What Is Eating My Strawberries? The Culprits & How To Control Them!

Growing strawberries has the potential to be a lot of fun, and it gives you access to really delicious treats. Therefore, it is only natural that you would want to be the first one to eat them since you are the one who put in hours and hours of work. In this article, find out about what is eating my strawberries.

what is eating my strawberries

Photo Credit Snails and slugs are pests of ripe strawberries; they leave holes in the fruit that render it unsellable.

However, try to picture how you will feel when you check on your strawberry crops this summer in the excitement of harvesting the berries, only to discover that something else has gotten there first.

If you grow strawberries in your garden, bugs will ultimately come to munch and feast on them. The most common culprits feasting on strawberries are insects (strawberry bud weevils, aphids, sap beetles, snails and slugs, tarnished plant bugs, and more), birds (crow, scrub jay, and American robin), mammals (squirrels, rabbits, dogs, deer, and moles), and fungi (gray mold).

There is a wide variety of organic and natural gardening techniques that may be used to ward off, avoid, or get rid of any and all of these unwanted garden pests. 

RELATED: Time Is Of The Essence: The Timeline Of Growing Strawberries

Insects Pests Of Strawberry Plants

Insects pose the most significant risk to strawberry crops, particularly on a commercial basis. Simply said, there are way too many different kinds of insects that have the ability to damage strawberry crops. Here are a couple of common ones.

Snails & Slugs

Snails & Slugs

Photo Credit Snails and Slugs are land-dwelling mollusks that can be a problem in strawberry fields.

Snails and slugs are ruthless strawberry eaters. And by ruthless, I mean they consume everything, including young plant bark, mature fruit, and leaves. Slugs or snails likely are to blame if you notice small, deep holes in strawberry fruits, typically under the cap.

Snails and slugs prefer the darkness and avoid the heat of the day. They leave a slime trail before the sun comes up, so you can see where they went. Snails and slugs move slowly but multiply swiftly, so if you don’t take action, you can find yourself quickly swamped.

Control

I remove plant debris regularly to keep snails and slugs from eating my strawberries. This gets rid of the hiding spots that these pests use. 

Diatomaceous earth (DE) can also be used to create a barrier around the bases of strawberry plants. The substance irritates slugs’ skin so they won’t cross it.

Strawberry Bud Weevils

Strawberry Bud Weevils - what is eating my strawberries

Photo Credit Strawberry bud weevil is an invasive pest to northeastern US strawberry and raspberry crops.

Strawberry bud weevils are also referred to as “strawberry cutters” in some instances. Adult strawberry weevils range in color from brown to black, with big dark dots on their wing covers. As with most weevils, their snout is prominently curled. When numerous, the weevils seriously harm strawberry, blackberry, or raspberry plants by severing the pedicles of unopened flower buds. 

The strawberry weevil can destroy between 50 and 75 percent of the crop in some regions. In addition, this bug suppresses the growth of berries by laying its eggs in emerging buds. The resulting larvae feed on the still-unformed seeds, resulting in deformed strawberries.

Control

The best way to get rid of strawberry clippers is usually to use insecticidal soap on your strawberry plants. Moreover, to stop the insects from overwintering and infesting the crop the following year, you must remove any infested buds and any that have fallen onto the ground.

Strawberry Sap Beetle

Strawberry Sap Beetle - what is eating my strawberries

Photo Credit The strawberry sap beetle is a growing nuisance in the Northeast United States.

These insects have a strong shell and are black in color. Moreover, on their back, there are four orange markings. They measure about a quarter of an inch in size and feature knobby antennas. Strawberry sap beetles feed on either nearly ripe, ripe, or decaying strawberries. These make holes in strawberries, but they only do so after something else starts eating your strawberries.

Despite these holes being relatively small, the strawberries nonetheless go sour. Unskilled pickers leave a significant quantity of ripe and overripe berries in the field, drawing the beetle’s attention.

Control

It will be wise to pick your strawberries as soon as they are ripe to prevent strawberry sap beetle issues from getting too bothersome. You can also use old beer or overripe fruit in a cup or glass to entice strawberry sap bugs. This bait will draw them in, and they will fall in it. Replace the bait every few days until you no longer notice the issue.

RELATED: Juicy Secrets: A Guide To Growing Strawberries In Pots

Aphids

Aphids - what is eating my strawberries

Photo Credit Several aphid species feed on strawberries, including strawberry and potato aphids.

Most aphid species that attack strawberries have complex life cycles, and young aphids, known as nymphs, can mature from birth to adulthood in less than two weeks, meaning that populations can expand very rapidly. 

These bugs are attracted to the sap of strawberry plants, but they rarely cause any significant problems. However, the overgrowth of these pests and the viruses they carry ultimately cause the death of strawberry plants. Chaetosiphon fragaefolii, often known as the strawberry aphid, is the most destructive species of aphid that feeds on strawberries. 

It is found all over the world and is also capable of transmitting viruses and inflicting direct damage to strawberry plants while eating.

Control

Aphids prefer dust because it confuses their predators. So, spray water on dusty regions to prevent and reduce aphid populations. Additionally, limit your use of nitrogen fertilizers because aphids are drawn to plants with high nitrogen content. 

Many predatory insects, including parasitoid wasps, syrphid fly larvae, lacewing larvae, and lady beetles and their larvae, can also be used to keep aphid populations in check.

Tarnished Plant Bug

Tarnished Plant Bug

Photo Credit The tarnished plant bug attacks many economically important vegetable crops, fruit trees, and nursery stocks.

Tarnished plant bugs are oval-shaped winged insects with gray, greenish, or brown wings. These are tiny small insects, measuring only around 1/4 inch in length. The early stages of these insects resemble aphids but move considerably more quickly. 

When they attack a strawberry, its shape becomes uneven, and it looks like a cat’s face. Also, Lygus bugs will chew holes in strawberry seeds, ultimately affecting the strawberry growth. They will, however, eat all parts of the strawberry plant. 

These nasty pests overwinter in garden debris and restart the life cycle the following spring.

Control

To begin, remove any weeds and other plant debris around your strawberry plants in order to eliminate their egg-laying options. 

In addition, you can plant pollen-producing plants in your garden to attract tarnished bugs’ natural insect predators. 

I typically use a citrus-based or neem oil insecticide to eliminate plant bugs in my garden.

RELATED: How to Get Rid of Bugs in Plants? Plus Their Identification & Effective Management!

Spittlebugs

Spittlebugs

Photo Credit Spittlebugs are recognized by the foamy saliva mass they spew while eating plants.

These tiny tan, black, and brown bugs are very noticeable because they create a clear, foamy fluid around the base of plants. 

To get at the sap, they attack the stem of a growing plant. Then, they consume the strawberry plant’s juices, which generally do not kill it but weaken it. 

Spittlebug infestations cause plants to grow more slowly than they should and occasionally produce deformed fruit. Each year, there is only one generation. 

In September and October, the females make a second appearance and lay clusters of eggs on leaves and stems or in plant debris.

Control

Start by looking over the plants; when you spot the pests’ distinctive spittle, apply a forceful stream of water to flush them out. A homemade garlic or hot pepper spray can also be used to get rid of these small insects. Likewise, another option is horticultural neem oil, a safe and natural pest management compound.

Bird & Mammal Pests Of Strawberry Plants

Regrettably, insects are not the only creatures who enjoy the delicious fruity taste of these red berries. The pleasant scent of ripening strawberries can be highly alluring to various other animals, including birds (such as crows, robins, and jays) and mammals (including deer, squirrels, and rabbits). 

Now, let’s look at these unwanted guests in the garden. Bear in mind, however, that to safeguard your strawberry plants, you do not need to kill birds and mammals. Even if they are a nuisance, deer, birds, and other forms of wildlife are essential to the health of the environment. 

Also, it is against the law in many residential areas to kill them. Therefore, it is essential that you search for alternatives that won’t kill these animals but will ensure the safety of your strawberries.

Bird Pests Of Strawberries

Bird Pests Of Strawberries

Photo Credit You can prevent birds from eating your strawberries by covering them with netting.

If you are not cultivating your strawberries inside a greenhouse, skies will likely pose the most significant risk to your crop. Also, if your strawberries grow densely, birds will try to seek refuge beneath them to avoid predators. 

And your strawberry patch will be viewed as an open-air buffet by various fruit-loving bird species. Crows, robins, and blue jays are just a few small birds that frequently consume strawberries.

Starlings On Strawberries

Since they are omnivores, starlings must consume a wide variety of foods, including strawberries, to maintain their health and ensure they get the nutrients they need.

Even young starlings will eat a few strawberries in addition to their diet of mostly insects. And what’s the worst part? They travel in large flocks that have the power to obliterate a whole strawberry patch quickly.

Crows On Strawberries

Crows are also omnivorous and will consume a wide range of things in their diet. And one of the foods that crows particularly enjoy is fruits, including berries.

Although incredibly resilient and tough, they don’t typically eat strawberries. Therefore, keeping crows away from your strawberry bushes is usually pretty simple.

Robins On Strawberries

Strawberries are a favorite food of robins. They will consume strawberries WHOLE, which sets them apart from the species mentioned above. They can, therefore, significantly harm a little strawberry patch. But, like starlings, robins also travel together. So, if a swarm of migrating robins comes upon your undefended strawberries, you can bid them goodbye.

Sparrows On Strawberries

The most frequent threat in this regard is the sparrow, and they are merciless in their wasteful pecking and nibbling of multiple strawberries at once. One sparrow can easily consume 10 to 20 strawberries in one day. 

The issue with this peck-and-skip feeding technique is that it exposes each strawberry, making it highly susceptible to early decay.

Birds Pests Of Strawberries | Control

You can use numerous objects to scare birds and keep them from coming close to your strawberry plants. For example, I have set up a few scarecrows in order to prevent these birds from eating my strawberries. 

However, in most cases, these strategies can only provide a temporary solution because the birds quickly become accustomed to them. 

That is why industry professionals strongly advise that you use netting to protect your strawberry plants from birds.

Mammal Pests Of Strawberries

Mammal Pests Of Strawberries - what is eating my strawberries

Photo Credit For protection against rodents and other furry thieves, surround your strawberries with leeks, garlic, or onions.

In addition to birds and insects, mammals such as squirrels, rabbits, deer, and even dogs can munch on strawberry plants. So let’s discuss them individually and how you can control them.

Deer

Deer, who are renowned for their voracious appetites, would happily eat their way through any strawberry orchard. They will consume the entire plant, including the stems, leaves, and fruits, severely damaging the plant in their wake. 

It’s worth noting that deer are often highly wary of humans and will not approach them. This is more likely to occur if you have a large property and your strawberry bushes are located a long distance from your house.

Squirrels

Squirrels are well known for their insatiable appetite for nuts, but they also consume various fruits, including strawberries, as part of their diet to keep a healthy balance. 

These can be some of the most irritating creatures in strawberry patches because barriers rarely keep them out. But, again, human hair or covering your plants with mesh or netting will sometimes deter them from attacking your plants.

Raccoons

Raccoons will spend a significant amount of time seeking food and digging through areas where they have a reasonable expectation of finding it. Unfortunately, every time they conduct their search, they cause damage to the surrounding vegetation and crops. 

Spraying repellent on the strawberries is one technique to keep raccoons (and squirrels) away. However, you must continue spraying these strawberries to keep them at bay. If spraying a repellent is not an option, a wildlife net is another feasible option.

Final Thoughts

That wraps up our discussion. This is by no means an extensive list; however, it is a list that goes into sufficient depth to lead you in the direction of the critical causes that may be to blame for the loss of your strawberry crop. 

So, to begin, conduct an investigation of the surrounding region and look for any of the symptoms described in the previous paragraph. 

Next, give your best effort to make sound judgments to give your strawberry plants the greatest amount of protection possible.

Frequently Asked Questions

How can I tell what’s eating my strawberries?

In order to determine what is consuming your strawberries, you will need to inspect the plants and look for telltale indicators. For example, if there are holes in the plants and signs of slime, this is evidence that slugs or snails are devouring your berries.

Why are there holes in my strawberries?

Bugs are the most prevalent cause of holes in strawberry leaves and fruits. The most pervasive insects that make holes in strawberry leaves are slugs. Sap beetles, aphids, and tarnished bugs are some other pests that frequently attack strawberries.

Do rats eat strawberries?

Rats are all omnivorous creatures. This implies they consume a variety of plant and animal foods. So if given a chance, rats will eat strawberries and will do so without hesitation (ask any gardener who has planted strawberries).

Do snakes eat strawberries?

Fruit and berries, including strawberries, are not something snakes consume, and for a good reason. Snakes are carnivores and do not possess the bacteria required to digest the complex carbohydrates found in fruits.

How do I stop earwigs from eating my strawberries?

To discourage earwigs from eating your strawberry plants, combine a few drops of dish detergent and a cup of water in a spray bottle. Then, spray the strawberry plant with this mixture to eliminate these undesirable insects.

Sources For Further Reading

Strawberry Insect Pests | University of Maryland Extension. (2022). Retrieved 6 August 2022, from https://extension.umd.edu/resource/strawberry-insect-pests

Strawberry Insect Pests. (2022). NC State University Extension. Retrieved 6 August 2022, from https://entomology.ces.ncsu.edu/strawberry-insects/

Common Strawberry Pests | University of Kentucky Entomology. (2022). Retrieved 6 August 2022, from https://entomology.ca.uky.edu/ef207

Strawberry Insect Pest Management | Radcliffe’s IPM World Textbook. (2022). Retrieved 6 August 2022, from https://ipmworld.umn.edu/rao

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