What could be more disheartening than carefully nurturing a garden to the brink of maturity, and coming out one morning to find some mysterious plant-eating culprit has taken it out?
It has happened to me more than once, so I started researching the subject,
and I wrote this article containing the most pertinent information on what I found.
What is Eating My Plants?
Many insects eat garden plants, and some can devour a garden in mere days. In the Mid-Atlantic, Pacific Northwest, and New England regions of the US, slugs are the number one garden pest. In the Rockies, it’s the grasshopper; in the Midwest and Southern Interior, the squash bug; in the Southwest, the aphid, and in the Gulf Coast region, the tomato hornworm.
- 1 What is Eating My Plants?
- 1.1 Slugs, Cabbageworms, and Japanese Beetles in the Canada/New England Region
- 1.2 Slugs and Japanese Beetles in the Mid-Atlantic Region
- 1.3 Squash Bugs and Squash Vine Borers in the Southern Interior and Central/Midwest Regions
- 1.4 Tomato Hornworms and Squash Vine Borers in the Gulf Coast Region
- 1.5 Grasshoppers and Aphids in the Rockies/North Central Region
- 1.6 Aphids and Tomato Hornworms in the Southwest Region
- 1.7 Slugs and Aphids in the Pacific Northwest Region
- 2 Frequently Asked Questions About Garden Pest is Eating a Plants
- 3 Conclusion About What is Eating My Plants
Slugs, Cabbageworms, and Japanese Beetles in the Canada/New England Region
In the Canada/New England Region of the US, slugs are the number one culprit to look for when a garden is suddenly being devoured.
Slugs leave large holes in a plant’s leaves and in the fruits or vegetables it produces.
Those growing lettuce, tomatoes, cabbage, and beans should suspect slugs first, as these seem to be at the top of their favorite foods list.
It’s easy to tell if slugs are the culprits because they leave behind slime as they wriggle around helping themselves to what the garden has to offer.
Slugs sort of “hibernate” during the day, and they prefer eating at night.
They are attracted to moist soil, so water plants early in the day and allow the ground time to dry before nightfall.
The cabbageworm and the Japanese beetle are neck-in-neck for second place garden culprit in the New England region.
The cabbageworm (adults are known as small whites or cabbage whites) eats cabbage, of course, but also cauliflower, broccoli, kale, and the like.
Cabbageworms transform into cabbage white butterflies, but pretty isn’t always sweet.
The butterflies are likely laying eggs and leaving them underneath the leaves of the vegetables in the garden.
Cabbageworms munch at the base of a vegetable plant and eat its foliage. One day — surprise, there is nothing left but big veins and stems.
Cabbageworms can destroy a garden, and their fecal matter can not only stain but also contaminate the vegetables.
Slugs and Japanese Beetles in the Mid-Atlantic Region
Slugs are also the number one garden pest in the Mid-Atlantic region of the US, but in close second place is the Japanese beetle.
While the Japanese beetle prefers fruit and ornamentals, they will certainly eat vegetables.
They will damage the leaves of green beans, asparagus, eggplant, peppers, rhubarb, sweet basil, and all types of greens, like collards.
They can also cause “silk clipping” in corn. Silk clipping occurs when an insect feeds on the green silk strands, possibly causing fewer kernels per ear.
Squash Bugs and Squash Vine Borers in the Southern Interior and Central/Midwest Regions
Squash bugs are the primary garden pest in both the Southern Interior and Central/Midwest regions of the US.
They eat vegetables like squash, pumpkin, and melon.
Squash bugs eat the foliage of plants with mouths that are able to pierce the leaves and suck out the sap from them.
This results in plant wilting and sometimes death.
When the population of squash bugs gets high, it can become a real problem for a gardener or a farmer.
Squash vine borers are actually neck-in-neck with squash bugs in the Central/Midwest region,
and while not as prevalent as squash bugs, they are not far behind them in the Southern Interior region.
Squash vine borers lay their eggs at the squash plant’s base. Later, after the eggs hatch,
the larvae bore into the stems closest to the ground, weakening or even killing the plant.
Squash vine borers like squash but prefer Hubbard over butternut squash.
They also like zucchini, pumpkins, and different types of gourds but do not care for melons and cucumbers.
Tomato Hornworms and Squash Vine Borers in the Gulf Coast Region
In the Gulf Coast region of the US, squash vine borers are common, but the number one garden pest is the tomato hornworm.
Tomato hornworms adore tomatoes but will also dine on peppers, eggplant, potatoes, and even tobacco.
As a rule, they feed from the top of the plant, down. Inspect the tops of tomato leaves for black or green droppings.
Find them, turn over the leaf, and likely, a tomato hornworm will be there.
Look for missing leaves and stems and wilted leaves that hang down. A hornworm hosting a white cocoon is likely nearby.
Grasshoppers and Aphids in the Rockies/North Central Region
Grasshoppers are the primary garden devourer in the Rockies/North Central region. They chew ragged-edged holes in plant leaves.
It seems that they don’t care for peas, squash, or tomatoes, but they are very fond of lettuce, carrots, onions, beans, corn, and raspberries.
Grasshoppers also eat flowers but don’t like ornamentals, such as lilac, crepe myrtle, verbena, forsythia, portulaca, lantana, dianthus, salvia, or artemisia.
Grasshoppers don’t play around. If they are especially starved, they can chew through row covers.
Second on the list of garden pests in the Rockies are aphids, which I’ll discuss in the next section.
Aphids and Tomato Hornworms in the Southwest Region
Aphids eat many plants, but various species of aphids are drawn to certain plants. Various species are named according to what they like to eat.
There are cabbage aphids, bean aphids, potato aphids, melon aphids, green peach aphids, and woolly apple aphids, to name a few.
Aphids suck on the juices of the plants they eat, attacking their roots, stems, leaves, buds, fruit, and flowers.
They leave behind a sticky substance called honeydew, which is a telltale sign that aphids are the culprit.
Slugs and Aphids in the Pacific Northwest Region
Slugs are way ahead as the number one garden pest in the Pacific Northwest region, followed by aphids.
To learn more about a particular pest, the signs of their presence, and how to get rid of them,
go to the Old Farmer’s Almanac website and search for that particular pest.
Frequently Asked Questions About Garden Pest is Eating a Plants
What is eating my indoor plant leaves?
Aphids, spider mites, whiteflies, mealybugs, and scales are the most common culprits when a houseplant has been munched on.
Consult the Farmer’s Almanac for more information on these pesky creatures.
What are some common non-insect garden pests?
If it’s a sure thing that insects are not the culprits eating the plants in the garden, consider birds, mammals, or even reptiles.
Some species in each of these categories will take a meal in the garden, anyone’s garden.
Conclusion About What is Eating My Plants
Certain garden pests are more prevalent in different regions of the US,
so depending upon where you live, you should probably look for that region’s most common culprit first.
For more information on getting these pests out of your garden, consult the Old Farmer’s Almanac website.