When I take time to grow herbs, fruits, and vegetables, I am intent on producing healthy ones.
So, between studying and finding out the hard way, I have discovered a lot of vital information on how to grow gorgeous, delicious strawberries.
It takes the right amount of sun, water, and loving care, but I must also avoid the wiles of strawberry plant culprits to yield healthy strawberries to enjoy with my family and friends.
What is Eating My Strawberries?
Insects, like slugs and strawberry bud weevils; birds, like crows and American robins; mammals, like squirrels and rabbits; and fungi, like gray mold and charcoal rot, are the most common culprits eating strawberries. Simply investigate and implement the correct measures depending on which is the pest in question.
5 Things That Are Eating Your Strawberries
When I fear for my strawberries, I first think of insects. Strawberry root weevils (Otiorhynchus ovatus), strawberry bud weevils (Anthonomus signatus),
sap beetles, tarnished plant bugs, meadow spittlebugs, slugs, and two-spotted spider mites are common culprits of strawberry plant destruction across the United States.
Strawberry root weevils can form tunnels into the roots and crowns of strawberry plants, stunting their growth or even killing them.
A female strawberry bud weevil, also called the strawberry clipper, punctures the blossom buds, depositing one egg inside, then girdling the bud.
Then, she clips that bud so that it falls off or almost does, and her egg hatches within a month.
Meadow spittlebugs spread spittle all over strawberry plants, which in and of itself is not harmful but just disgusting.
What they do is feed off the plants’ base, moving up to their foliage as they mature, stunting the fruit.
Tarnished plant bugs puncture young strawberries, causing sections of the fruit to be stunted, and yielding deformed fruit.
They can keep an entire crop of strawberries from being viable for market. For now, watch for leaf-notching, spittle, eggs, or slime.
Keep the patch or field clear of weeds and excessive foliage, and ripe, diseased, and rotted fruit.
Insect strawberry pests are hard nuts to crack, and many use commercial pesticides that do the trick. However, later, you’ll see ways to fight insect pests another way.
Next on my list of likely strawberry predators are birds. American robins, grackles, starlings, crows, house sparrows, and house finches can take out a strawberry patch — some quicker than others.
For instance, American robins, grackles, and starlings will eat strawberries whole, robins eating larger strawberries whole and starlings and grackles eating only smaller strawberries whole. Grackles lacerate larger strawberries, while starlings peck out their interior.
Starlings come down in flocks and consume all the strawberries they can in one event, and like starlings, robins can take out a patch or crop of strawberries quickly.
House sparrows and house finches peck holes in strawberries, which leaves the fruit to rot. Crows nibble at strawberries but hardly ever eat a whole berry.
They usually peck once at a strawberry, leaving the remnants for other culprits.
To protect strawberry plants from birds, get some 1″ x 1″ boards from the local home supply store and have them cut to the length and width needed to create a five-sided covering to fit the patch of strawberries.
Attach bird-resistant mesh cloth to all sides except the bottom, and place over the patch.
The next critters on my list of strawberry devourers would be mammals. Squirrels, rabbits, deer, raccoons, moles, cats, and dogs will gladly call strawberry plants a meal.
Spray repellents may work to some degree, but they are difficult to keep up with.
They must be reapplied after a good watering or precipitation, so wet climates are not conducive to spray repellents.
Many who live in dry climates can use drip irrigation with much success.
While most mammals simply eat the strawberries, dogs will eat them and dig the plants up, as well.
The best course of action, since rodents, such as squirrels, can tunnel right under chicken wire alone, is to do the same thing as to protect against birds.
However, in the case of rodents and larger mammals, it is a possibility that chicken wire may be used instead of mesh cloth.
Some reptiles will also destroy strawberry plants. I found out the hard way that turtles like strawberry plants — both the leaves and the berries.
It’s not only turtles, however. Bearded dragons also love strawberries — berries, leaves, and tops. These guys adore strawberries and will dine on a grower’s hard work.
Fungi are yet another way that strawberry plants are destroyed. Gray mold and charcoal rot are only two of the fungi that can ruin a strawberry crop.
Gray mold (Botrytis cinerea) is a fungal disease that attacks many flowering plants when they are old or wounded. It is quite common in unusually humid or wet climates.
Look for spots of brown with rings of darker brown, forming what resembles a target on infected leaves and stems.
Flowers and buds that become infected turn totally brown or black and wilt. Space strawberry plants out. Give them room to dry out after watering or precipitation.
Remove all infected areas of the plant and bury or compost them, and when warm, dry conditions recur, it is possible that the plants may recover.
Charcoal rot is caused by Macrophomina phaseolina, a fungus that stunts a plant’s growth and causes its older leaves to dry up and die.
Charcoal rot is a serious problem in both Florida and California.
In these two states, they are having a hard time stopping the fungus from spreading from one area to the next.
It spreads so easily when farmers till the land because tiny, black irregularly shaped structures called microsclerotia sustain the fungus, allowing it to abide in an area’s soil for a prolonged period.
Here’s more on charcoal rot from the University of California Division of Agriculture and Natural Resources.
Frequently Asked Questions About What is Eating my Strawberries
What are some organic controls for insect strawberry pests?
Insecticidal soaps, hot pepper or garlic water, neem oil, citrus insecticidal oil, and white sticky traps are some ways to control insects that would destroy your strawberry plants.
With white sticky traps, however, check them to ensure that you are not trapping bugs that are beneficial.
Do strawberry pests vary from state to state?
The pests that might attack a patch or crop of strawberry plants are different in various areas of the United States.
Just as different plants thrive well in various states and areas due to their respective climates, different insects, birds, mammals, reptiles, and fungi are able to thrive in various places, as well.
It sounds like a lot, but it’s only a matter of doing a little sleuthing and then taking action against the culprit that’s causing all the damage.
Find further information on the Farmer’s Almanac website — just go to the site and use the search bar to find out the particulars on your strawberry pest.