Marigolds are gorgeous in the garden. Better yet, they attract the beneficial insects that prey on garden pests.
That’s your garden variety flies, parasitic wasps, and ladybugs that are predatory making them useful at getting rid of aphids forever – They can eat up to 50 aphids per day – each!
It’s why gardeners use the marigold as a companion plant near their vegetable patches. (Among other reasons that you’ll find out soon enough).
It attracts both good and bad bugs. For the bad bugs, it’s a baiting station, making it easy for beneficial insects to find their prey for dinner.
That’s the plan anyway. It’s not failproof.
Some bugs will eat your marigolds, crushing your hopes of an easy to manage gardening season.
What is eating my marigolds?
Caterpillars and slugs are notorious for eating marigolds. When marigolds are used as a trap plant, Japanese beetles will eat them. Leaving dead bugs around repels beetles, but attracts earwigs. Those cause the same holes as slugs. Grasshoppers also eat marigolds causing large holes with ragged edges.
Certain caterpillar species are attracted to the marigold. The sunflower moth caterpillar, as an example, is one that goes after the flowers.
Its eating habits result in the flowers browning, but you’re unlikely to see holes in the petals.
What you’re more likely to see is random birds, particularly crows and blackbirds, swooning in and ripping parts of the flowers apart.
That’s them on the hunt for the caterpillars.
If you see any caterpillar or wormlike wrigglers on any part of your marigolds, pick them off and discard them.
It’s also a good idea to till your soil every now and then because cutworms can live in the soil and feed on the young plant tissue during the night.
If you find worms in your soil, make sure to remove those, too.
Brown worms with a patterned skin are usually the cutworm that’ll eat the roots but can come up to feed on delicate plant leaves.
White tiny worms in soil are more likely the larvae of fungus gnats that are more of a nuisance than a leaf muncher.
If you didn’t plan for this, you should know that marigolds are trap plants.
Gardeners plant them to bait Japanese beetles. It gives them something else to eat, other than the plants they want to keep.
The idea is to plant these away from plants that you DON’T want Japanese beetles eating. Like your tomatoes or strawberries.
They can be more successful than originally anticipated though. If the population gets out of control, these will decimate your marigolds.
For marigolds to work as trap plants, you need to keep on top of these pests by using some as a repellant to ward off others.
The most prominent deterrent for Japanese beetles is dead Japanese beetles. Nothing’s more effective than the fear of death.
Or in this case, the stench of death.
Rather than using a bug vacuum or crushing these beetles dead then binning them, handpick them at night or early morning and drop them into a shallow bowl of water with dish detergent to drown them.
The containers with the dead beetles, leave them near the plants the beetles are attracting and you’ll have fewer of them visiting.
A crucial key in planting trap plants is having a plan for the insects you do successfully lure into your garden.
Left to feed willy-nilly, they’ll devour your marigolds, then move onto other crops when they’re done.
Earwigs can eat through a lot of plants.
Their diet preference is dead insects so if you’re successfully deterring Japanese beetles by leaving some dead ones in the garden, this is likely what you’ll attract instead. ‘
Earwigs tend to feed closer to the ground, but on marigolds, anything goes. They’ll use their pincers to eat holes through the leaves, the petals, and marigold blossoms.
The holes they leave are similar to those created by slugs and snails. The only difference is these don’t leave behind a trail of slime.
When you think a slug has been at your marigolds but don’t see a slime trail, it’s likely an earwig that’s eating your plant.
Especially if there are dead insects around to attract them.
Slugs do their feeding during the night. In the morning, you’ll see big holes in the leaves of your marigold plant.
The most activity is on the lower part of the plant because these hide in the soil during the day.
A single slug has the ability to cause so much damage to your marigold.
You’ll see even more damage when they start laying slug eggs in soil. These are often in clusters of translucent pearls (around a dozen at a time) just beneath the soil surface.
When the eggs hatch in early spring, the baby slugs start life as neonates feeding mostly on fungus and algae.
If need be, they’ll eat the most tender parts of the lowest part of the plant.
As they mature into juvenile slugs, that’s when they venture further in search of food.
To control slugs in the garden, use slug pellets in early spring to kill off the neonates before they get a chance to mature.
Mature slugs will eat huge chunks out of the flowers and leaves of marigolds.
Where there’s a large slug population, diatomaceous earth can be put around the base of your plants to deter them. They’re unlikely to cross this as the sharpness scratches their skin.
Alternatives are to lay beer traps in deep enough bowls, or even the base of a used yogurt carton, in the soil.
Slugs find the scent of yeast in beer irresistible, prompting them to fall into the bowl and drown. That’s the idea so it won’t work if you put some beer on a saucer. They’ll just drink it.
Grasshoppers aren’t shy. They’ll eat your marigolds right in front of you. They’re sly about it though.
To you, it looks like they’re resting on the flower. While sitting looking comfortably perched, they’re slickly eating down your flowers.
When your plant’s not in bloom, they’ll happily chew the leaves and the stalk. They take what they can get easy access to.
Given their huge leaping capabilities, and the fact they can fly (although rarely need to), the damage can be devastating.
The damage leafhoppers do to marigolds is evident when you see holes with ragged edges.
To control grasshoppers’ numbers, birds are what you need around. Attract them by offering up food and water.
To get the insect-eating birds like bluebirds and swallows, feed them mealworms.
A birdbath with a stone in the center lets them either bathe in the water or perch on the stone for a drink.
The more attractive your garden is for insect-eating birds, the fewer garden critters you’ll have around.
Frequently Asked Questions About What is Eating My Marigolds
Do animals eat marigolds?
Rarely do animals eat marigolds. The pungent smell repels them. Exceptions are rabbits and deer. If you’re growing fruit that’s attracting them, but protecting those from them, you’ll need to protect your marigolds, too. A chicken wire cloche over it at night stops nocturnal feeders from eating them.
Are toads effective at controlling grasshopper populations?
Toads are predatory creatures that will eat grasshoppers and various other insects. If they can, but toads and frogs are nocturnal feeders. Grasshoppers feed in the daytime. For that reason, birds are better at controlling grasshoppers than toads and frogs because those only hunt at night.
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Daniel has been a plant enthusiast for over 20 years. He owns hundreds of houseplants and prepares for the chili growing seasons yearly with great anticipation. His favorite plants are plant species in the Araceae family, such as Monstera, Philodendron, and Anthurium. He also loves gardening and is growing hot peppers, tomatoes, and many more vegetables.