What’s Eating Your Plants?
The list is endless so we will start with the basic Southern California pests first. Remember that we are not the ultimate experts. For more advice or knowledge always go to your local Master Gardners.org
Leaves eaten with holes. Look for Caterpillars first. The caterpillars will often be the green looper type There are some that come from moths and some from butterflies. Moths fly at night and Butterflies in the daytime, but you already know that. Don’t you? These caterpillars are usually the same color as what they are eating. The Geranium bud worm is especially bad in the summer on upright zonal geraniums and anykinds of petunias. By the time you see the little hole in the bud the caterpillar has left and is eating somewhere on your plant. There are lots and lots of different caterpillars. Look for the little black or green droppings and then look above for the actual culprit. Spray with a spray that has either Bt or Spinosad on the label as the main ingredient. Bt is toxic only to caterpillars. Spinosad works on both caterpillars and larvae. Both are only active for a few days after you spray it.
The Rose slug that skeletonizes your roses is a not a caterpillar. It is some Sawfly larvae. With either spray the culprit has to eat a part of a leaf that has been sprayed with in the last 10 or 15 days, No eat, no die! Neither will hurt you or your pets. They will also not kill aphids, scale or other insects.
Slugs and Snails. They eat and leave a slimy slick trail behind them Give your plants a light water spray and go out at dusk or dark and you will see them actively eating and can often see where they are coming from Look under pots, wood, dead foliage, inside the pot feasting on the roots. This is a favorite slug hideaway. Not slugs or snails, not a caterpillar it could be an Earwig. Earwigs feed at night and in the day time they hide under pots, wood or dead leaves.
Weidner’s carries Sluggo or a similar snail/slug bait that is nontoxic and really works. Sluggo plus does earwigs too. There are other brands too. The older snail baits are very poisonous and we would always like to use the least toxic.
Bigger holes, bigger damage. Look for Rats, Rabbits, Gophers, Skunks, Racoons and pesky Ground Squirrels
… What else is eating
What else is eating in my garden. Help! Something is making wheelies in my lawn. Tunnels dug up just under the surface.
What is it and Why? The culprit digging is your black and white fragrant friend, the Skunk. Skunks favorite foods are the grubs and other larvae living in your soil. In fact the better you make your soil the more likely it is that you have some succulent grubs there. Grubs and larvae from flies, fleas, the green scarab beetle the larvae of the rose slug and so many more.
The green Scarab beetle or Fig beetle is usually is only interested in your rotting or fallen fruit. Beautifully irridescent green. They fly into the house in late summer and buzz and dive bomb, Scary but they don’t sting or bite. The Grubs however are a favorite of your visiting skunks . The Skunks put their noses down into the soil and make tunnels in your lawn and flower beds as they search for grubs of any kind.
The only way to stop this damage is to use another non toxic treatment called Beneficial nematodes. Most nematodes like the Root knot nematodes are destructive pests. This is the good one. Microscopic little threads . They come to you in a little sponge or piece of loaded paper You disolve them in as much water as you need to water the mix into your soil. The little nematodes wait in your moist soil until any kind of larvae appears. They can sense the carbon dioxide given off and burrow into the grub and basically disolve it and eat it.
Because these nematodes have a very short shelf life and need to be refrigerated the easiest way is to order on line.
What else is eating in your garden. Your not so friendly rabbit of course.
A few rabbits can destroy your pansies, other plants and vegetables in just a few visits. The rabbits live in the surrounding hills or neighborhoods and your garden can be their favorite target. Purchase a Have a Heart trap from your neighborhood farm supply or order on line. These traps do not harm your skunk, rabbits, possums or other night time visitors. Once they are in the cage you can let them out somewhere in a more native chaparal area. The laws governing release of fur bearing animals is complicated so we are not giving advice on this matter. No domesticated rabbit should ever be released into the wild.
Rats are everywhere this year because we had bountiful rains during the winter. They say that if you have a palm tree, grape vines, other fruit trees or sources of food you probably have some rats. Compost bins, Oranges. Avocados, grapes are favorite foods. There are a number of new non-poisonous products that will humanely kill your rats and are safe to use around pets and foods. Ratx is one product name.
Ground Squirells make a large round hole and can be very destructive around gardens and ocean bluffs. They are actually rodents and not squirells at all.
We have more possums than any other creature. Possums love any fruit like avocados. They are very friendly and will come right up to your sliding glass door.
Racoons are a little bigger, bolder and can be very aggressive and will bite if captured.
Fleas, fungus gnats and other gnats, beetles any kind at all. You can disolve in 25 gallons or 200 gallons. With 200 gallons you have fewer nematodes per gallon You need to do this when the soil temperature is nice and warm in the late spring or summer. When they sense the temperature and carbon dioxide emissions of soil-borne insects, beneficial nematodes move toward their prey and enter the pest through its body openings. The nematodes carry an associated bacterium (Xenorhabdus species) that kills insects fast within 48 hours. The bacteria is harmless to humans and other organisms and cannot live freely in nature. Several generations of nematodes may live and breed within the dead insect, feeding on it as a food source. When the food source is gone, they migrate into the soil in search of a new host. When the pest population is eliminated, the beneficial nematodes die off and biodegrade. Beneficial nematodes are so effective, they can work in the soil to kill the immature stages of garden pests before they become adults.
Beneficial nematodes infest grubs and other pest insects that are known to destroy lawns and plants.
The Nematodes are effective against grubs and the larval or grub stage of Japanese Beetles, Northern Masked Chafer, European Chafer, Rose Chafer, Fly larvae, Oriental Beetles, June Beetles, Flea beetles, Bill-bugs, Cut-worms, Army worms, Black Vine Weevils, Strawberry Root Weevils, Fungus Gnats, Sciarid larvae, Sod Web-worms, Girdler, Citrus Weevils, Maggots and other Dip-tera, Mole Crickets, Iris Borer, Root Maggot, Cabbage Root Maggot and Carrot Weevil
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