Live to Plant

How to Get Rid of Caterpillars on Florida Ghost Plant

Updated: October 9, 2022

The Florida ghost plant, also known as the rattlesnake master or Eryngium yuccifolium, is a native perennial herbaceous plant that is valued for its unique beauty and ecological benefits. However, caterpillars are known to feed on the leaves and stems of the Florida ghost plant, causing significant damage to the plant. In this article, we will discuss effective methods to get rid of caterpillars on Florida ghost plants.

Identify the Caterpillar

Before implementing any pest control measures, it is essential to identify the type of caterpillar that is attacking your Florida ghost plant. Some common caterpillars that feed on the Florida ghost plant are:

  • Eastern Black Swallowtail (Papilio polyxenes)
  • Painted Lady (Vanessa cardui)
  • American Lady (Vanessa virginiensis)
  • Southern Dogface (Zerene cesonia)
  • Buckeye (Junonia coenia)

Each of these caterpillars has distinct physical features and behaviors. Identifying the caterpillar can help determine the best course of action to get rid of them.


One of the simplest and most effective methods to get rid of caterpillars is handpicking. Look for caterpillars on the leaves and stems of your Florida ghost plant and remove them manually. Wear gloves if necessary, as some caterpillars can be spiny or have irritating hairs.

Natural Predators

Several natural predators can help control caterpillar populations in your garden. Birds like blue jays and chickadees feed on caterpillars, while predatory insects like ladybugs and lacewings can consume large numbers of caterpillar eggs and larvae.

Insecticidal Soap

Insecticidal soap is a safe and effective way to get rid of caterpillars without harming beneficial insects. Spray the solution onto the leaves and stems of your Florida ghost plant, making sure to cover all surfaces. Insecticidal soap works by suffocating the caterpillars, so it is essential to apply it thoroughly.

Bacillus thuringiensis (Bt)

Bacillus thuringiensis (Bt) is a naturally occurring bacterium that is toxic to many caterpillar species. Bt is available in powder or liquid form and can be applied directly to the foliage of your Florida ghost plant. Caterpillars that consume Bt will stop feeding and eventually die within a few days.

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)

How do I know if my Florida ghost plant has caterpillars?

Look for chewed leaves and stems, as well as small black droppings (frass) on the undersides of leaves.

Are all caterpillars harmful to Florida ghost plants?

No, not all caterpillars are harmful. Some species, like the monarch butterfly caterpillar, feed exclusively on milkweed plants and don’t cause damage to other plants.

Can I use chemical pesticides to get rid of caterpillars on my Florida ghost plant?

While chemical pesticides can be effective at controlling caterpillar populations, they can also harm beneficial insects and pollinators. It is best to use natural pest control methods whenever possible.

Is it safe to eat Florida ghost plants that have been treated with pest control measures?

It is recommended to wait at least 24-48 hours after applying any pest control measures before consuming any part of the plant.

In conclusion, caterpillars are a common pest that can damage your Florida ghost plant. However, there are several natural and safe methods to control their population without harming beneficial insects and pollinators. Regular monitoring of your plant’s health and timely action can help prevent significant damage to your Florida ghost plant.