What Is Eating My Plants At Night? Learn About The Evil Creatures Involved!

It is late in the evening, and after a long tiring day, you are preparing your bed for a good night’s sleep. However, in your garden, the situation might be the exact opposite. After sleeping and hiding from the heat of the day, some pests will become active at night, and they are starving! These pests include insects and a few other timid animals waiting for the night so they can feast on the scrumptious plants in your garden. Let’s talk about, what is eating plants at night.

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what is eating plants at night answer

Photo Credit At night, numerous species venture out to look for food on the leaves of a wide range of plants.

One voracious caterpillar can consume holes through numerous leaves in a single night. The same is true for slugs, tarnished plant bugs, Japanese beetles, and flea beetles. As with wildlife, a deer can perform a magic trick by disappearing a fully grown bush in a single night. While other wildlife that feeds at night include chipmunks, voles, rabbits, deer, squirrels, woodchucks, groundhogs, and skunks.

One can identify the culprit behind nighttime damage to the garden plants by examining the tell-tale signs such as bite marks and damaged parts of the plant. 

Continue reading, and we will tell you everything you need to know about these nighttime feeders and the ways you can stop them.

Insects Pests

Your garden truly comes to life after the sun goes down. Under cover of night, many insects come out to graze on the plants you have been working so hard to take care of. Snails, Slugs, Japanese beetles, Flea beetles, Caterpillars, Mexican bean beetles, and Tarnished plant bugs are just a few of them. Continue reading to learn how to identify them and take charge of the situation.

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Snails & Slugs

Snails & Slugs

Photo Credit Slugs and snails feed at night but can also be seen after the rain or watering the plants.

Snails and slugs prefer eating at night because they cannot tolerate the day’s heat and prefer to remain hidden in the soil or under the debris where it is cool. They leave huge holes in the leaves of the plants and fruits. Even though they can climb the plants, the lower section of the plant is invariably the part that sustains the most harm.

Control

Controlling snails and slugs can be accomplished in a few different ways. Due to their bigger size, you can easily spot them in the evening and pick them off by hand from the plant. Another way is to apply diatomaceous earth to the lower parts of the plant. 

The sharp particles of diatomaceous earth perforate the skin of snails and slugs, causing extreme dehydration, which leads to their death.

Japanese Beetles

Japanese Beetles - what is eating plants at night answer

Photo Credit Japanese beetles feed in groups, so you’ll rarely find one on its own.

Another pest that devours garden plants at night is the Japanese Beetle. Japanese beetles can be easily recognized by their copper-colored backs. Adult Japanese beetles can reach up to 15 mm in length. 

They feed in large numbers, inflicting extensive damage on various garden and crop plants. In addition, they skeletonize entire leaves by eating in the areas between the veins.

Control 

Japanese beetles can be controlled biologically by introducing beneficial nematodes to the garden. Nematodes are microscopic, parasitic roundworms that attack Japanese beetles and feed on their insides. 

However, if you want to go for chemical control, products containing Bifenthrin and Carbaryl as active ingredients are excellent choices.

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Flea Beetles

Flea Beetles - what is eating plants at night answer

Photo Credit Flea beetles have large rear legs, which allow them to jump like fleas when threatened.

The flea beetle is yet another pest that comes out at night, and you should be able to recognize it with ease. When compared to the Japanese beetles, flea beetles are noticeably smaller in size and have a glossy black coloration. 

These pests bite holes through the leaves of the plant, and the damage done causes the flow of sap and nutrients from the leaves, which raises the risk of bacterial and fungal diseases as it generates moist conditions on plants that are favorable for fungal growth.

Control

Row coverings and other physical barriers are safe and practical ways to manage flea beetles. These stop the insects from hopping onto the leaves and damaging the foliage. 

Any insecticide containing carbaryl or bifenthrin will also provide sufficient control when used per the rate and frequency as advised by the product’s manufacturer.

Caterpillars

Caterpillars

Photo Credit Caterpillars can be deterred by several potent-smelling plants, such as lavender, peppermint, and mugwort.

At night, any kind of worm on plant leaves is a sign of concern. At approximately ten o’clock in the evening, caterpillars start moving around and feeding on the plants in your garden from underneath the leaves. Despite their small size, caterpillars may cause a lot of damage to your plants, and the amount of damage they cause depends on how many there are. 

These eating robots can devastate a whole garden in a matter of days and nights, rendering the veggies inedible and causing them to wilt.

Control

If there are a relatively small number of caterpillars in your garden, you may be able to remove them by hand. 

However, if there are an unacceptable number of them, insecticides could also be sprayed on the plants. 

However, it is essential to spray at least once every other week in order to achieve the best possible outcomes.

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Mexican Bean Beetles

Mexican Bean Beetles - what is eating plants at night answer

Photo Credit Mexican bean beetle larvae and adults eat on the underside of leaves between the veins.

The Mexican bean beetle is yet another culprit that should be held accountable for the damage done to the plants in your yard while you were asleep. If you’re interested in counting, it has a yellow shell with sixteen black spots. They are about a quarter-inch long and have an oval shape.

As a larva, it favors the leaves of a bean plant, which is why it is known as the Mexican bean beetle. However, apart from the bean plant, it is capable of causing catastrophic harm to many other plant species as well.

Control

You can save your garden plants from this pest by covering them with nettings or plastic sheets. Beneficial insects can also be released in the garden to control their numbers. However, in cases of severe infestation, the use of herbicides may be required. 

Infested plants should also be stuffed and sealed in plastic bags. Then, after a week has passed, the plants and the dead insects can be composted.

Tarnished Plant Bugs

Tarnished Plant Bugs - what is eating plants at night answer

Photo Credit The tarnished plant bug attacks many economically important plants, vegetable crops, and field crops.

The tarnished plant-insect is a true bug with sucking-piercing mouthparts. Although it can be found all over North America, it causes the most damage in locations that experience temperate weather. It gets its name from the unusual tarnished brown tint and green streaks on its body. 

It will kill any and all of the plants in your garden if it gets into contact with them. On the leaves, tiny brown spots appear, eventually spreading across the leaf and causing it to fall off. 

Control

You can place white sticky traps above the canopy of your plants to identify the presence of adult tarnished bugs in your garden. Insecticides are also another effective tool for managing the tarnished plant bug population. However, insecticides are more effective against tarnished beetle nymphs than they are against adults.

Animals

You’d have to be really unlucky for your yard to transform into a wildlife refuge at night. There aren’t very many creatures that fall into this group that consumes plants at night.

However, some examples of nighttime eaters are squirrels, rabbits, deer, chipmunks, and voles. Each can consume the plants in your garden right down to the stem.

Squirrels & Rabbits

Squirrels & Rabbits

Photo Credit Animals such as squirrels and rabbits are notoriously destructive in vegetable gardens.

Unlike common belief, squirrels can be as active at night as they are during the day. They gnaw on all the leafy plants. Their sharp teeth prove to be excellent cutters. They destroy leaves and fruits and keep visiting your garden repeatedly.

Your garden’s leafy plants might also suffer damage from rabbits as well. Rabbits and squirrels have comparable eating habits, and both can strip your plants of foliage.

Control

Row covers can be installed to protect the plants in your garden from squirrels and rabbits. Furthermore, chicken wire fencing is another effective method for preventing rabbit intrusion. 

You can also build a 4-foot high fence and bury it at least 6 inches deep to prevent squirrels and rabbits from digging under the fence. Bend the top foot of the fence away from the garden like a security fence to prevent them from climbing or jumping over it.

Skunks

Skunks

Photo Credit Skunks can’t stand bright lights as they have very light-sensitive eyes.

During their nighttime expeditions, skunks will eat almost anything they can get their paws on, including different kinds of plants, leaves, buds, grasses, grains, and berries.

They are fond of grubs that are present on almost every other lawn, and in the process of excavating, these grubs will also damage your plants.

Control

Light is among the most effective skunk deterrents. This is because skunks are nocturnal, and their eyes are highly light-sensitive. Therefore, skunks will flee if you shine a bright light or use a floodlight with a motion sensor.

Skunks can also be chased away from your garden with a spray of castor oil diluted with dish detergent. Skunks hate its smell, so spray the area at night when they are outside.

Voles

Voles - what is eating plants at night answer

Photo Credit Voles are often active throughout the year, both day and night.

Vole is a small rodent, sometimes known as a field mouse or meadow mouse in North America. It is extremely shy, and you won’t see it in the daylight. But, unfortunately, the vole is one of the animals that can cause havoc if not correctly identified and controlled. 

Voles cause damage to lawns, gardens, crops, orchards, and young trees. Typically, voles will eat the roots of succulent plants, dig underneath them, and continue eating until there is nothing left of the roots.

Control

Physical barriers such as fences can effectively prevent voles from destroying plants as most of them are not good climbers. Use a wire fence to surround any garden plots or other outside spaces for protection. 

Mesh size should be no larger than 1/4 inch. Also, the fence should be at least 12 inches above the ground, and the bottom border should be buried 6 to 10 inches beneath the soil’s surface to prevent voles from digging beneath it. 

Groundhogs

Groundhogs

Photo Credit Try lavender in your garden. While we adore the smell, groundhogs detest it.

The groundhog is another example of a nocturnal animal that can cause substantial damage to lawns and gardens. When a groundhog or woodchuck comes into your yard, it could look cute and friendly, but your opinion will change as soon as you start eating all of your beautiful garden plants. It causes plant damage at such a rapid rate that you will be left with only a handful of the stems and branches in a matter of just a few days.

Control

Eliminating places where groundhogs can dig their burrow or hide safely from predators can substantially minimize the likelihood of their intrusion. While doing so, move brush piles away from your garden and planting areas. 

You can also use a lattice or other physical obstacles to block off access and prevent groundhogs from entering underneath sheds and porches near your garden.

Chipmunk

Chipmunk

Photo Credit Controlling chipmunks in your garden is similar to controlling squirrels.

Due to the fact that chipmunks are natural diggers, they can cause severe damage to the plants and their roots in your garden. The digging actions of chipmunks do the most significant damage to your property, even though they like nibbling on your fruits, bulbs, and young plants. 

The constant tunneling that chipmunks do can also cause significant structural damage to your home’s foundation and other parts of the house.

Control

The use of mothballs as a deterrent against chipmunks is a common tactic, as it is commonly believed that chipmunks are put off by the smell of naphthalene, which is the principal component of mothballs.

Another option is to cover your plants with netting or wire mesh. Alternatively, you might also try sprinkling flowerbeds or gardens with a solution of water and garlic powder, as its pungent smell will deter them away.

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)

How do you identify what is eating my plants?

Caterpillars and beetles of various varieties and sizes can be found in gardens. Look for caterpillars or cutworms on the underside of leaves late at night (say after 10 pm) if you notice holes in the leaves of your plants. If you can’t spot them, look for information on the plant that is being chewed to find out what insect pests are frequently linked with it. 

Do rats eat plants at night?

You can’t do much to prevent rats from eating your plants. Rats frequently travel on top of power lines in addition to their activity in your yard and garden, particularly around dawn and dusk. If there are too many rats in your garden, new plantings, seedlings, and sprouts sometimes disappear overnight without a trace.

What animal is eating my roses at night?

There is a good chance that deer are to blame if you discover that there are fewer roses in the morning than there were the night before. A tiny herd of deer, which may consume up to 8 pounds of plant material per animal every day, can swiftly eat roses to the ground if left unchecked.

What is eating all my plants during the night?

Numerous species of earwigs, slugs, and beetles, feed at night and conceal during the day. In home vegetable gardens, hand-picking beetles, caterpillars and slugs and throwing them into soapy water can be very useful. Some animals, including skunks, deer, woodchucks, rabbits, and deer, eat the majority of their prey at night.

What is digging in my garden at night?

Skunks and raccoons make holes while scrounging through gardens at night for fruits and insects. It can be very annoying when holes appear in your lawn at night, and it can be disastrous if there are too many holes. In addition, these animals may be highly disruptive and are known to roll back sod and grassy areas in search of food.

What insect makes round holes in leaves at night?

The most common source of holes in leaves is slugs, which are difficult to spot because they feed at night and are therefore less likely to be noticed. Slugs and snails are frequently to blame for holes in the leaves of numerous plant species, including hosta, hibiscus, cabbage, tomatoes, and peppers.

What is eating my flowers at night?

Many insects and animals could be held responsible if you find chewed petals or missing flowers in your garden when you wake up. These usually include snails, slugs, earwigs, flea beetles, Japanese beetles, and wildlife such as deer, squirrels, skunks, chipmunks, rabbits, voles, mice, and rats.

Sources For Further Reading

What’s Eating My Vegetables? (2013). Retrieved 9 August 2022, from https://ag.umass.edu/home-lawn-garden/fact-sheets/whats-eating-my-vegetables

Control of Common Pests of Landscape Plants | UGA Cooperative Extension. (2022). Retrieved 9 August 2022, from https://extension.uga.edu/publications/detail.html?number=B1074&title=Control%20of%20Common%20Pests%20of%20Landscape%20Plants

Garden Bugs: Managing Soil Pests in the Garden – Alabama Cooperative Extension System. (2022). Retrieved 9 August 2022, from https://www.aces.edu/blog/topics/landscaping/garden-bugs-managing-soil-pests-in-the-garden/

Beneficial Insects in the Garden (York County Master Gardener Program). (2022). Retrieved 9 August 2022, from https://extension.psu.edu/programs/master-gardener/counties/york/native-plants/fact-sheets/beneficial-insects-in-the-garden

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