Vinegar is a poor choice for killing caterpillars. Spraying a plant with vinegar to kill caterpillars will dry out the leaves and flowers of the plant, and may even kill your plant. Not only that, but vinegar is deadly to bees, butterflies, and other pollinators that are essential to your garden. Instead of vinegar, use an organic pest killer in your garden, such as neem oil or insecticidal soap. These products kill caterpillars without putting your plants at risk. You can even plant peppermint or lavender in your garden to drive off caterpillars and prevent them from harming your plants.
4 Reasons You Should Not Use Vinegar to Kill Caterpillars
Caterpillars can be devastating garden pests. They can eat through the leaves of your garden plants, destroying your plants. Although vinegar can kill caterpillars in some cases, it’s not the best choice for getting rid of these pests. Here’s why:
Vinegar Will Damage Your Plants
The acetic acid in vinegar will harm plant leaves and stems in much the same way it harms caterpillars. The acetic acid in vinegar dries out the caterpillar, killing it, but it will turn leaves brown and scorched. So, if there are caterpillars on the leaves and stems of your plants, do not spray them with a homemade vinegar solution. You may kill your plants at the same time you kill caterpillars.
- The acetic acid in vinegar will dry out and destroy plant leaves, stems, flowers, and fruit.
- Do not spray vinegar on a plant infested with caterpillars or you may kill the plant and the caterpillars at the same time.
- All homemade vinegar solutions that are strong enough to kill caterpillars are also strong enough to harm your plants
All types of vinegar are harmful to plants. White vinegar and apple cider vinegar both contain 3–5% acetic acid, which is enough to burn the leaves, flowers, and stems of any plants in your garden. Avoid spraying vinegar on any garden plants or grass that you want to stay alive.
Vinegar Harms Pollinators
You should not spray vinegar in your garden to kill caterpillars because vinegar kills and repels bees and other pollinators. The flowers on fruit and vegetable plants in your garden must be pollinated in order for those flowers to transform into fruits. If you drive off the pollinators by using vinegar in your garden, your plants won’t produce any food. So, the idea of using vinegar as a scent repellent or caterpillar killer can turn your garden into a dead zone.
- Bees and butterflies—the most common pollinators for most gardens—are killed by vinegar and driven off by the scent of vinegar.
- It’s essential to encourage pollinators in your garden so you can grow fruits, vegetables, and seeds.
Even if you are only growing flowers in your garden, using vinegar to ward off caterpillars is still a bad idea. Flowers that go unpollinated won’t produce seeds. So, you won’t be able to collect seeds in order to grow more annuals next year. It’s best to keep vinegar out of your garden in order to create a haven for beneficial insects. There are far better ways to kill caterpillars.
There are More Effective Natural Sprays
Vinegar is far less effective at killing caterpillars than other natural options. Organic neem oil is a better choice for killing caterpillars. Simply spray caterpillars and plants with neem oil. You will suffocate caterpillars, aphids, and other harmful insects. Plus, neem oil won’t damage your plants the way vinegar does.
- This neem oil spray is an organic caterpillar killer that won’t harm plants.
- As an added bonus, neem oil also kills fungal diseases on plants.
- Insecticidal soap spray is a great choice for caterpillar control since it won’t damage your garden plants.
- Because insecticidal soap doesn’t linger, it won’t kill or drive off bees, butterflies, and other pollinating insects.
- 3-in-1 Garden Defense: Captain Jack's neem oil acts as a fungicide, insecticide, and miticide, protecting your lawn and garden from a variety of threats, ready-to-use with an attached sprayer.
- Comprehensive Disease and Pest Control: From common fungal diseases like rust and powdery mildew to pests at all life stages, this product offers full-range protection.
- Organic Gardening Approved: Suitable for organic produce and can be used up until the day of harvest, it provides a safe, yet effective solution for maintaining your garden's health.
Insecticidal soap is another great option. Like neem oil, this insecticidal soap, will kill caterpillars without harming your plants. Even better, insecticidal soap doesn’t linger. This means it won’t kill or deter essential pollinators that visit your garden.
You Can Plant Caterpillar Deterrents
If you’re sick of caterpillars invading your garden to feed on your plants, consider planting companion herbs that drive caterpillars away. Peppermint, sage, lavender, and mugwort all naturally repel caterpillars. Butterflies will lay their eggs far away from these plants. So, it’s a good idea to mix a few of these varieties into your garden. They’ll act as a natural deterrent that keeps caterpillars away without harming the health of your garden.
- Lavender, peppermint, sage, and mugwort will deter caterpillars from feeding on nearby plants.
- Instead of killing caterpillars, you’ll have fewer caterpillars attacking your plants.
- Simply mix a few caterpillar-deterring herbs in among the other plants of your garden.
- The herbs that repel caterpillars are also useful in the kitchen.
In addition to deterring caterpillars, herbs like lavender, sage, and mint are very useful. You can use them for cooking, making essential oils, or the dried herbs can be used for aromatherapy. So, you can maintain a caterpillar-free garden and grow even more beneficial plants at the same time.
Will Vinegar Repel Caterpillars?
The scent of vinegar may repel caterpillars from crawling on a surface, but vinegar is unsafe to spray on plants. At the same time you drive off caterpillars by spraying a plant with vinegar, the acetic acid in vinegar will eat through the cuticle of the plant’s leaves and stems. This will turn the parts of the plant sprayed with vinegar brown, dry, and dead. So, it’s not worth the risk of spraying plants with vinegar to drive off caterpillars.
Is Vinegar Good For Killing Caterpillars?
You should never use vinegar to kill caterpillars in your garden. The reasons are:
- Spraying a vinegar mix on your plants will turn plant leaves and stems brown and dry—it may even kill some plants.
- Vinegar kills and deters bees, butterflies, and other beneficial insects from visiting your garden.
- There are much better all-natural caterpillar killers—neem oil and insecticidal soap are two great options.
- Instead of battling caterpillars with vinegar, you can plant sage, peppermint, or lavender to drive caterpillars away.
Although caterpillars gnawing at the leaves of your plants are a nuisance that should be dealt with quickly to save your garden, vinegar isn’t the right solution. You’ll do more harm than good by using vinegar in your yard, so it’s best to keep the vinegar in the kitchen.