Caterpillar is the common name for the larvae of members of the order Lepidoptera, the insect order comprising of butterflies and moths. Depending of their specie, they are herbivorous, insectivorous, or even cannibalistic. Due to being voracious feeders, caterpillars are known as some of the most dangerous agricultural pests, as they can cause much damage to crops, by eating the leaves of the plants with quite the speed.
Depending on the crops, the species of caterpillars that affect them differ as well. As a defense mechanism, plants have evolved and developed mechanisms of resistance to being eaten by caterpillars, including the evolution of chemical toxins and physical barriers such as hairs. However, the caterpillars have learnt to adapt to their host plant, and regarding some pesticides, they have also become resistant.
These approaches are defeated over time by the evolution of resistance mechanisms in the insects, and this is what makes these pests some of the most feared when it comes to agricultural development.
How to prevent caterpillar infestation in your garden and yard
Caterpillars are the larvae of moths and butterflies. There are several different kinds of caterpillars and just as many different ways to prevent caterpillars. We can touch on some of them here, but not all! Advertisement If you want to stop caterpillars, you should know what kind of caterpillars you are dealing with. There is no sense thinking about how to get rid of caterpillars before you know what you are dealing with, as they can attack different types of crops and the treatment you use might also damage these while killing the caterpillars.
A way of preventing caterpillars is using cardboard and placing it around the base of all your plants, as it will slow them down from reaching their next meal. Cutworms live below the soil surface and eat through seedlings’ stems during the night, so by using this method, you can avoid getting your freshly seeded plants get eaten.
The timing with which you plant your garden helps to prevent caterpillars. Taking care of a healthy garden will make it grow quickly and strongly. If you plant your garden early and make sure your plants are fertilized, you have every chance of avoiding a caterpillar infestation. Covering plants with translucent fabric is a good way to protect your plants, especially your cabbages against the cabbage moth caterpillar. The fabrics form a barrier, keeping moths from landing on crops and laying eggs in the first place and reduce the risk of caterpillar growth. Since most fall vegetables are grown for their leaves or their roots and do not require pollination, covering them with fabrics does not reduce yields.
Some people hand-pick the caterpillars off of their plants, however, this is quite an inefficient move, as new larvae will hatch and take the place of the ones gathered.
As a preemptive measure, you can also rake up and remove all of the fallen leaves and debris around your plants each fall. This will help to keep the caterpillar population under control. Check the leaves on the plants for caterpillar eggs, no matter of what kind of caterpillar you are dealing with, throughout the growing season. Be sure to check both the tops and bottoms of the leaves carefully.
Placing mugwort, sage, thyme, rosemary, or peppermint around affected plants may remedy some caterpillar problems. These strongly scented herbs will help disguise the creature’s favorite foods so that they head elsewhere for dinner.
Should you prefer not to use pesticides to get rid of the caterpillars in your garden and yard, you can encourage birds to make their home in your yard. If you have a type of crop that will not be negatively influenced by the presence of more birds, you can set out a bird feeder to encourage birds to visit your garden.
Caterpillar hair can be a cause of human health problems. Caterpillar hairs sometimes have venoms in them and species from approximately 12 families of moths or butterflies worldwide can inflict serious human injuries ranging from urticarial dermatitis and atopic asthma to renal failure, or intracerebral hemorrhage. This becomes a particular problem in an indoor setting, as strands of hair can easily enter buildings through ventilation systems and accumulate in indoor environments because of their small size, which makes it difficult for them to be vented out.
Whether you are trying to prevent a caterpillar swarm from developing or you are already dealing with a caterpillar infestation, be careful in how you handle them, the insecticide you use, and the crops that have already been affected.