What eats a cactus

What Eats a Cactus?

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With their low water needs and resistance to many common pests and diseases, members of the cactus family can be exceptionally resilient. But cactuses are not immune to damage, and some insects and animals will eat them. Even people enjoy eating cactuses: prickly pear cactus (Opuntia humifusa) produces egg-shaped fruits with bright red edible pulp.

Lousy Longhorns

Cactus longhorn beetles are shiny black beetles about 1 inch long that have wide antennae distinctively marked with white bands. The beetles feed on a range of cactus species, damaging either the margins of cactus pads or the terminal flower buds. The University of Arizona Cooperative Extension recommends hand-picking the beetles when they are most active, early in the morning or in late evening, ideally after a warm summer rain. Because hand-picking is effective and beetle populations are usually low, there’s no need to use chemical insecticides.

Bugs That Bug

Common garden pests, such as aphids, spider mites, mealybugs and scale insects can also feed on cactuses. Check cactus plants carefully for crawling insects or cottony, white masses, which may be mealybugs or scale. Fine webs and stippling on cactus skin indicate spider mites. Small groups of pests may be rinsed off with a direct stream of water from the hose or a spray bottle, or by spraying the cactus with horticultural oil. Mix 2 1/2 to 5 tablespoons of horticultural oil with 1 gallon of water, and pour it into a pressurized spray bottle. Check the label’s rates because brands vary. Shake well to mix, and coat the cactus evenly. Wear long pants, a long-sleeved shirt and chemical-resistant gloves to avoid getting the oil on your skin. Heavily infested cactuses may need to be thrown out.

Animal Attacks

During long periods of drought, some animals may resort to feeding on cactuses. Potential culprits include mice, rabbits, ground squirrels and pack rats. Cactuses can often recover if damage is slight. If animals consistently cause damage, consider putting up a fence. Stakes fitted with chicken wire that are at least 2 feet tall will keep out rabbits. Bury the fencing at least 6 inches into the ground to prevent burrowing.

Treat Them Right

Providing the proper cultural care for your cactuses will make then less susceptible to insect attacks, because stressed plants are more likely to attract pests. Good care also helps the cactuses recover faster from any feeding damage. Cactuses generally prefer bright, sunny areas with daytime temperatures during the growing season that stay between 65 and 85 degrees Fahrenheit. Plant in well-draining soil and water sparingly. Only plant cactuses outdoors if they’re suitable for your climate. Prickly pears, for example, can grow outdoors in U.S. Department of Agriculture plant hardiness zones 5 through 10.

Saguaros are big… very big for cacti. That’s one of the first impressions one is likely to get about the plants of the Sonoran Desert, the only place the iconic cactus lives naturally.

Looking closely at a Saguaro, one gets the impression that the cactus has a hard life. It’s clear that needles and a generally unappealing (at least for food) nature doesn’t make the plant’s life problem-free. Of course there are the physical limitations to living in the Sonoran Desert, things such as lack of water and high summer temperatures but there are also scars on saguaros. Scars on saguaros sometimes come from cold temperatures that leave a pinched look on some of the cactus. There are also cactus that I am convinced were shot, possible by inebriated college kids looking for senseless fun. There are holes clearly made by insects, small but still probably somewhat damaging and then there are bigger holes.

Other cacti have a lot of holes as well. Some holes are caused by insects but javelina (often thought a pig, javelina are actually peccaries) and desert tortoise take bites from various species of prickly pear. Spines don’t mean that no one will eat you. Cactus fruit are also a big source of food and some Native American groups improvised many culinary uses for saguaro (and other cacti) fruit as well as fruit gathering ceremonies. Saguaro fruit can even be made into wine.

Woodpeckers leave holes in saguaros for their homes but not all woodpecker holes are the same. Gilded Flickers, (Colaptes chrysoides) a beautiful woodpecker eats insects but unlike non-desert species also eats cactus fruit. The gilded flicker also uses saguaros for a home. The flicker hammers through to the center of saguaro cactus and above their holes you sometimes see the rest of the plant leaning over sharply, drooping due to a loss of its structural integrity.

Gila Woodpeckers (Melanerpes uropygialis) also make their homes inside of saguaros but with a different method. Gila Woodpeckers break through only the outside layer of a cactus. The cactus is allowed to heal, creating a pocket of scar tissue. Sometimes these pockets of scar tissue (called boots) were collected by Native Americans to use for carrying water. Since the Gila Woodpecker doesn’t damage the saguaro’s hard wooden interior, the cactus stands strong still, with just superficial damage when compared to that done by Gilded Flickers.

The advantages of nesting in cacti are obvious if you consider them for a bit. A bird can reach a cactus rather easily by flying to it but imagine being a hungry cat trying to climb the plant to catch a bird. Cactus Wrens nest in Cholla cactus, building tubes of needles and sticks to raise eggs in. Sometimes Cactus Wrens also build dummy nests to lure would be predators to the wrong nest.

Life in the desert seems exceedingly hard, and there is less biodiversity than in some places, but all it really requires is a bit of innovation and natural selection is an amazing innovator.

By Zach Fitzner, Earth.com Contributing Writer

A newly caught gopher (lower right) in my garden.

Over the past quarter century, I’ve trapped four to six gophers a year in my half-acre garden near San Diego. If I can catch gophers, so can you. Here’s how.

— Obtain at least four Macabee gopher traps.

— Tie one end of a string that’s several feet long to the end of the trap opposite its pincher-jaws. At the other end of the string, tie a loop.

— If you don’t know how to set the traps, watch a video that shows how. Tip: If you’re having trouble inserting the trigger wire into the little hole, use your thumbs to push down firmly on the wires between the trap’s open jaws, then thread the trigger wire up and into the hole with your fingers. As with any trap, be careful not to catch yourself!

— Dig down into the tunnel with a shovel. Aim to expose two openings, one in each direction, so you can catch the gopher coming or going. (Granted, two holes aren’t always possible. Gopher tunnels seldom go in a straight line, nor are they necessarily parallel to the surface.)

— Use a trowel to clear each opening of dirt and to create space to insert a trap. Sometimes it’s easier to reach into a hole with your hand and scoop dirt out, which also is the best way to discern if a hole does indeed lead into a tunnel. (If someone’s with you, snatch back your hand as though bit. No worries. The gopher won’t come near you.)

— Insert a set trap into each hole. I hold the trap by the string end and push the metal square forward with my thumb to keep the trigger wire in place, lest it become dislodged. (This will become obvious when you do it. Again, no worries—if the trap snaps, your thumb won’t be in the way.)

— Extend each trap’s string outside the hole and drive a stake through the loop into the ground. This ensures that you can find the trap later, that a squirming gopher can’t drag the trap deeper into the hole, and that you won’t have to reach into the hole to remove the trap. (Simply extract it by pulling the string).

— The more tunnels you open and the more traps you set, the better your chances…which is why I set four traps, minimum.

— Cover the trap holes, because if a gopher sees light, it’ll push dirt into the trap while trying to close the opening. I place palm-sized pieces of flagstone upright to cover trap holes, but nearly anything will work—just don’t let pebbles, leaves and dirt fall into the hole.

— Check traps the next day. If they’re empty, reevaluate their locations and try again. Keep doing this until you catch the gopher or it exits on its own (evidenced by no new mounds). Sometimes—rarely—a predator gets the gopher first: snakes go into tunnels; and owls, raptors, cats, and coyotes pounce on gophers as they emerge from their holes at night.

— Traps are too expensive to discard with a gopher. If you’re squeamish about such things, have someone who isn’t extract it from the trap. Shake the gopher into a plastic grocery bag, tie the top, and set it out with the trash.

“Gopher spurge” in the Euphorbia genus is supposed to repel gophers (the roots exude a gummy sap gophers don’t like) but I’ve always wondered why a gopher wouldn’t simply go around them!

Poison bait also is an option, but it has a shelf life, may possibly endanger pets and beneficial animals, and you don’t know for sure that you’ve caught the gopher because there’s no evidence (but maybe that’s a good thing). Use a metal bar to poke the ground around a gopher mound until the bar goes into a tunnel. Funnel bait through the hole into the tunnel. Cover the hole so light doesn’t enter.

Chicken wire protects the roots of an agave from gophers.

The Sunset Western Garden book suggests protecting roots of young plants by lining planting holes with chicken wire. If you look closely at this photo taken in Patrick Anderson’s garden, you’ll see chicken wire around the agave. Gophers don’t go after many succulents, perhaps because the plants are shallow rooted, but they do like agaves. Below, my Agave americana ‘Marginata’ after a gopher ate the roots and up into the heart of the plant.

Collapse gopher runs by slicing into them with a shovel, thereby making it less easy for a new gopher to use them. Gophers are antisocial except when mating, but if there’s a unoccupied network of tunnels, a new one will soon move in.

Keep open a run that leads into your yard from a neighbor’s. When the tunnel opening fills with soil, you’ll know a gopher is active. Clear out the dirt the gopher used to seal the opening, then trap the gopher before it enters your garden.

And no, it doesn’t help to put a hose down a gopher hole.


Macabee traps, set of four, about $25. (Five stars on Amazon.)

Videos produced by the University of California Cooperative Extension:

How to Set a Macabee Gopher Trap

Pocket Gopher: Finding Tunnel Systems

Pocket Gopher: Trap placement

Also on YouTube for your entertainment: Debra Discusses Gophers During a Potting Demo.

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How to Keep Gophers Out of Your Yard and Garden

Humane and natural gopher control methods that will keep them from destroying your garden By Linda Hagen


Photo by: Matt Knoth / .

Gophers, also called pocket gophers, are small rodents that live in tunnels under lawns and gardens. They are a seasonal recurring problem in some areas, but can be a constant problem in others. Gophers seldom venture above ground, so it’s a battle generally fought underground. They target moisture-rich roots of plants and trees and can ruin years of growth in just a matter of hours. Additionally, the holes and dirt mounds that they create can be serious tripping hazards for people and pets, and their tunnels can weaken the ground to the point of causing patios and walkways to collapse.

The size of your yard or garden, the type of plants you have, and the areas surrounding your yard can all affect the rate of success you’ll have with gopher control. The quicker the problem is identified and action is taken, the better. If you’re looking for ways to keep them from destroying your yard or garden, short of blowing them up Caddyshack-style, here are some humane ways to try:


Gopher mesh barrier: Create a perimeter or in-ground fence around your garden or lawn with galvanized gopher mesh or chicken wire. The barrier should extend into the ground 1 to 2 feet and above ground as well. They may dig right up to the barrier and you can wage your war there.

Under-lawn barrier: Lay galvanized gopher mesh 4 to 6 inches under the soil when planting a new lawn, laying sod, or in shallow flower beds. It’s a tremendous amount of work for large areas, but if you have a serious problem it can save your lawn for many years to come.

Gopher baskets: If installing an entire foundation or perimeter of mesh isn’t practical, wire mesh baskets can be placed around individual plants that you want to protect. These can be a good solution to protect prized rose bushes, fruit trees, succulents or vegetable gardens. Gopher baskets are available in multiple sizes and are usually made of chicken wire or galvanized mesh, which will last longer.


Plants gophers won’t eat: Gophers usually won’t eat daffodils (Narcissus) and most allium, onion or garlic plants, so you’re safe planting as many of those as you want.

Plants that repel gophers: Other plants can be used to repel gophers, such as gopher spurge (Euphorbia lathyris), crown imperials, lavender, rosemary, salvia, catmint, oleander and marigolds. Try planting a border around your flower beds or vegetable garden with these. Some of these will also repel unwanted insects like mosquitoes.

Repellent Products

Scent: Repellents that rely on scent can be somewhat hit or miss, because it can be difficult to get enough of it deep enough into their underground spaces. Also, when applying any repellent product to the holes, you need to get it in every hole that you see. Some that you can try are:

  • Pine disinfectants: Soak a rag and stuff down the hole.
  • Chili powder: Sprinkle inside hole as far down as you can get it.
  • Peppermint oil: Soak cotton balls and place in hole.
  • Fabric softener sheets: Place in the hole.
  • Garlic stakes: These small stakes contain garlic oil and can be placed throughout your yard in the gopher’s holes.

Photo by: Sergey Kamshylin / .

Castor oil granules: Spread the granules over the yard where gophers are the worst, and water them in. The granules will dissolve and release a scent underground that is unpleasant to gophers and moles. Apply castor oil granules in stages, starting at the furthest part of the yard and expanding the treated area closer to the exit with applications every couple of days. The gophers aren’t harmed, just ushered out of your yard and sent elsewhere. Follow instructions for application rate.

Sound: Gophers are sensitive to loud noises and may be annoyed enough by a loud radio, or even windchimes, to move along. This is generally a short-term solution and won’t completely solve the issue.

Ultrasonic repellents: Most of these products are battery or solar powered. The ultrasonic vibrations they put out aren’t harmful to humans or pets, but are annoying to gophers. Ultrasonic repellents are visible above ground, but can be placed in out of the way locations around the yard.

Predatory Animals

Although these options may not be non-lethal ways to get rid of gophers, they’re certainly natural ones.

Barn owls: A gopher’s #1 enemy are barn owls, and a small family of them can eat up to 1000 gophers a year. Encourage barn owls to take up residence in or near your yard by installing owl nesting boxes. Keep in mind though that there needs to be a pretty steady supply of gophers to keep the owls around.

Gopher snakes: True to their namesake, gopher snakes will eat gophers; however, they only eat every four to six weeks, so they’re not very efficient if you have multiple gophers.

Pets: The presence of dogs and cats can make life uncomfortable for gophers and they might move on. Some cats and dogs will chase and kill gophers; however, gophers can carry diseases, so this isn’t always a good idea. Ultimately, the biggest threat to pets from gophers is if they get ahold of one that has ingested poison, thus transferring the poison to your dog or cat – one huge argument for not using any type of gopher poison or gopher bait.

Live Traps

Live traps will catch some gophers and give you the opportunity to relocate them. However, gophers are fairly prolific breeders and in mild climates they can have three to five litters per year, so trapping is needed year-round. Your best solution for live trapping may be to hire a professional who knows how to place traps successfully and how to handle the gophers once trapped. Traps are more practical for smaller areas.

How to set a gopher trap: If you’d like to try your hand at trapping, you’ll be most successful placing the traps in the main tunnel runway which is usually five to ten inches below ground. Follow the exit hole down to the main tunnel, which usually leads away in the direction of the flat side of the above-ground dirt mound. You can also use a long metal rod or screwdriver to poke down through the dirt to help you locate the tunnel. Dig down to the tunnel and place two traps back to back, with one facing each way down the tunnel, or use a 2-door trap. One popular bait to use is Juicy Fruit gum. Some swear by it and say that when the gophers eat it, it will clog their intestines and kill them. It may work, but you’ll probably find it’s best simply used as bait. Check the traps intermittently and handle them carefully once the gophers are trapped.

Call a professional: If you’re in need of a quick solution, have a large area to treat, or are heavily infested, you may want to call in a professional for gopher removal. Once they’ve come in and gained the upper hand, you may be able to take over and maintain control.

For particularly stubborn gophers it may take multiple approaches used simultaneously, such as repellent plants, an ultrasonic repellent and some physical barriers. After all, the only permanent solution would be to concrete your entire yard.

Methods Not Recommended

Flushing water down their tunnels to drown or chase them out is not recommended and may even make the situation worse. The excess water softens the ground, actually making it easier for them to dig. Gophers have many tunnels they can escape in and even block off temporarily. Their tunnels may run under patios or walkways and the underground flooding can cause damage or even collapse.

Poison bait is just as deadly to your pets as it is to the gophers who consume it. Rodenticide is the most commonly ingested poison by dogs; they either eat it directly or get secondary poisoning from getting ahold of a poisoned gopher. Either way, there are disastrous results. The same holds true for birds of prey, owls or hawks, that eat gophers or other rodents that have ingested poison. It’s just not worth the risk to use poison.

Igniting propane, butane or natural gas in the tunnels is dangerous, and although it might get the gophers, you’ll most likely do irreparable harm to the plant roots that you’re trying to protect in the first place.

Using gas-producing flares or blowing exhaust into the tunnels isn’t always effective either. Gophers have a keen sense of smell and are able to plug up their tunnels rather quickly. Pumping exhaust from a lawn mower through a garden hose is exceptionally dangerous as the exhaust is extremely hot and can melt the hose.

Photo by: Yhelfman / .

Gophers 101

With any type of pest problem, identifying the culprit is the first step. A common pocket gopher is larger than a hamster and has a tail that is shorter than a rat or mouse. They have small ears that don’t stick out from their head and prominent front teeth. They have whiskers that help them move around and gauge the width of their tunnels. Gophers also have keen senses of smell and hearing, but their sight can be somewhat limited, especially when first exiting the dark tunnels into daylight. Gophers rarely venture out of their tunnels and spend most of their time underground.

A classic gopher mound is C-shaped around the entrance hole and is made as he pushes the dirt from the tunnels to the surface. The entrance and exit holes drop down at an angle to the main runway. Gophers make many side tunnels, hideouts and nests that branch off the main runway, as well as other entrance and exit holes.

Gopher vs Mole? A gopher mound is C-shaped, but a mound made by a mole is more like a volcano and surrounds the entire entrance hole. Moles don’t eat plants or roots, but eat grubs and earthworms. Their burrows are more shallow than gophers, often making surface ridges in the lawn or garden.

How to Get Rid of Squirrels
Rabbits – Natural Ways to Protect Your Garden

How to get rid of mealy bugs on succulents

While many plant pesticides will kill mealybugs, the best solution I’ve found to kill them is 70% isopropyl alcohol. Many people recommend using q-tips to dab on the alcohol, but I’ve found that a spray bottle is much more effective and easier to use.

I actually keep a little travel sized spray bottle next to my plants so I can kill the nasty things as soon as they show up. I do use a larger one if the infestation gets out of hand or affects very many plants.

When you first notice the mealybugs, move your infected plants away from everything else. Mealybugs spread quickly and you don’t want to risk other plants getting infected.

To kill the mealybugs with the alcohol, simply spray the alcohol directly on the mealybugs, wherever they are on the succulent.

Be sure to check those hard to see places near the stem. Spray them really well with the alcohol. You’ll notice the web-like substance will almost disappear as soon as you spray them and a little brownish/black bug, the size of a crumb will be left.

Graptoveria ‘Debbie’

Generally, if you catch the mealybugs early just one round of alcohol spray will be enough to kill them. If you didn’t quite get them all though, they may come back in a day or two. Continue to spray them until they don’t come back.

If you’ve had a large infestation, it may be a good idea to pour alcohol over the soil the next time you water. This will kill any bugs or eggs that are hiding out in the soil.

Doesn’t the alcohol damage the succulent?

Nope! The great thing about alcohol, as opposed to other pesticides, is it’s completely safe for succulents.

I’ve had a few plants with a really bad mealy bug problem that I have pretty much soaked with alcohol a few days in a row. They didn’t show any signs of burn or damage from the alcohol. The alcohol itself evaporates quickly, so it’s just water that remains. If you use the spray bottle, it won’t get too much on the leaves so it evaporates before any damage may occur.

Graptoveria ‘Debbie’

Are there other ways to kill mealybugs?

Yep! I’ve had people suggest adding a little bit of dish soap to water and spraying or dabbing that on. You can also use systemic pesticides for house plants. Lady bugs also keep mealybugs away!

The best solution, and cheapest, I’ve found though, is the rubbing alcohol. It is the only one I’m confident will eliminate the mealybug problem and won’t damage your succulents.

How to Stop Squirrels Eating Your Succulents

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One of the most persistent pests a gardener can encounter are squirrels. These tenacious critters may be cute, but they are known for climbing, digging, and chewing their way through almost anything to reach food.

Although there is no miracle product to keep squirrels away from your beloved plants, there are plenty of options to suit the individual needs of your property.

Table of Contents

The Squirrel Life Cycle

There are over 200 species of squirrel divided into three categories: tree squirrels, ground squirrels, and flying squirrels. They’re found all over the world, except for Australia and Antarctica, so if you think you have a squirrel problem, just remember that you’re not alone.

Squirrels are prolific breeders. They usually have two litters per year, in late winter and midsummer. Each litter has an average of two to four babies, but they can have up to eight. The babies are weaned at the age of two months and reach adulthood by nine months when they can start having families of their own.

Although it’s possible for squirrels to live up to 15 years in the wild, due to heavy predation they have an average lifespan of 5-6 years. Predators are the single largest threat to adolescent squirrels.

Squirrels are primarily herbivores and eat up to a pound of food per week, so the damage to your garden can quickly add up. In addition to their weekly food intake, they collect and bury extra food to store through the winter.

Signs of Infestation

If you have a squirrel problem, you’ll know it. Squirrels are notorious for chewing and digging their way through gardens and yards. If your garden has been ravaged by these furry fiends you’ll find chewed up leaves, uprooted plants, and holes filled with their favorite foods.

Squirrel damage on succulents is usually easy to recognize. Unlike most of the insect pests, squirrels can take big chunks out of plants. Look for jagged tear marks and deep wounds in succulent leaves and cacti.

Squirrels usually don’t take more than a few bites from your succulents… so the evidence will stick around!

How to Prevent Squirrels on Succulents


As the old saying goes, an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure. Keeping the squirrels out of your garden before they discover the treasure trove of snacks is much easier than trying to convince them to move on.


Repellents are an excellent way to discourage squirrels from visiting your garden.

Peppermint is a natural alternative to using harsh chemicals around your plants. Many gardeners have found success planting peppermint alongside their succulents, while others have kept the pests at bay by soaking cotton balls in peppermint oil and sprinkling them throughout the garden.

Mothballs are another repellent used frequently by desperate gardeners. Squirrels detest the smell of mothballs so placing them around the boundaries of your garden is often enough to encourage them to search for food elsewhere.

However, mothballs can be toxic to squirrels and other wildlife, so it’s important to be aware of the impact this method may have on your community. Placing mothballs in nylon stockings before securing them around your garden can help, but it is still possible for wildlife to consume them.

Squirrels aren’t exactly fans of spicy food, so spraying your garden with a store-bought or homemade pepper spray can discourage them from snacking on your landscaping.

If you’re a do-it-yourselfer, you can make your own repellent by boiling a few jalapenos and a bit of garlic or onion in about a quart of water. After cooling, strain out the solids, pour into a spray bottle, and spritz your plants with your spicy mixture.

You can also sprinkle dried spices, such as cayenne or red pepper flakes, throughout your garden to discourage digging and chewing.

When using these repellents, remember to reapply periodically, especially after rainfall or heavy watering.

Netting and Fencing

Depending on the landscape of your garden or yard, one of the most successful methods of keeping squirrels out is to simply build a barrier that they cannot cross.

This is easier said than done since squirrels are well-known for their acrobatic talent. Covering your garden with a chew-proof mesh material allows sunlight, water, and fresh air to reach your plants, but not hungry critters. Unfortunately, netting may not be the most attractive decoration for your garden, but it will keep your plants safe and sound.

Squirrel-proof fencing is another method to protect your garden. Plastic or PVC fencing is considered the most effective since its slick surface prevents the squirrels from climbing. Squirrels are excellent climbers so it’s often necessary to add netting to your fence to keep them out.

If you choose to rely on fencing, be aware of any trees around your garden. If they can’t climb your fence, they may be able to climb a nearby tree and leap right over. Squirrels are also efficient diggers so make sure the fencing extends below the surface of the ground a few inches to ensure that they can’t get dig their way under your barrier.

Routinely checking your fencing for holes and damage will ensure your garden remains a squirrel-free zone.

Electronic Devices

For the technologically-inclined gardener, a variety of ultrasonic repellent devices are available. These devices are usually placed in or on the ground or hung in the desired area. Solar models are also available if your garden area is lacking in electric outlets.

These devices can also help keep moles, birds, and stray pets from digging up your succulents and cacti. Some models even include motion-activated strobe lights to further discourage animals from destroying your landscaping.

Treatments for Squirrels


Predators are the biggest natural threat to squirrels, so exploiting this fear is one of the simplest tactics to encourage them to scavenge elsewhere. Both dogs and cats love chasing squirrels, so if you’re willing to share your home with a furry companion they may return the favor by keeping the squirrels out of your yard. Even when they aren’t on active patrol, the scent of pet urine is often enough to remind squirrels that they aren’t welcome.

If the life of a pet owner doesn’t suit you, you can always buy predator’s urine. It may sound strange but spraying your yard with wild animal urine is a proven technique to keep squirrels out. Your local garden center or outdoor equipment store will likely have a variety of options including fox, coyote, wolf, and bobcat. Take your pick and you may find that the squirrels have lost interest in your garden.

Squirrel Feeders

If you prefer a more passive solution to your squirrel problem, you can always provide the hungry critters with a free meal and hope they leave your precious plants alone. Some gardeners with large lots have found success in setting up squirrel feeders in various locations on their property.

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The theory here is that a satisfied squirrel will be more likely to leave your plants alone. If you can set up the feeders away from your garden you may find that the squirrels prefer an easy meal, especially if you combine this method with a few deterrents around your garden.

Pest Control

Squirrels usually make their homes in the holes and hollows of trees, but you may find that the squirrels raiding your garden have cozied up inside the walls, attic, or crawl space of your home. In this case, it may be necessary to call your local pest control company to safely and humanely remove them. Their chewing and nesting habits can cause significant damage to your home over time, so it’s best to have them removed as soon as possible.

Combining a few of these methods may be the best way to keep squirrels out of your succulents, but it’s important to be as determined to keep them out as they are to get in.

The Animals That Love To Eat Succulent Leaves

Unfortunately there are a lot of pests and other animals out there that include succulents in their diet. Even if it is not their natural food, animals seem to like water filled, succulent leaves and drive succulent enthusiasts around the bend with all sorts of damage done to our precious plants.

So what eats succulent leaves? Well, the list varies depending on where in the world you are, but the most common animals around the world are aphids, mealy bugs, caterpillars, grasshoppers, snails and slugs.

Larger Animals That Like to Eat Succulent Leaves and What to do About Them

Here in Australia (and possibly America) we have a huge fan of succulent leaves that likes to eat the tender new growth in the middle. Aussie succulent enthusiasts will, of course, know I’m talking about the possums. They can mow several plants right down overnight and love chomping on the centers of Echeverias, Graptopetalums and all the other beautiful florette- like succulents. If you have possums and your succulents are within their reach and are missing big chunks of leaves, it is extremely likely the possums are the culprit. We are a working nursery based in the Blue Mountains west of Sydney and the healthy numbers of possums could really wreak havoc on our plants. But because we like animals, rather than trying to completely eliminate them from the nursery we possum-proof our plants.

All the plants are on fairly high tables with smooth legs that possums can’t grip on and the perimeter of the succulents gardens is planted out with more spiky plants like low growing Agaves. We have also heard of garlic and onion concentrates (steep garlic/onion in boiling water and when cool spray on your plants). Although we haven’t tried this method yet, it apparently works a treat.

Wallabies and kangaroos are also said to love succulents. Thankfully, we don’t have any problems with these, but it is said that planting lavender, rosemary and citronella varieties will keep them away as they dislike the smell.

It has been reported that deer love succulents as well. While not very common in Australia, they can readily be encountered in other parts of the world. A good fence will keep the deer away. The alternative is to buy or make a spray that will deter deer from eating your succulents (and other plants).

Domestic animals such chickens, ducks, geese, horses, goats and cows also like eating succulent leaves. To keep these out, you will really just need a fence.

The Small Creatures That Like to Eat Succulent Leaves

The smallest animals that succulent lovers will encounter eating their leaves are aphids and mealy bugs. Although they don’t take chunks off, they suck on the leaves juices leaving them deformed or scarred. Aphids and Mealy Bugs can multiply quickly and colonize plants within days.

Despite being small Aphids are fairly easy to spot and eliminate. They come in green, black, brown and even orange, and can range in size. People usually notice them once there is a fair few on the plant. The good news is that Aphids are quite easy to get rid of and they don’t move fast. If there is only a few, they can be squashed and then washed off. If the infestation is quite significant a pyrethrum based spray will kill them quick smart. Pyrethrum can be bought natural (extracted from the Pyrethrum Plant) or synthetic. They both have the same effect and will kill insects on contact. It is best to use Pyrethrum in the evening, when beneficial insects are not flying around anymore as they will also get killed if sprayed. Pyrethrum breaks down fast and is biodegradable, so is quite a good pesticide to use. Natural Pyrethrum is the more eco friendly option. Neem and other natural remedies can also be tried and have been reported by other succulent growers and gardeners as effective, but in our experience they do not work well (that is not to say they do not work at all).

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