So, you’re sick and tired of bugs eating your cilantro.
And you’re SO ready to kick them to the curb (of your garden).
After all, it’s all your hard work, how are you supposed to enjoy the crisp flavor of your harvest when cilantro pests are eating them all up?
Thankfully, the types of insects that eat cilantro are very common, which makes for a ton of handy, DIY home remedies to get rid of them.
They’re well documented and there are different ways you can eliminate, control, manage and repel them from your cilantro for good. Naturally.
You’ll learn about:
- The common pests that eat cilantro
- How to get rid of them naturally
- Tips and tricks to keep bugs off your cilantro for good
- And more
By the end of this guide, you should have everything you need to know to get rid of the most common cilantro pests.
If you have any questions, just ask (like always)!
Sound good? Let’s get your cilantro where it belongs.
What bugs are attracted to cilantro?
Lots of them.
Due to the leafy green, tender leaves that provide a delicious meal for garden pests, they aren’t picky about cilantro’s pest-repelling properties.
It seems to only repel some bugs, but not the majority of others.
Cilantro leaves are the main target for many of these bugs because they’re so accessible (close to the soil surface) and soft to eat. Bugs like easily digestible foods.
Some of the most common cilantro pests include:
So the next time you’re watering your plants and notice holes, torn foliage, or frass (bug poop) all over them, it’s likely they’re being eaten by one of the above.
Let’s talk about how to get these bugs off.
Aphids are the bane of many gardeners’ existence.
These little winged insects will gobble up your tender green leaves like no other.
They come in huge waves and can be found crawling all over the leaves, stems, and flowers of your various edibles.
They come in huge numbers which makes them difficult to control.
But with some persistence, there are some easy DIY home remedies you can try to naturally get rid of them.
First, make sure you harvest your cilantro on time.
Cilantro has an early harvest cycle and leaving it there to grow will just attract aphids and other pests to it.
Harvest as soon as possible and store the excess. This will completely remove it from the possibility of having those pesky aphids come to munch on it later on.
Next, when you water your plants, use a garden hose with a pressure setting. Turn it to low or medium (spray or shower setting on some nozzles) and spray the cilantro plant.
This will blow off the aphids and disturb their behavior pattern. They hate water so they’ll naturally fly away and stop feeding for a bit.
Doing this once or twice won’t do much to get rid of them.
But if you repeat this whenever you water your plants, it can greatly reduce their numbers.
Eventually, you may be able to get rid of the aphids from your cilantro completely for smaller infestations.
Prune off leaves or foliage that are destroyed. Leaving them there just provides additional food for the aphids to eat.
Set up sticky traps. Use stakes and surround each plant with a layer of sticky tape. You can tie the tape around each stake set up like a pen around each plant.
The stakes should be placed as supports around each plant to contain it into its little fenced area. Wrap the sticky tape around each stake and tie it to another stake.
So you can think of each stake as a post in a fence of sticky tape. Tie the tape around each plant so they become compartmentalized. This will greatly reduce aphid populations on your herbs.
Using these methods should help control and manage those aphids.
If you need more detailed steps, read this guide on natural aphid control.
Spider mites are those tiny red mites that are almost microscopic. Most people won’t notice them eating their cilantro until they see the damage.
Since they’re so small, they hide, feed, and breed without human intervention. These mites have piercing mouthparts which they use to poke holes in the leaves of your plant.
Too much damage will stop the plants’ ability to suck up and retain water, so eventually, it’ll wilt.
Some of the most common signs of spider mites on your cilantro include the following:
- Yellowing of the leaves
- Brown spots
- Yellow spots
- Speckled leaves
- Wilted leaves
- Red rusty spots moving across the leaves
- Visible mites on leaf veins
- White webbing on the plant
Spider mites can be controlled using some rubbing alcohol and a cotton swab.
You can dip the cotton swab into the alcohol and then swab your plant. This will instantly kill any mites it touches.
Soapy water also works wonders. Just dilute some drops of dish soap into a quart of water.
Then use a sponge or sprayer and get your plant soaked. If you use a sponge, wipe your plant down using the soapy solution. The soap drowns and suffocates the mites quickly.
If you spray your plant with dish soap, rinse it down with water when you’re done.
Manual removal of damaged foliage is necessary.
Don’t leave the damaged leaves on there because they’ll just eat it like a meal. Use sterilized scissors or a pair of pruners to cleanly cut them off.
Be sure to clean the tool when using it between different plants to prevent further infestation. Sometimes you can completely deadhead the cilantro to remove all the pests.
You can also line the perimeter of your cilantro plant with sticky tape.
Any mites that crawl on it will get stuck. Since they’re so small, they can float in the air from plant to plant by the wind current. So this measure isn’t 100% effective.
Spider mites also hate essential oils like peppermint or eucalyptus oil. Spray them around the plant to repel midges naturally. Some people may be sensitive to essential oils (and pets). So read the label before you use it. Spray weekly until the spider mites are off the cilantro.
Whiteflies will eat a variety of veggies and herbs including cirrus, chili, citrus, pepper, and pretty much any other plant with soft tender leaves.
They feed on a plethora of crops and will make your cilantro weak and unable to photosynthesize, which can destroy your cilantro.
Whiteflies deposit sticky honeydew behind which attracts ants. This residue blocks sunlight reception and stops the plant from producing energy. They’re ravenous hunters and eat everything.
Cilantro is no exception. These little buggers will suck out the plant juice with their sharp mouthparts and this will make them shrivel or dry.
Your cilantro leaves also will turn yellow or appear stunted. This is from the larvae. Adult whiteflies cause indirect damage by leaving their eggs and larvae behind.
Whiteflies look like tiny white aphids with pointed wings and a brown or dark head. They’re easy to see with the naked eye.
Damage from them will look like white webs on the undersides of leaves. Brown or yellow spots will also become visible.
Small holes around the leaf veins or jagged edges are apparent.
They suck out the sap of the laves and will create some patches on them, which are visible.
Whiteflies can be controlled using a two-pronged approach.
First, you’ll want to prune and clean any damaged foliage. Remove them entirely because it’s likely infected with plant bacteria and eggs.
Next, you’ll need to clean. Soapy water can sterilize whitefly populations. Spray your cilantro down with a mixture of soap and water. It should kill them upon contact.
Vinegar mixed with water also works (2 tablespoons per gallon). This will keep your cilantro natural if you plan to eat it.
You can also mix your DIY insecticide with 2 parts rubbing alcohol, 5 parts water, and some dish soap. Spray it regularly on your plants to kill the larvae from chewing down your leaves.
Sticky traps are also good to use against them. Apply the sticky traps or sticky tape on stakes around the garden plants.
Neem oil can be used as a last resort. It’s powerful and will burn your cilantro if used improperly.
There are many different recipes online, like this one:
Neem needs to be sprayed then rinsed with running water to clean it. Do NOT use it during peak sunlight hours.
Neem is also dangerous to some animals and sensitive people, so be sure to read the labels and use them as directed. Use an organic extract if possible.
Cilantro must be cleaned thoroughly before consumption if sprayed with any DIY solutions.
If you need additional info, check out this post on natural whitefly remedies.
Flea beetles are lovers of cilantro, kale, cabbage, peppers, eggplants, tomatoes, turnips, radishes, broccoli, and more.
These little beetles have shiny coats with huge rear legs, which they use to propel themselves up into the air. They can be black, brown, or a mix of colors.
They also may appear striped, soli, or spotted on the back. Because of their size and agile nature, they’re hard to spot- let alone catch!
So the easiest way to tell if you have flea beetles on your cilantro plants is to look for signs of damage.
The most common signs of these beetles are random holes that appear in the cilantro leaves.
If you see irregular, jagged patterns that pierce the leaves completely, it may be the work of flea beetles.
They target younger plants and the leaves will be eaten randomly all over.
The leaves look lacey with yellowing borders around the holes and they tend to favor younger and newer leaves rather than older ones because they are softer.
These holes don’t kill the cilantro but will make it ugly and less yield per annum.
They may also bring blight or plant viruses between your greens, so be careful of that. They look like tiny bugs on your cilantro plant
Flea beetles can be naturally controlled using rubbing alcohol.
Dilute it with water in a 2:5 ratio. 2 parts alcohol to 5 parts water should do the trick.
This should be enough to kill any flea beetles hiding on your plant.
Next, get some sticky traps and place them around your flower bed. The traps won’t lure the bugs, but they’ll catch any that hop.
Lastly, soapy water works.
Dilute a few drops of it in a container of water and spray down your cilantro. The soap kills the fleas and their larvae.
Rinse down the plant after using soap water. And wash your cilantro before using (as with any DIY home remedy).
If you need more info on these buggers, here’s a guide on flea beetle control.
Japanese beetles are those large, shiny beetles that make that buzzing sound when they fly by.
These will gobble up cilantro in quick time because of their voracious appetite and large mouths.
Thankfully, they’re quite easy to control because they’re so big
A simple floating row cover over your veggies and herbs will block them and keep them out. You can also use essential oils to repel them naturally.
These are rarely a huge problem unless they’re native to your area. The damage done is eaten leaves, but won’t kill your cilantro unless you have a huge population of them.
They’re all similar and can be hard to see the differences, but it helps to identify the pest first.
Slugs and snails
Slugs and snails love to chew those precious cilantro leaves because they’re tender and easy to digest.
The plant is also very short and easy to access for these low riders, so it’s no wonder that cilantro makes an easy target for arthropods.
Thankfully, snails can be controlled quite easily. The first thing you should know about slugs and snails is that they eat during the night or early morning.
So you’ll probably only rarely come across them. But if you do, you can manually remove it to dispatch it. Manual removal works, but it’s not efficient at all. And not everyone is going to work around a snail’s schedule.
So that leaves us with option 2- using a snail trap. This is simply a shallow dish filled with cheap beer.
Snails will gravitate towards alcohol because they’re naturally drawn to it.
Once they get in, they’ll be killed by it. You can place these traps around your cilantro.
Try to make the level of the dish low to the soil at the same level so they don’t have to crawl up to reach it.
Just a single dish is enough.
In the morning, you should see a ton of slugs and snails trapped inside it. Dispose of it and repeat the process!
You can also use companion plants to naturally repel slugs and snails from your cilantro.
And if you need more info, here’s a guide on controlling snail naturally.
If you notice little green worms on your cilantro, these are probably cabbage loopers.
Worms, caterpillars, butterflies, moths, etc. Whatever you want to call them.
They eat up the leaves and will leave visible random holes all over the plant. They’re active in the fall and will come out and feed during the night.
Cabbage loopers hide on the bottom of leaves, stems, or rarely on flowers. Loopers have a voracious appetite and will eat through your leaves very quickly if you don’t stop them.
The adult form is a moth, which deposits eggs all over the leaves. They hatch into larvae which will consume your plant. Then they’ll pupate and emerge as adult moths.
They hide in the soil during the day and come out to feed during the night. So you may never see them unless you inspect your leaves
Cabbage worms are harmful and will destroy your plant by consuming all the leaf matter if you do nothing. Plus, you’ll have nothing left to harvest.
They can be controlled by regular use of biological control, such as nematodes.
Bacillus thuringiensis can destroy caterpillars and worms without harming the host plant. Manual removal of visible worms by spraying them with soapy water also works.
Adult moths can be controlled with pheromone traps.
Additionally, row covers can exclude larger moths from entering and laying eggs.
Cabbage loopers also hate spearmint, peppers, green onion, spearmint, horseradish, and onions. You can blend these with a bit of dish soap (tablespoon).
Then spray it on your plants to remove the pests.
Note that the cabbage butterflies (moths) come out in the spring and fall, so you can delay your cilantro or plant it so that you don’t harvest when the bugs are out.
Yes. it works.
For more information, see this guide for tips on cabbage looper control.
Why is my cilantro sticky?
They leave behind a sooty substance that’s sticky to the touch and attracts ants. This residue will block sunlight from reaching the leaf surface, which will stop photosynthesis.
This will lead to your cilantro being killed. If you feel a sticky substance, you’ll want to act right away before further damage occurs.
Identifying the residue will help you figure out what bug is eating your cilantro:
- Whiteflies leave behind a whitish residue that turns darker over time as it molds and collects debris
- Mealybugs leave behind a dark, sweet, sticky soot. They turn leaves to a dark brown or black using the sticky tar-like substance. It’s the opposite of a whitefly.
Find out which one you have by identifying the debris found on your plant.
How do I keep bugs off my cilantro?
The key is to never let the bugs get on your cilantro in the first place by using a variety of natural repellents and exclusion techniques.
- Monitor your cilantro for pests every time you water or harvest
- Prune damaged, shriveled, or wilted leaves regularly
- Get rid of weeds, leaf litter, or other debris in your garden
- Use vinegar and water to kill eggs, larvae, and pests naturally
- Spray your leaves with soapy water when vinegar isn’t enough
- Use neem oil as a last resort to kill remaining pests
- Use sticky traps to easily and passively catch flying pests
- Beer traps work for snails and slugs
- Remove pests by hand manually
- Use a garden hose to spray down aphids
It’s a matter of choosing the right approach depending on the bugs eating your cilantro.
Once you get a routine down, it’s easy to stop them from coming back for good. Pests don’t re-infest host plants when the conditions aren’t favorable to them.
Here are some handy resources and references you may find useful:
Did you get rid of the cilantro pests?
By now, you should have a good idea of what’s eating your cilantro leaves and how to get rid of the bug.
With some patience and persistence, you should be able to control and repel the pests naturally with just some basic DIY home remedies.
If you have any questions, drop a comment and let me know.
Otherwise, if you found this guide helpful, please tell me as well! Consider telling a friend or hobby group that grows cilantro!
Or if you found something that needs updating. I’m always looking to improve these guides for readers.
Thanks for reading.
Currently an active researcher in the pest control industry for the past 8 years- with a focus on using natural and organic methods to eliminate pest problems.
I share handy DIY pest techniques I come across here to help out others (and possibly save them from a mental breakdown).
Fight nature with nature.