Common Problems

Caterpillars & Other Orchid Pests

Orchids can be delicate, and it’s challenging to keep them in top condition. There are many pitfalls, but one of the most devastating problems can be caterpillars.

These young and undeveloped butterflies can cause extensive damage to your orchids. It’s essential to take the proper steps to remove them as soon as possible.

Here’s what you need to know about protecting your orchids from these pests.

Why Do Caterpillars Love Orchids?

Caterpillars are the larval stage of moths and butterflies. Like all young critters, they need to get all the nutrients they need throughout this vital growth phase. The juice from orchid stems and leaves contains everything these insects need to get themselves ready for the next stage in their lives.

But allowing them to chow down on your orchid can result in devastating consequences.

The best thing you can do when you notice signs of a caterpillar is to remove it from your home altogether.

Keep the Area Clean 

One of the first things you can do to help control pests is to make sure the area around your orchid is kept completely clean at all times.

Debris around the base of an orchid
Various bits of debris can accumulate around the base of your orchid

This means you’ll want to pick up and dispose of dead leaves, fallen flower buds, and all other debris from around your potting medium.

These bits of debris are the perfect place for insects to lay their eggs. Preventing the arrival of caterpillars means making sure that an egg isn’t laid directly on the orchid in the first place.

Unfortunately, even when you keep your orchid’s space immaculate, sometimes eggs can still show up on your plants. Remember to continually check the underside of your orchid’s leaves, especially in the spring and summer months. Simply put on a pair of gloves, pick the eggs off one by one, and dispose of them.

Getting Rid of Hatched Caterpillars

Once a caterpillar has hatched, the amount of damage it can do overnight will leave you stunned. If you see a caterpillar on your plant, it will need to be dealt with immediately.

There are many ways to get rid of these unwanted guests, but we recommend escorting it from your premises with a pair of gloves or a piece of paper. This is the most humane method. Just make sure that there’s no way they’ll be able to return to your planting area.

Bring in the Bugs

Ichneumon wasp on leaf
Ichneumon wasp

Believe it or not, introducing other bugs can be one of the most effective ways to keep your plant safe. Predator wasps, like the Braconid and the Ichneumon, are the natural enemy of these caterpillars. They will target them while leaving your orchids untouched.

Make Your Plant Taste Terrible

Another option that could help save your plant is to spray your leaves down with a repellent solution.

Spraying an orchid leaf with repellent solution

Caterpillars hate intense flavors such as onion, jalapeno, garlic, and chives. This can quickly confuse and repel caterpillars, as they’ll be looking for the sweet juices of your orchid instead. Simply make your mix in a blender, add it to your spray container and spray down your orchid once a week.

Other Harmful Insects

While caterpillars are one of the main enemies of orchids, they aren’t the only insects you should be concerned about. All chewing insects can be a threat to your plant.

Here are some other pests you’ll want to watch out for.

Beetles

Yellow beetle on an orchid flower

Beetles can be a big problem for orchid growers because they can quickly overrun the poor plant. Not only do they use the plant as a primary food source, but they also use it as a place to rest and lay their eggs.

Luckily, removing them is rather simple.

Beetles actually sleep during the day, so it’s easy enough to take the plant, turn it on its side, and shake it out over a piece of newspaper or a cloth. Once you’ve collected all the beetles, simply return them outside to your garden.

To guarantee that no other beetle eggs remain, spray your orchid down with a mixture of pyrethrum and isopropyl alcohol. Continue to do this once a week until there are no more signs of beetles on your plant.

Rats and Mice

Insects aren’t the only pests you need to worry about when it comes to protecting your orchid. Rats and mice actually love to dine on the flowers and pseudo-bulbs of the plant. This can end up killing your orchid should it continue for long enough.

Standard rat traps and mice repellent will be more than enough to keep these pests from chowing down on your plant. Just make sure that you keep your repellent solution at the recommended dosage and number of applications, or it could end up affecting the health of your plant. Luckily, in these cases, if the damage was kept to a minimum, your orchid should definitely be able to recover. 


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