother animals usually need a lot of food in the immediate vicinity. In this way, all plants are quickly freed from the annoying predators. When creating such a garden, the following should be followed:

  • offer many nesting sites
  • hang some together in a round
  • Starlings, for example, are very sociable
  • other birds are solitary
  • to do this, hang up individual nesting boxes at a greater distance
  • hang them up with the entry holes facing east
  • no strong sunlight
  • Hang up protected from martens and cats
  • lots of hedges, bushes and tall flowers as additional shelter
  • Feed birds all year round to attract them

In addition, hedges can be created in which the birds can find berries for food, but in which they can also find shelter. These include privet, eucoat, rowanberry or hawthorn. Native bird species such as great or blue tit, robin, starling or black redstart feed on beetles, spiders, caterpillars and other insects over the summer, so that these birds are both a prevention and control of an infestation existing infestation when they have moved into your own garden.

Tip: Birds love near-natural gardens, if they are given the appropriate nesting opportunities, then they will be happy to move in. The effect is great, because not only can a caterpillar infestation be fought with the domestic birds, many other pests are also eagerly ingested by the birds. The young birds in particular need a lot of protein, which the insects supply to a large extent.

Chemical means as a last resort

Chemical clubs from the trade should only be used as the very last measure, because they not only harm the voracious animals, but also the plants, such as vegetables or fruit that are still to be consumed, are chemically contaminated in this way. There are two remedies in well-stocked gardening shops that can be used against severe caterpillar infestation:

  • Bacilius thuringiensis bacterium
  • works against young caterpillars
  • Harmless to other garden visitors and insects
  • Means for injecting pyrethrum or prethrins
  • helps with older caterpillars
  • can also harm other insects
  • is a neurotoxic contact poison

Corresponding insecticides are often used as a preventive measure to keep cabbage whites out of a vegetable patch. However, these have lost their effectiveness over the decades, as the moths have already become resistant to this type of control. It can therefore be the case, if a preventive action is to be taken with insecticides against an infestation of cabbage whites, but caterpillars are nevertheless found on the cabbage plants.

Tip: If the chemical clubs are used, you should pay close attention to the manufacturer’s instructions. Too much does not usually help any better. Even if children or free-range pets are in the vicinity of the beds, these agents should be avoided entirely, as well as if the caterpillar infestation shows up in a kitchen garden.

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