How to identify and protect your garden from Caterpillars

27.04.18 11:54 PM Comment(s) By Admin

In our previous blogs, we threw some light on aphids and mealybugs, which cause damage by sucking the juice from the plant tissues. Today we will learn about one of the usual insect favourites – Caterpillars. They are fascinating, intriguing and full of mystery.

Insects are the largest group of animals which constitute about 75% of all living organisms. Though they belong to the same class Insecta; each insect is different from one another and can cause crop loss of varying extents, from 0 -100%.

All pests do not cause crop loss; they have specific host plant range they prefer to feed and breed on. Many insects are beneficial (Ex. honey bees help in pollination of crops) in our environment and helps in bringing a balance to the ecosystem. So, as we try to control insects, it is ideal to know the insects, type of mouthparts they possess, kind of damage they can cause, and methods of remedies to be applied because all the insects are not pests.


Let us familiarize ourselves with Caterpillars. What are caterpillars, kind of damage they cause and how to tackle them in our gardens? Caterpillars belong to the order Lepidoptera, which are usually larvae of the moths and butterflies. They have cylindrical body shape with varied colours, but typically green that makes it difficult to spot them against the green background of the leaf. There are about 11,000 different species in this order.

Common caterpillar species

The common ones found in household gardens can be classified based on their feeding style and the damage they incur. These are:

    Caption Goes Here


    Make entry into the plant by boring the tissues.

    Caption Goes Here

    Leaf Rollers

    Rolls or ties the leaves around them while feeding.

    Foliage Feders

    Makes irregular holes while feeding on the foliage.


    Cuts the plant at the collar region.

    Loopers (or Inchworms)

    Doubles up or loops us as they inch forward.

    Crops affected by caterpillars

    The caterpillar causes damage by eating the leaves. They may not pose much danger to established trees and shrubs, apart from losing some portion of a few leaves. In leafy vegetables, however, losing foliage will lead to a decrease in yield. Partly due to loss of the crop, and in part due to reduced photosynthesis rate owing to the lesser number of leaves. Caterpillars are the primary pests in vegetable families like crucifers (cabbage, broccoli, and cauliflower), solanaceous (tomato, potato, chilli, sweet peppers, brinjal, etc.). Caterpillars can be better controlled when detected early (lesser population).

    Damage signs to watch out for

    Skeletonizer Damage

    Damage signs will vary as each species of caterpillars cause a different kind of damage. Some caterpillar species feed on entire leaves, whereas other species may only nibble small holes in them.

        • Skeletonizers - feed on the leaf surface, scraping away the top layer of the leaf surface.   
        • Leafroller caterpillars - will roll the leaves with silk and hide within and go on feeding.   
        • Borers -will bore into the tree trunks eating the inner contents.

    Preventive measures

      • Installing light traps - Light traps can be set in the plantation areas so that adult butterflies get attracted to the light source and fall into the trap.
      • Creating a fabric shield - Covering the crops with fabric barriers, building a greenhouse around the crops (forms a boundary for butterflies and moths' entry and lay eggs).

    Remedial measures

      • These are soft-bodied insects. They often fall prey to other creatures like birds and small mammals, which will keep their population in control.
      • In the case of overpopulation, an easy way is to pick them off from the plants and put them in a bucket containing soapy water with a film of kerosene to kill them.
      • Neem oil spray will help in keeping the pest population under control.

    Happy Growing!


    Share -