My Master Gardening skills are coming into play more and more often, which I love! Even though my certifications are from New England, and lots of stuff is quite different out here in the great north-west, there are SOME things that are easy to transfer!
Today, I got a question from Sue P. here at Horizon House about some kind of insect damage she is seeing on her plant leaves…so I went to work. Even though the climate is different and SOME insects vary, most of the time you pretty much know what is causing the damage…whether here or in New Hampshire!
As you can see there is something nibbling on the leaves she brought for me. They are not sucking sap; or burrowing between top and bottom of the leaves (miners); and the damage is rather small…signifying to me that it is not snails or slugs, who tend to gobble up the entire leaf! I also don’t think it’s leaf cutter bees because their damage is VERY rounded, not irregular like these. There are also no bugs, trails, webs or spittle to be seen.
My educated guess is that it is some kind of nocturnal insect that comes out at night and eats to it’s heart’s content only to disappear into the soil, debris or other protected places as soon as the sun rises.
Some possibilities include beetles (and their larvae),earwigs, weevils, caterpillars, or cutworms. Here is an extension page from The University of Arizona and the College of Agriculture and Life Sciences (CALS) that does a pretty good job of explaining about these critters.
Now, what do you do about them? As a Master Gardener, I frown on chemicals in the garden, so here’s my solution.
You won’t see nocturnal insects in the daytime, because they are only out at night. I don’t imagine you’d want to spend an hour or so out in the garden at night! What you actually can do is trap them! As explained, they hide out in the daytime in dark, humid places…so…
Get a newspaper and roll it up, putting it in the garden under the affected plant. Then in the morning, take that paper and unroll it, and more than likely you’ll have a trove of night-time eaters napping their day away in that handy bed you provided! Dump them (or the whole newspaper) into a bucket of soapy water and do it again, and again, until you don’t have so many any more. Your plants will be happier…as will you! You might be surprised at what you’ll capture! Or, you can use a small board, just laying it in the garden overnight. In the morning scrape off whatever you catch into a bucket of soapy water. An up-ended flowerpot would also offer some temporary comfort for them.
This technique is a little labor intensive Sue, but I think the satisfaction of controlling a nasty insect without chemicals,will be it’s own reward! Good luck and Happy Gardening!