ArtsAutosBooksBusinessEducationEntertainmentFamilyFashionFoodGamesGenderHealthHolidaysHomeHubPagesPersonal FinancePetsPoliticsReligionSportsTechnologyTravel

Garden Tips from The Micro Farm Project: Natural Caterpillar Control

Updated on January 16, 2014


Has this ever happened to you?...Things are growing beautifully in the garden, and then BAM! All your leaves look like lace?

Holes in the middle of vegetable leaves signal the arrival of caterpillars, the not-so-lovely offspring of butterflies and moths. They eat ravenously and grow at lightening speed, and are sometimes able to take down an entire plant in a day or two. BUT, they are not all bad.

If you garden naturally without commercial pesticides, you will have a few of these critters hanging around your garden periodically.The holes that they chew, while disturbing, signal to the plant that it must fortify itself against an invader.This self-preservation response increases the amount of phytochemicals that the plant produces, and the more phytochemicals that are contained in the leaves and fruits, the healthier and better tasting they will be for YOU!

As a side note, I don’t mind eating a leaf with a hole in it.I conclude that if it was safe, healthy and tasty for a caterpillar, it will be the same for me! Perfect greens are suspicious; they make me wonder what chemicals might have been used to prevent imperfections.

However, that doesn't mean that I give my garden over to the caterpillars for their own personal salad bar. NO! Here's what to do if you spot holes in your vegetable leaves.


1. The first step is to find the offenders. Inspect the stems and turn the leaves over and look for caterpillars and small caterpillar eggs. Brush off the eggs and squish any caterpillars that you are able to find. Check carefully...they are very good at blending in.

2. If you see damage, but can't find the caterpillars, look for frass, the technical term for caterpillar poop. It looks like very small balls that are black or dark brown. The dots on my hand are frass. The frass may be located below a caterpillar...or the critter may have eaten, pooped and moved on.

3. To prevent butterflies and moths from landing on leaves and laying eggs that turn into hungry caterpillars, drape tulle netting (wedding veil material) over the tops of the plants so that it touches the ground.

4. If you want to deter caterpillar naturally, use an organic neem oil or insecticidal soap. Bacillus Thuringiensis (BT) is an OMRI approved treatment that will eradicate caterpillars, but it is pricey and generally not necessary. However, if you feel that you must treat your plants, use BT sparingly according to the directions on the package. BT is a living organism, so it does not last forever on the shelf.

Share your tips for caterpillar control. Do you have a sure-fire technique? What is your preference: manual control or chemical?

    0 of 8192 characters used
    Post Comment
    • paulahite profile image

      Paula Hite 

      4 years ago from Virginia

      Great ideas! I featured your lens on our Facebook page today.

    • Lynda Makara profile image

      Lynda Makara 

      4 years ago from California

      All I can say is EWWW! So that's what's been eating my plants.

    • profile image


      4 years ago

      I'm just reading and learning for now...looking to the day when I can micro-garden.

    • profile image


      4 years ago

      Excellent advice here! Thanks!


    This website uses cookies

    As a user in the EEA, your approval is needed on a few things. To provide a better website experience, uses cookies (and other similar technologies) and may collect, process, and share personal data. Please choose which areas of our service you consent to our doing so.

    For more information on managing or withdrawing consents and how we handle data, visit our Privacy Policy at:

    Show Details
    HubPages Device IDThis is used to identify particular browsers or devices when the access the service, and is used for security reasons.
    LoginThis is necessary to sign in to the HubPages Service.
    Google RecaptchaThis is used to prevent bots and spam. (Privacy Policy)
    AkismetThis is used to detect comment spam. (Privacy Policy)
    HubPages Google AnalyticsThis is used to provide data on traffic to our website, all personally identifyable data is anonymized. (Privacy Policy)
    HubPages Traffic PixelThis is used to collect data on traffic to articles and other pages on our site. Unless you are signed in to a HubPages account, all personally identifiable information is anonymized.
    Amazon Web ServicesThis is a cloud services platform that we used to host our service. (Privacy Policy)
    CloudflareThis is a cloud CDN service that we use to efficiently deliver files required for our service to operate such as javascript, cascading style sheets, images, and videos. (Privacy Policy)
    Google Hosted LibrariesJavascript software libraries such as jQuery are loaded at endpoints on the or domains, for performance and efficiency reasons. (Privacy Policy)
    Google Custom SearchThis is feature allows you to search the site. (Privacy Policy)
    Google MapsSome articles have Google Maps embedded in them. (Privacy Policy)
    Google ChartsThis is used to display charts and graphs on articles and the author center. (Privacy Policy)
    Google AdSense Host APIThis service allows you to sign up for or associate a Google AdSense account with HubPages, so that you can earn money from ads on your articles. No data is shared unless you engage with this feature. (Privacy Policy)
    Google YouTubeSome articles have YouTube videos embedded in them. (Privacy Policy)
    VimeoSome articles have Vimeo videos embedded in them. (Privacy Policy)
    PaypalThis is used for a registered author who enrolls in the HubPages Earnings program and requests to be paid via PayPal. No data is shared with Paypal unless you engage with this feature. (Privacy Policy)
    Facebook LoginYou can use this to streamline signing up for, or signing in to your Hubpages account. No data is shared with Facebook unless you engage with this feature. (Privacy Policy)
    MavenThis supports the Maven widget and search functionality. (Privacy Policy)
    Google AdSenseThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Google DoubleClickGoogle provides ad serving technology and runs an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Index ExchangeThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    SovrnThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Facebook AdsThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Amazon Unified Ad MarketplaceThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    AppNexusThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    OpenxThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Rubicon ProjectThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    TripleLiftThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Say MediaWe partner with Say Media to deliver ad campaigns on our sites. (Privacy Policy)
    Remarketing PixelsWe may use remarketing pixels from advertising networks such as Google AdWords, Bing Ads, and Facebook in order to advertise the HubPages Service to people that have visited our sites.
    Conversion Tracking PixelsWe may use conversion tracking pixels from advertising networks such as Google AdWords, Bing Ads, and Facebook in order to identify when an advertisement has successfully resulted in the desired action, such as signing up for the HubPages Service or publishing an article on the HubPages Service.
    Author Google AnalyticsThis is used to provide traffic data and reports to the authors of articles on the HubPages Service. (Privacy Policy)
    ComscoreComScore is a media measurement and analytics company providing marketing data and analytics to enterprises, media and advertising agencies, and publishers. Non-consent will result in ComScore only processing obfuscated personal data. (Privacy Policy)
    Amazon Tracking PixelSome articles display amazon products as part of the Amazon Affiliate program, this pixel provides traffic statistics for those products (Privacy Policy)