How To Get Rid Of Caterpillars Outside My House? (9 Ways)

how to get rid of caterpillars outside my house

Caterpillars are cute, charming creatures. They are colorful, and delicate, and turn into beautiful butterflies one day that add life to your backyard garden. What’s not to love about them?

Apparently, many things. Caterpillars may look harmless at first, but they won’t hesitate to take bites out of your plants’ foliage, leaving nasty holes in their precious flowers and leaves. They can also destroy crops in your fruit and vegetable garden without you even realizing it until it’s too late.

If you’ve ever had a caterpillar infestation crisis and have frustratedly said something along the lines of, “I don’t know how to get rid of caterpillars outside my house!” don’t worry—we’ve got you. Here are nine ways to eliminate those cute yet pesky, plant-eating caterpillars once and for all.

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9 Ways to Get Rid of Caterpillars Outside The House

9 Ways to Get Rid of Caterpillars Outside The House 1

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1. Drop Them Into a Bucket of Hot Water

The easiest way to get rid of caterpillars as you see them is to simply pick them off your plants. Just make sure to wear gloves before you touch them. Lots of caterpillars are hairy and can irritate your skin, leaving it itchy.

A good way to dispose of them and never have to think about them again is by dropping them in a bucket of hot water. You can also add a tablespoon of dish soap to the water to ensure that the caterpillars get killed.

2. Spray Your Plants with Soapy Water

Soap is a terrific insecticide to get rid of caterpillars fast. It breaks down caterpillar skin, thereby killing it. The best part is that you likely already have some at home.

To create a soap insecticide, combine soap and water and pour it into a spray bottle. Then, simply spray the mixture directly onto plants that have been infested with crawling caterpillars.

And don’t worry about the soap killing your plants! Mild soap is perfectly safe for them. The only thing they’ll deter is caterpillars and some other bugs.

3. Get Birds to Eat the Caterpillars For You

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Another cool way to get rid of caterpillars outside your home is by enticing natural predators to come and eat them up. Birds aren’t just the perfect predators to eat yummy caterpillars—they also add life and beauty to your garden.

To attract birds to your garden, make it a good habitat for them. Install bird feeders and lay some food for them daily. Fresh water is another thing they will appreciate, especially when it’s hot out. If you can, add cute birdhouses to your yard as well.

In no time, these birds will notice the caterpillars lying around in your garden and hopefully scoop them up with their beaks to munch on as a treat.


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4. Keep Moths Out of Your Home

Many people associate caterpillars with the larval stage of butterflies. But did you know that caterpillars are also the larvae form of moths?

Yes, some caterpillars are actually baby moths! It’s part of the life cycle of the moths you see flying around outdoors. That means they are laid in eggs by moths. If you have a moth infestation near your home, that may explain why there are a bunch of caterpillars in your yard.

Don’t believe us? See it for yourself! Check out this cool video of how a caterpillar grows and turns into a hawk moth over time:

Having said that, one of the best ways to keep caterpillars out of your yard is by keeping moths at bay too. That means keeping your home as clean as possible. Vacuum regularly, de-clutter your house, and make sure your garbage bins are tidy to keep pests like moths way.

You should also clear out your pantry of any food moths can get easily. Moths tend to lay their eggs near food sources, so your kitchen and pantry should always be spick and span.

Make a mental note to seal all possible entry points for moths as well, such as open windows and cracks in your door and walls. That way, moths will have no way to enter your home and lay eggs.

5. Plant Herbs and Flowers That Will Deter Them

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There are plenty of plants that repel insects. These plants usually have herbs and flowers that emit a strong smell. While these essential oils are soothing for people when they catch a whiff, they repel caterpillars, who are extremely sensitive to smells.

The smells of plants like these also keep them from sniffing out food sources. So, they’ll stay as far away as possible from these plants and look for places where finding food is easier instead.

Here are just a few strong-smelling companion plants you can grow in your garden to deter caterpillars:

  • Marigolds
  • Lavender
  • Peppermint
  • Sage
  • Dill
  • Petunias
  • Borage
  • Pepper plants
  • Mint
  • Mugwort

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6. Kill Them with Bacillus Thuringiensis

Bacillus thuringiensis—also commonly called Bt—is a type of bacteria found in soil. This bacteria produces proteins that are poisonous to caterpillars.

You can easily buy Bt from your local garden shop. Follow the instructions on the packaging to mix it up (usually with water). Pour the Bt mixture into a spray bottle and spray it directly on the plants infested with caterpillars. Then, sit and wait for your caterpillars to ingest it and die

It’s best to reapply Bt to your plants every few days. Spraying it onto the host plant once a week is more than enough.

Thankfully, Bt is pretty much harmless to humans and other mammals. You can apply it to your vulnerable plants to get rid of caterpillars without worrying about your own health.

7. Spray Them with Neem Oil

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Neem oil may be a holy grail product in skincare, but it’s also a natural insecticide. It’s known to kill insects like the tomato hornworm, whiteflies, and even the humble caterpillar. The active ingredient azadirachtin in neem oil is responsible for killing insects.

While some pesticides can only be sprayed onto plants at a certain time of the day to keep them from burning leaves, neem oil can be applied at any time. It’s incredibly safe for humans and the environment as well, making it a favorite oil among organic farmers looking to eliminate pests.

8. Trap Them Using Burlap

If the caterpillar infestation is in one of your trees, you can easily trap the insects in burlap. This method is called “burlap banding,” and it’s an excellent way to trap and kill caterpillars without them realizing it.

This method is best for spongy moth caterpillars, which are known to inhabit a wide range of host trees. These trees include oak, willow, hickory, spruce, and more.

Here’s how to trap those pesky caterpillars in burlap:

  1. Cut your burlap fabric into long and thick pieces. Aim for a thickness of 4-6 inches and a length that is long enough for the cloth to go around the tree trunk.
  2. Wrap your burlap around the tree trunk and secure it in place with some rope or string. Don’t tie it up too tight; it’s important to leave space between the burlap and the trunk for the caterpillars to crawl into.
  3. When it’s cold out, the caterpillars will go underneath the burlap to find warmth and a cozy shelter. Now and then, lift the burlap slightly to see how many caterpillars are inside it.
  4. When there’s a good amount of caterpillars trapped in the burlap, you can scrape them off. Wear your gloves, take the burlap off the tree, and drop the caterpillars in a bucket of soapy water. You can also just put them in a plastic bag and dispose of them that way.

Want to see what the finished product will look like? Check out this video that shows you how to do burlap banding to catch spongy moth caterpillars step by step:

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9. Call Pest Control for Professional Help

If none of the above work, you might be facing a severe caterpillar infestation. It’s time to call in the big guns and get the help of pest control professionals to treat your garden and get rid of those stubborn caterpillars.

When you get pest control services to help, they will recommend the best treatment plan for your home. You can also get them to check whether you have a moth infestation in case it’s the root of the problem.


It’s perfectly reasonable to not want any caterpillars crawling around your garden. Even if they look harmless, they are still pests that can ruin your crops and plants. Luckily, there are many easy ways to get rid of them, from trapping them in burlap to simply keeping your home clean.

But if the strategic methods we’ve listed above don’t help your insect infestation, don’t hesitate to call pest control. These professionals know what they’re doing. They’re the best way to get rid of caterpillars when you think you have a severe infestation.

We’re crossing our fingers that one of the methods above will work for you! Hopefully, you can get out of this crisis caterpillar-free, leaving your gorgeous garden crops unscathed.

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