Caterpillars are not only a real nuisance in vegetable gardens, but they can do a lot of damage in a short amount of time. Caterpillars are common and usually easy to eliminate. If the leaves in your vegetable garden appear to have been chewed on or if the vegetables look misshapen, there are probably caterpillars present. These pests will be most easy to see in the early morning or late afternoon.
Inspect your vegetable garden in the early morning or late in the day and physically remove any caterpillars from leaves, stems or vegetables. Collect the caterpillars in a container, such as a cup or glass jar.
Relocate the caterpillars at least 200 yards from your vegetable garden and dump the caterpillars out of the container to release them.
Eliminate the caterpillars completely by soaking them in soapy water to kill them. If you do not have a lot of space, this may be the best option to keep them from returning to your garden. Use a mixture of mild dish soap and water.
Wrap the base of plants with cardboard or sticky bands to deter caterpillars.
Egg and Small Caterpillar Removal
Spray affected plants with bacillus thuringiensis, an organic and safe bacterial agent to kill larvae and small caterpillars. This organic chemical may be mixed with water and is safe for many mammals, birds and insects.
Release trichogramma wasp parasites into your garden. These tiny insects will eat the caterpillar eggs before they can hatch. Trichogramma wasp parasites may be ordered online or bought in garden specialty stores. The parasite eggs are attached to small cardboard squares with holes in them and the squares may be placed on plant branches.
Cut back badly affected foliage. This will save the plant energy and promote growth of healthy areas.
Keep your garden clean and free of debris. Pull out dead plants or foliage on a regular basis and, at the end of each season, turn the dirt and remove any diseased plants so that soil does not become infected.
About this Author
J.D. Chi is a professional journalist who has covered sports for more than 20 years at newspapers all over the United States. She has covered major golf tournaments and the NFL as well as travel and health topics. Chi received her Bachelor of Arts in professional writing from Carnegie Mellon University and is working toward a master's degree in journalism.