What do we do About These Caterpillars?

What do we do about these darn caterpillars?

Hopefully I have some info to help you out! First of all, it’s very important to know that the little buggers won’t actually kill your plants. They defoliate the plant by eating the leaves, and leave it looking bare and sad, but they don’t actually kill it! It’s very important to make sure you keep the infested plant otherwise healthy (proper watering and feeding regimen) so that the plant isn’t opened up to disease or a different pest that actually WILL kill it.

How do I get rid of them?

A very good question! There are products available for purchase that are extremely effective against controlling the critters. Namely, “BTK” (Bacillus thuringiensis var Kurstaki) is an insecticide that is effective against all types of caterpillars and worms, and can even be sprayed on your edible plants 24 hours before consumption. Another great product is “Tanglefoot”, an all-natural paste made up of ingredients such as gum resins, vegetable oil and wax. By spreading a continuous band around your tree or other plant you’d like to protect, the sticky paste will stop climbing insects in their tracks.

I can’t find either of those anywhere!

Gypsy moth caterpillars have been very bad in our area in the past couple of years, and as such, everyone is looking for these products because they are very effective against them. There are a few things, though, that you can do without these products to at least lessen the threat of the crawlies. First, wrapping trees in duct tape with the sticky side out is a way to stop them from making their way back up in a similar fashion to tanglefoot, but you also run the risk of getting other critters stuck that you don’t want to be trapped on your trees. Another method is to pick them off of your plants (if they’re small enough) and drown them in a bucket of soapy water. Another method is to wrap burlap sacks around your trees, this again works similarly to Tanglefoot, where they get stuck in the sack and can’t find their way out. Once every few days or so, remove the sack and dunk it into a bucket of soapy water to drown them.

Hopefully this was able to ease your mind a bit about the caterpillars. They are a nasty, invasive species that can cause a lot of harm to the environment, so anything you do to help mitigate the problem is definitely worth it.

June 11, 2021 — Gavin Riley