With very few exceptions, caterpillars are rarely welcome guests in gardens. They are the larvae of moths and butterflies, but they can cause problems for your plants. These bugs eat the fruits and vegetables in your garden. Check out which caterpillars can be harmful to your plants.
Most armyworm species are the larvae of moths. There are several types of armyworms including fall, beet, and yellow-striped armyworms. These pests have one thing in common—they can march into your garden and eat your plants and grass. They eat a variety of plants like beets, cabbage, carrots, and peas. Armyworms range in color from green to black, and many have stripes. Unless treated, armyworms will develop into adult moths.
2. Cabbage Loopers
Cabbage looper larvae are green caterpillars with white lines on their body. They are about 1½" in length. They crawl in a looping motion. Adults are grayish-brown moths. Cabbage loopers prefer cabbage, broccoli, kale, and cauliflower. Their feeding can cause small holes on outer plant leaves. They can also cause stunted plant growth.
3. Cabbage Worms
Cabbage worms are the larvae of cabbage white butterflies. These caterpillars are green with yellow stripes. They are about 1" in length. These pests feed on plants like cabbage, brussels sprouts, cauliflower, broccoli, and kale. They leave behind holes in leaves. When they attack seedlings, they can cause significant damage including stunted growth.
4. Codling Moths
Codling moth larvae can cause problems in your garden. They are cream-colored caterpillars that infest apples and pears. Not only do they feed on leaves, the larvae also tunnel into fruit. If these pests attack your plants, they can make your fruit inedible. Larvae are about ½" in length, and adult codling moths are light grayish-brown and about 3/8". Control of this pest can be difficult because they do most of their damage inside fruit.
5. Corn Earworms
Corn earworms are the larvae of moths and a big threat to sweet corn production. These pests feed on the corn. They start with the silk and move toward the ear. It is very difficult to control these pests, especially when they have made their way into the ears of corn. Corn earworms vary in color from green, brown, pink, black, and yellow. They are about 2" in length and have a dark stripe on their body.
Pickleworms are the larvae of pickleworm moths. These pests are white with gray or black spots. They feed on cucumbers, pumpkins, squash, and cantaloupes. They chew holes in produce and tunnel into plants. This can cause fruit to rot. It also makes plants more susceptible to diseases. If these pests infest vines, it prevents the plant from growing.
7. Tomato Hornworms
Tomato hornworm caterpillars are large, measuring between 4"-5". When they’re smaller, they are usually white or yellow without markings. As they develop, they feature “V” shaped markings on their green bodies. These caterpillars have a dark “horn” protruding from the back of their body. Tomato hornworms overwinter as pupae and emerge as adult moths in spring. These pests prefer tomatoes but will also attack potatoes, peppers, and eggplant.
The cecropia caterpillar is a spiky, colorful bug. They are the larvae of cecropia moths. These caterpillars are bright green and about 4" in length. They feature soft, harmless spikes with blue, yellow, and red orbs. These caterpillars don’t pose a threat to vegetables, but keep an eye out for them on your apple and cherry trees, as well as on your maple and birch leaves.
How to Get Rid of Caterpillars
When hungry caterpillars attack your plants, you need a simple and effective solution. Our plant-based 3-in-1 Garden Spray kills caterpillars and other garden pests on contact and provides residual repellency helping to protect your plants. It is also effective at preventing and controlling fungal diseases including powdery mildew, black spot, leaf spot, rust, and blight. You can spray your flowers, houseplants, shrubs, vegetables, fruits, herbs, and other ornamental plants.
We specialize in killing bugs, but we're all about keeping things "greener" and can help you keep your plants healthy and strong! For scientifically-tested, effective solutions for your home and garden that are friendly to the environment, try Maggie’s Farm pest control products. Our promise is that our plant and mineral-based products are developed by scientists and seasoned pest and fungus control professionals to be the most effective.