Caterpillars: An Earth-Wise Guide

Caterpillars can be found year-round but are most prevalent in spring and fall; some types are specific to a season while others complete more than one life cycle per year.

Below you will find a visual guide of both beneficial and pest-like caterpillars, accompanied by some methods of naturally warding off the ‘bad’ guys.

Pest Caterpillars





Butterfly Larva

MONARCH Butterfly Larva

SWALLOWTAIL Butterfly Larva

FRITILLARY Butterfly Larva

Least Toxic Solutions

  • Monitor infestations of very young caterpillars to see if natural controls like predators, parasitic wasps or harsh weather will eliminate infestation

  • Do not treat native trees; infestations

  • For butterfly gardening enthusiasts, expect some caterpillar damage – caterpillars are the larval stage of butterflies (see photos below)

  • Egg masses and groups of caterpillars found on trees or branches can be removed by hand or pruned out of the tree and destroyed

  • Dislodge young (small) tent caterpillars with high-pressure water sprays or open web with a broom to allow parasitic wasps easier access

  • Release parasitic wasps when caterpillars first appear

  • Use row covers -they are an effective barrier in vegetable gardens

  • Encourage wasp and fly parasites which often attack caterpillars (see Beneficial Insects fact sheet for details)

  • Treat young caterpillars with a product containing Bacillus thuringiensis (B.t.), but do not use near butterfly gardens

  • Hand-pick caterpillars from plants and drop in a bucket of soapy water

If You Must Use a Pesticide…

  • Avoid applying broad-spectrum pesticides -they destroy beneficial insects as well as pests and leave trees or shrubs unprotected if pests return

  • Apply only to plants specified on the label – some formulations can injury tender ornamental plants and new growth

  • Mix according to directions and apply only recommended dosage

  • Avoid systemic pesticides on vegetables and edible plants. Systemic pesticides are taken up by the plant and make its tissues and fluids toxic tofeeding caterpillars

  • Non-systemic pesticides must be applied to all infested plant surfaces for best results because they must come into direct contact with the insects

  • Avoid overuse of chemicals-many pests have become resistant to certain pesticides are natural and rarely threaten tree health unless tree is stressed or weakened




Content and copyright permission generousy granted by: 
Austin Grow Green: www.growgreen.orgwho works in close association with:
Texas AgriLife Extension Service:  http://agrilifeextension.tamu.edu
(Visited 193 times, 1 visits today)

Categorised in: , , , , ,

This post was written by Marjory

Leave a Reply

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.