Neem Oil for caterpillars?

I just discovered some tiny caterpillars eating the young buds of one of my outdoor plants. There are no holes in the leaves, they are going right after the buds, pistils are eaten and I can see droppings. It seems I’ve detected them early, only a small amount of the buds on the top of the plant are eaten. I’ve done some research and plan to get some Neem oil, but I’m not sure if I can spray this directly on the buds? Anyone have any experience with this? Thanks in advance!

Spinosad or captain jacks dead bug is a safe flower alternative.

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Great, thank you!

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Do NOT use neem oil on budding plants! It will ruin your buds. They will taste like crap. Only veg plants. Neem oil is a great tool for outdoor pests before you even notice. But no budding plants. Spinosad is a good answer as previously suggested.

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Thank you for the reply. I bought the Captain Jacks Dead Bug that @Covertgrower recommended and have sprayed the affected plant. I have a 10ft tall plant a few feet away and am hoping that one doesn’t get affected too, but if it does I know how to remedy the situation now. These forums are the best! Thanks again

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Anytime. Happy to help with someone else’s struggles. I know I’ve been there. Thrips not caterpillars, but equally as frustrating when something is eating your plant.

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I use Thuricide BT, Monterey BT, or Dippel for caterpillars. Active ingredient is a bacteria that kills the caterpillars when they eat it.

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what he said…quickly captain jack bug killer

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Thanks everyone!

Spray em all to kill em all!

No not neem oil! Use BT

Take a very close look at the entire plant. You will be surprised by the extent of their presence. Hopefully you caught it earlier than I did.


The pictures are of a NL photo. I also had 3 autos that were infected. I had to remove 20-25% of the autos’ buds and stems. I eventually lost one because the damage was so severe.
The other 2 have survived so far. However, I have had to cut out some bud sites and respray spinosad (Jack’s Dead Bug).
My lesson:
Preventative spraying before infestation occurs
Remove more than you think is necessary
Repair cuts with aloe (juice from plant leaf)
continue to use spinosad or BT for remainder of season
I am getting close to harvest on the remaining 2 autos. Hope they hang in there.
The photo is just starting to flower. It will be a race against the calendar because I am in the US upper mid-west

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Sorry this happened to you. I will keep a close eye on the problem. It looks like I have a different kind of caterpillar, the droppings I see on my plants are black little pellets. But I will still watch closely. Thank you for the reply and good luck with the rest of your grow

This is the little critter I found inside a stem

That’s a bore beetle larva. Not a regular type of worm. You get rid of it and the area that is wilting. These do not turn into moths.

The one I found is larger than this. There was not a single hole in any of the leaves, but I caught him chowing down on the new little buds.

Yup, made this mistake last year. Can personally vouch on the taste…nasty.

My crop was ruined last year from the same. I remember when they were hanging upside down, tons of baby caterpillars fell from silky threads. I was devastated …all six plants!! Even watching every day they snuck in, by the time I noticed, I thought it was bud rot. Hope you caught yours early enough. Also agree with another user, do not use neem oil.