Bugs that eat plants

Insect Leaf Damage: Something Is Eating Holes In Plant Leaves

It’s disheartening to go to inspect your garden in the morning, only to find holes in your plant leaves, eaten at night by some unwelcome creature. Luckily, the pests that eat your plants leave telltale signs in their chewing patterns, meaning you can easily figure out what you’re up against and fight back accordingly. Keep reading to learn how to fight this insect leaf damage.

What’s Eating My Garden Leaves?

So something is eating holes in plant leaves. What could it be? If big pieces of your leaves are missing, the culprit is a larger animal. Deer can eat at heights up to six feet, ripping the foliage away and leaving jagged edges on whatever is left.

Rabbits, rats, and possums will take away large chunks closer to the ground. Often, though, you will discover that it’s insects eating leaves off your plant.

What to Do for Insects Eating Leaves

Caterpillars of a huge number of varieties may be drawn to your plants. You’ll recognize their feeding as irregular holes in leaves. Some, such as tent caterpillars, are easy to identify by the structures they build on trees. Use a stick to pull the tents, along with all the caterpillars in it, out of the tree and into a bucket of soapy water. Leave them in there for a day to kill them. Many other kinds of caterpillars who don’t live in structures can be killed by an insecticide.

Sawflies chew holes that don’t go all the way through the leaf, making it look intact but transparent. Kill them with insecticidal soap or horticultural oil.

Leaf miners burrow twisting tunnels across leaves. The insecticide BioNeem is good against them.

Sucking insects poke tiny holes in leaves and draw the juices out of them. Common sucking insects include aphids, squash bugs, and spider mites. Spray your plants diligently with insecticide, as sucking insects can breed so rapidly a single application often isn’t enough. If your plant is strong enough, a good blast with a hose can work well to physically knock them away.

Slugs and snails will also feast on your plant leaves. These can normally be controlled by making the area less comfortable for them, such as placing crushed eggshells around your plants.

Other common leaf eating insects include:

  • Leaf cutter bees
  • Japanese beetles
  • Flea beetles

Garden Guide: What’s Eating My Plants?

Have you ever gone out to water your garden in the morning only to find holes in your plants’ leaves that weren’t there the day before? Some leaf-eating insects can cause so much damage in just a few days that your plants might be dead within the week! Use our quick guide to identify the pest eating your plant and what solution would be best to keep that bug away from destroying your garden. We’ll also list out a few additional insects below to keep an eye out for that could hurt your plant’s leaves.

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12 Bugs That Eat Leaves

Since you rarely see the pest that is eating your plants, you often have to decide upon a treatment by observing the damage done. Here are the most common culprits who are eating your leaves and what you can do about it.

  • 1. Leafminers are larvae of flies, sawflies, and beetles that feed on leaves and causes discolored blotches or wiggly lines. Leafminers particular like columbine, mums, citrus trees and tomatoes. The damage is usually relatively harmless to the plant but if it does get out of control spray neem oil on the top and bottom of leaves to protect them.
  • 2. Box suckers are wingless nymphs of the box psyllids often found inside ball shaped shoot tips in spring. To control the damage, cut off the shoot tips you find suckers and discard. The damage caused by box suckers looks like tiny holes poked into leaves. Aphids, squash bugs and spider mites are all sucking insects that cause this type of damage. Red spider mite damage will show yellow mottling on leaves. Gall mites will often cause raised pimples or clumps of matted hairs on leaves. Sucking insects are mostly harmless but you can keep them away by using insecticidal soap.
  • 3. Scale insects cause tiny blister or shell-like bumps on leaf backs, sticky excretions, and sooty mold on plant leaves. The damage caused by scale insects could stunt growth so be sure to wash leaves off and spray with horticultural oil or neem oil.
  • 4. Thrips are tiny black flies that suck sap from leaves, which causes white patches to appear on leaves and petals of mostly indoor plants. Get rid of thrips with diatomaceous earth (DE) or insecticidal soap.
  • 5. Vine weevil larvae are cream-colored grubs with brown heads that feed on plant roots which causes plants to suddenly collapse. Adult vine weevils are flightless nocturnal black beetles that can make notches in leaves. To kill the larvae, use nematodes and, to kill adult vine weevils, use diatomaceous earth.
  • 6. Caterpillars are probably what comes to mind for most people when you first see holes in your plant’s leaves. For the majority of caterpillars, you can take the time to rub off the eggs you find on the plant and pick off caterpillars. It’s best to go inspect your plants early in the morning, which is when you will most likely find them chewing away. You can also apply sticky traps to capture adult moths before they can lay their eggs on your trees and plants. There are several different kinds of caterpillars that might be causing the damage. Cabbage white caterpillars love to eat brassicas and nasturtiums. Tomato hornworms are the caterpillars who often damage fruits. To get rid of caterpillars, dust your plants with B.T. Caterpillars will leave black excrement dots called “frass” on leaves. Since earwigs can cause similar looking bite patterns in leaves as caterpillars, finding frass is a good way to tell if it is caterpillars that are damaging your plants.
  • 7. Earwigs are usually more beneficial than harmful since they eat insect eggs and adult aphids. However, they do like their fair share of soft fruits and new plant growth. Sometimes, older leaves tend to be chewed around the edges and look ragged when earwigs are involved. Use a pot filled with hay to attract earwigs and then release elsewhere. If you’re determined to kill the earwigs invading your home, sprinkle diatomaceous earth around and on plants with bite marks.
  • 8. Sawfly larvae are caterpillar-like white larvae that eat leaves on plants like roses, gooseberries and Solomon’s seal. Leaf rolling is a sign of sawflies. They lay their eggs on plants and their larvae eat the leaves, they make holes that still have some plant tissue intact so the damage looks transparent. It may eventually break down and leave holes. Use insecticidal soap or horticultural oil to protect your plants from sawfly larvae. You can also pick caterpillars off plants or spray with pyrethrum.
  • 9.Viburnum beetles, both the adult and larvae, eat leaves, which can slow your plant’s growth and looks ugly. To get rid of viburnum beetles and larvae, throw out twigs in late summer that have viburnum beetles’ eggs on them or release lady bugs in the spring to capture the larvae.
  • 10. Japanese beetles feed on flowers and the tissue between leaf veins. Their larvae often causes brown patches in grass. To get rid of Japanese beetles, spray your plants and grass area with neem oil and set up these Japanese beetle traps to capture the adults.
  • 11. Slugs and snails like areas that are moist and shady and eat irregular-shaped holes in the leaf (but not along the edges). To see of snails and slugs are your plant-eating culprits, come out at night with a flashlight and look under leaves. Pour beer in a used, open tuna tin or plate to attract slugs and snails away from plants and into the beer. Slugs and snails often leave shiny trail on leaves and the holes are larger than a pencil eraser but smaller than a quarter. Slugs will also eat ripening fruit touching the ground. If you have a bad infestation, use Dr. T’s Slug and Snail Killer for quick results that won’t harm other beneficial insects.
  • 12. Cucumber beetles can destroy an ornamental overnight. Cucumber beetles will leave tiny transparent circles on plant leaves. Take immediate action to control these plant bugs with diatomaceous earth or use row covers to protect plants before cucumber beetles become a problem.

Don’t think your plants are being eaten by any of these bugs? Animals can often eat your plants too so watch out for possums, rats, deer and rabbits around your garden.

Wonderful Ways to Discover What is Eating Your Plants?

New and old gardeners alike frequently have to ask the same question: “what is eating my plants?”. Gardens are not easy to take care of with a lot of different things trying to thwart your efforts around every bend. One of the most frustrating issues is finding out your plants are being eaten by some mysterious pest.


Actually, most plant-eating pests are far from mysterious. On the contrary, they leave tell-tale signs on the plant itself and around the garden floor. But, in order to get rid of the pest for good you have to know exactly what it is that’s causing the problem. So, what exactly is eating your plants and how can you tell?

Are Mammals Eating My Plants?

Mammals both large and small enjoy snacking on your plants. The main culprits in most areas around the US include deer, rabbits, possums, mice and rats, voles, and moles. Luckily, it’s easy to differentiate mammal bites from insect bites in leaves and stems. Mammals are larger than any insects and bugs that may be interested in your garden, and they use their teeth to rip the leaves away.

Deer leave large sections of your leaves torn as they grab with their teeth and rip the leaves away. They cannot reach the bottom of the plant, so their jagged bite makes will only be on the upper leaves closer to the top of the plant.

Rabbits, mice, rats, and possums can all the only nibble at the bottom of your plants. Look for large nibbles on the outside edges of leaves near the bottom of your plants. Mice and rabbits will sometimes chew on the woody stems of plants, especially during colder months in the winter.

​Block out some larger and small mammals with a wire net fence.

Voles and moles don’t go for the leaves as often as the roots and lower stems. You won’t notice as many bite marks for these.

Do I Have a Slug Problem?

Via Marijuanatimes

Aaaahhh, slugs. The dreaded slimy creatures that can really mess up your plants! Slugs are a mess and them, unfortunately, live almost everywhere in the US and around the world. You’ll be able to get an idea that slugs are eating your leaves by looking at the patterns of holes in the leaves. Rather than starting on the outside as a lot of other bugs and animals, slugs eat irregular holes on the inside of the leaf.

Often, slugs come in numbers. You might see a lot of holes in a lot of your plant leaves, with the number increasing steadily.

All you need to confirm that it’s slugs eating your plants is a little cup or saucer and some cheap beer. Pour the beer into the saucer at night and set it in your garden. Slugs will be attracted to the sweet scent of the fresh beer and will attempt to drink it. A mixture of drunkenness and drowning is going to kill the slugs and you should find a few dead ones in the saucer the next morning.

​Here’s an instructional video to show you exactly how to set a slug beer trap:

For another option, there are plenty of highly effective repellents and slug killers, such as this one.

What Kind of Insects Might Be Eating My Plants?

The large number of insects that eat plants and the similarity of some of the bites can make it tricky to identify exactly what’s causing the holes in your leaves. However, it’s still possible to figure it out and narrow down the options until you find the real suspect.

Japanese Beetles

Depending on where in the US you live, the pests in question could be some variety of caterpillars (almost all of which are known to eat garden plants), earwigs, Japanese beetles, flea beetles, leaf cutters, and leaf miners.

This is by no means a comprehensive list of all insects that will eat your plants, but it’s a good place to start. The above-listed bugs are some of the most common ones you’ll find in your garden.

Caterpillars are similar to slugs in that they eat irregular holes in the center of the leaves. They can also eat stems of seedlings if you are growing young plants from the seed.

Via Carriechau.co

Earwigs are more troublesome, as they like to eat new growth. They are usually found eating dead plant parts, but will also chew on the new leaves or stems of you small or large plants. You can usually see earwigs hiding in dark parts of the flowers and chutes or any other dark, secluded place on a plant.

Japanese beetles are another little insect that likes to eat developed plant leaves. They don’t chew holes, but will usually eat the flesh of the leaves around the stems, leaving a skeletal outline behind.

What Eats Roots and Stems Instead of Leaves?

As I mentioned earlier, moles and voles are common culprits for eating roots of plants. Most pests prefer the green leaves and stem growth over the roots, so you can usually narrow the list down very quickly if your plant’s roots are showing signs of being eaten away.

Check out how to get rid of moles or voles in your yard here.​

Here are some of the mole products mentioned in the above video:

Which Pests Are Eating New Growth?

Via Rodalesorganiclife

It can be very difficult to figure out which insects, in particular, are eating your new plant growth, because almost everything likes the new growth best. Even earwigs, who are usually found chewing on dead plant matter, enjoy munching on the sweet new plant stems and leaves as they grow.

Why Do My Leaves Look Transparent?

Occasionally you’ll run into insects that don’t like to eat through the entire leaf or who just suck the nutrients out of it. Since they are not actually cutting a hole through and are just removing something from the top, the leaves appear transparent.

Sawflies are usually the villains if you see a lot of transparent dots or holes all over your leaves, but aphids, squash bugs, and spider mites could be the problem if the entire leaf starts looking worse.

For more about Sawflies, check out how to get rid of them here.​


Via Smartschoolhouse.com

Bugs, mammals, and other pests can do some serious damage to your garden. But, before you can get rid of them you have to know what you’re dealing with. Looking at the unique bite marks and patterns on your plants is the best way to see what has been terrorizing the greenery. Most pests have a fairly unique signature bite mark that makes it easier to identify them.

To find out which pest has been eating your plants, take these steps:

  • Look at what part of the plant is being eaten (roots, new growth, leaves, stems)
  • Identify the type of bite marks on the plants
  • Check out the surrounding area for signs of mammals
  • for signs of mammals- Look at night for nocturnal pests like slugs

What have you done before to find pests that are eating your garden? Do you have some ideas on how to find out what’s eating your plants? I would love to hear about your experience! Leave me a comment below if you have any questions or a story about something eating your plants.

What’s eating my plants?

Holes in leaves, seedlings disappearing, damaged leaf edges and speckled leaves are just some of the signs that critters or insects may be attacking your vegetable plants, trees, shrubs, lawns or flowers. Callers and visitors want to know, “What’s eating my plants?”

Often, no pest is evident. Sometimes a strange bug is visible, but you don’t know if it is a pest or a beneficial insect. Never spray until you have identified the pest and researched all alternative resolutions to the problem. Spraying is usually the last resort.

How can you find the sneaky rascals damaging your precious plants? Look for clues to help identify the pest. First, inspect the plant thoroughly at least once a week. This will help you catch the “buggers” before they create severe problems.

Look at both sides of the leaves, around buds and flowers, and along the stems. If you plan to call Cooperative Extension for help, note what the plant is, which plant parts are affected, and the kind of damage that has been done. You may want to look in the top 2 to 3 inches of soil or mulch to see if the pest is a soil dweller, such as a cutworm. You may also find clusters of eggs or even insect droppings. Tomato hornworms leave large, peppercorn-size pellets.

Some pests only come out at night. When a lilac or other plant shows signs of cuttings on the leaf margins, like those made by pinking shears, put a white sheet under the plant. Go out at night with a flashlight and a rolled- up newspaper. Gently bat the branches over the sheet, and you will probably see the root weevils that are eating the edges of the leaves.

Another way to capture some critters is to put a sticky product on the plant’s stems. You can buy special products or use double-sided tape. After placing the product or tape on the branch or stem, look to see what gets stuck when crawling across it.

Here are some common pests and their signs. Large ragged holes usually indicate beetles, grasshoppers, caterpillars, snails, slugs or possibly earwigs. Curled, twisted, puckered or distorted leaves are evidence of aphids or leafhoppers. Curled leaves along with webs could be a sign of webworms.

Speckled or silvery leaves are the calling cards of thrips. When sticky, shiny goo is covering and dripping from trees, aphids or mites are usually sucking the sap. Codling moth larvae cause wormy apples. Rose or raspberry canes with holes down the center of the stems are borer tunnels.

Seedlings chewed off at soil level could be cutworms, birds or rabbits. Spider mites cause yellow spotted leaves or graying needles. Whiteflies collect on the undersides of leaves and fly up in a cloud when disturbed.

If you suspect a problem, be a detective and inspect the plant carefully. Contact me at 887-2252 or [email protected] or your local University of Nevada Cooperative Extension office for help or more gardening information.

Check out many useful horticulture publications at http://www.unce.unr.edu.

• JoAnne Skelly is the Carson City/Storey County Extension educator for University of Nevada Cooperative Extension.

10 Common Garden Pests—and Natural Pesticides to Keep Them Away

As a sustainable gardener, it’s crucial to master managing common garden pests using natural pesticides. See, any proper gardener will have a go-to pesticide to get rid of said buggers. However, most store-bought pesticides are highly toxic and harmful to your plants, beneficial bugs, the soil, and the surrounding ecosystem.

Certain natural ingredients mixed together repel pests from your garden, while keeping your plants, yourself, and other surrounding organisms safe. Familiarise yourself with these 10 common garden pests, and the eco-friendly pesticides you can use to subdue them successfully.

The problem with common garden pests

Pest damage varies depending on type of pest, what kind of plants you have, and how the pests behave around them. Some pests can kill your plants from the root; others just ruin your leaves. Some pests stay there just to feed on other pests, while others spread disease within and among your plants. Still, while not all pests behave the same, there are many different natural pesticides for whatever pest you may encounter.

1. Birds

Image credit: Andrew Alexander

Who would have thought that these awesome, majestic winged creatures would ever be called pests? Many an annoyed gardener, that’s for sure. As a matter of fact, crows and robins are a known nuisance to gardens. Not only do they snack on ripening fruits and vegetables, they also pluck seeds out of the ground for eating. Imagine how much rehabilitation your garden would need after these hungry twitters have had their way with it.

2. Caterpillars

While harmless to humans, caterpillars can destroy a garden overnight. They feed on foliage, destroy stalks and stems, and render the leaves of plants looking very unsightly.

3. Slugs and snails

These slimy little nocturnal creatures terrorise our gardens and invade our homes from time to time as well. With a preference for low hanging plants in shaded, damp conditions, these lungworm carriers are extremely hazardous to pets, too.

4. Aphids

Aphids resemble miniature pears with exceedingly long antennae and spiked tubes on their back. They favour fruits and vegetables and shaded trees and flowers because they can suck the sap from the poor fellows. As they feed on the sap of plants, they cause a lot of decay and distortion. They also facilitate the growth of certain mildews when they excrete honeydew onto plants, while inflicting viral diseases.

5. Flea beetles

Image credit: Denis Pageau

Can you imagine a beetle that jumps like a flea? Neither can I, but here we are. Flea beetles are small and usually dark coloured beetles that jump exactly like fleas would. They are located in North America and are very damaging to young plants. In fact, their larvae feed on plant roots, meaning they can destroy plants significantly.

6. Codling moth

Codling moths are more commonly seen around apples. The adults chew and bury themselves into apples, laying their larvae in the fruit’s flesh. Have you ever bit into an apple and thought it tasted funny, only to see a worm upon closer inspection? Well that ‘worm’ was most likely the larva of a codling moth!

7. Thrips

Thrips are a gang of creepy crawlies that are just waiting to destroy your garden and spread disease. Stealthy and microscopic, thrips feast on the surface cells of plants, lapping up the chlorophyll stored within them.

8. Mealy bugs

Image credit: Musarama

Mealy bugs look small and fluffy, almost like mould. However, don’t be fooled, as they are very well alive and fully functioning little creatures. They mostly target indoor plants because protected environments aren’t subject to external weather conditions. They breed rather quickly and are efficient at rapidly sucking the sap from plants.

9. Vine weevil

A vine weevil is a type of beetle that attacks both indoor and outdoor plants. It is one of the most common garden pests that can leave a garden in total disrepair. Adults mostly eat plant leaves in the summer. Much like flea beetle larvae, vine weevil larvae attack plants at the roots, causing imminent plant death.

10. Leaf miners

Image credit: The Post Newspaper

A collective term for the larvae of different types of flies, leaf miners feed on leaf tissue, causing discoloured trails. Their damage is harmless and merely cosmetic, but you may treat them if leaf appearance is a priority for you.

Natural pesticides to safely keep unwanted bugs at bay

There are many natural pest control remedies you can try in lieu of store-bought chemical bug sprays. Easily made from home ingredients, natural, eco-friendly pesticides are less damaging to soil and the environment than store-bought solutions are.

Never assume, however, that natural pest control sprays won’t damage soils or be toxic to humans or pets. Instead, do plenty of research and see which ones provide the best and safest protection from pests to your garden and home.

Image credit: Kama Ayurveda

Some eco-friendly pesticides include:

  • Neem Oil Spray – This recipe is good for scales, white flies, fungus gnats, aphids, and mealy bugs.
  • Garlic Pepper Tea Spray – Insect infestations are no match for this spicy concoction.
  • Oil Spray – Super simple to make, inexpensive, organic, and gets the job done! What’s not to love?
  • Diatomaceous Earth – Use a shaker or flour sifter to pest-proof your plants with this powder.
  • Chili Pepper Spray – Make this for insects, pests, and other animals that threaten your garden’s health.
  • Soap Spray – The fatty acids in soap dissolve insect cell membranes, while keeping your plants safe.
  • Tomato Leaves Spray – The alkaloids in this nightshade’s leaves repel leaf eaters and aphids, naturally!
  • All-In-One Natural Pest Control Spray – Save for soap, this all-star natural bug spray uses ingredients you most probably eat on a regular basis.

Image credit: Amazon UK

The great thing about natural pesticides is you can create and then modify them whenever needed. If you feel a mixture needs more or less of something, go ahead and tweak it! Natural pest control remedies aren’t a set formula. There’s no saying that the ratios that work as desired for one gardener reaps the same results for another. So you can keep with the trial and error until you find something that works well specifically for you.

Related Post: Indoor Plants, Love and All That Jazz: A Plant Enthusiast Shares Her Natural History

A happy garden is a healthy, pest-free, sustainable garden

Garden pests are a problem even the most eco-conscious and sustainably-minded gardener will have to solve at some point. While part and parcel of nature, pests can be a complete nightmare if you let them abound. Luckily, there are many natural pesticides you can use to keep your garden luscious, sustainable, and pest-free. Oh did you want to talk about the ethics of pest control too? Let’s save it—that’s a story for another day.

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11 Garden Plants to Help Keep Bugs Away!

Do you have a green thumb? As a homeowner, there are simple ways you can keep bugs off of your property in order to protect your family, and one of those methods is as green as green can be. Particular plants fight off bugs, and in the process you’re bringing color to your backyard.

Advice from the Pros

Here’s a list that should help keep your backyard a fun, safe, and vibrant place this season:


The scent of a marigold will deter plant lice, mosquitoes, and even rabbits. Plant these in flower beds near your front or back doors, or even in your vegetable garden to keep rabbits and mosquitoes from harming your plants.


This might be the best plant to deter bugs. Ants, Japanese beetles, roaches, bed bugs, spider mites, silverfish, and ticks will stay away if you have some of these around. Some bug repellents use an ingredient in this flower because of how effective it is. These flowers deter:

  • Ants
  • Japanese beetles
  • Roaches
  • Bed bugs
  • Spider mites
  • Ticks
  • Silverfish
  • Harlequin bugs
  • Lice


Mint plants can repel spiders, ants, and mosquitoes. But be careful when you plant mint because these plants spread rapidly!


Repel mosquitoes and houseflies with this wonderful herb. Maybe even put some plants by your backdoor to discourage them from getting inside, and have easy access to basil when you want to cook with it.

Citronella grass

Everyone knows this is an ingredient in mosquito repellents, but a lot of people don’t know it’s a grass. Plant this grass in gardens, or have it in planters near your doors to keep mosquitoes and flying insects from getting inside when you open the door.


Gnats and mosquitoes hate a smell that so many people love. Plant it near windows and doors so the scent wafts into your home.


Japanese beetles and carrot rust flies won’t want to stick around your property if you have chives growing.


Add color to your yard while repelling asparagus beetles, leafhoppers, various kinds of aphids, tomato worms, and a variety of other pests.

Bay leaves

This plant will repel flies, and if you have a roach problem you can use these to deter roaches in your kitchen.


Known for its health benefits and seasoning, garlic plants deter Japanese beetles, root maggots, carrot root flies, codling moths, and can be planted near roses to repel aphids from eating your flowers.


Rosemary will protect your vegetable plants by repelling a wide variety of bugs that will want to feed on the plants you’re growing and plan to eat. Keep them back with rosemary.

Is Your Lawn Protected?

These plants should help you and your family enjoy your backyard with fewer bugs this year. But bugs can be clever, and they’ll find ways past most defenses. If you’re finding that even these plants aren’t helping, or they aren’t helping enough, let us know. Remember: the best way to protect your family and keep your home protected is to prevent them from getting inside in the first place.

Learn more about our lawn insect & disease services today!

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