When you plant strawberries, you can’t wait for your plants to start popping open their flowers and producing that delicious red fruit! But wait…your plants are looking a little chewed up? Oh no!
Animals that eat strawberry plants include white grubs, crown moths, root weevils, spider mites, cyclamen mites, leafrollers, crown borers, loopers, leafhoppers, aphids, bud weevils, lygus bugs, thrips, fruit flies, sap beetles, isopods and millipedes, spittlebugs, slugs and snails, armyworms, cutworms, mammals, and birds.
If you’re worried about losing your crop, we can help! Read on to learn about each pest and exactly what damage it can do, match your problem to the right culprit, and learn what you can do to save your strawberries!
- Strawberry pests will be the worst from May to July when strawberry plants ripen.
- Various pests eat different parts of the strawberry plant, from the leaves and roots to the fruit itself.
- Identifying which pest is damaging your strawberries is essential to developing an effective repellent program.
1. White Grubs (May Beetles, Japanese Beetles, European Chafer
White grubs are the name for larvae of several types of beetles, including May beetles (also known as June bugs), Japanese beetles, and chafers. They grow up to 38mm long, range in color from gray to white, and have visible legs. White grubs live in the soil under strawberry plants.
May beetle larvae feed on the roots of strawberry plants during the summer and overwintering underground when the weather turns cold. They usually only cause damage to plants in their third summer when they are at their largest. The following spring, they emerge as adult beetles and lay eggs to begin the next three-year cycle.
Chafer and Japanese beetle larvae are similar in appearance and behavior to May beetle larvae, but they complete their life cycle in one year. Adult Japanese beetles can also damage strawberry plants. These ½-inch beetles are easy to recognize with a shiny metallic bronze-green shell and white spots on their sides.
Identifying White Grubs And Damage
Strawberry plants that are suddenly dying or wilting. Check the roots. White grubs curl into a distinct C-shape when unearthed. If no grubs are visible, check to see whether your plant still has an intact root system.
White grubs typically eat roots to an inch or so beneath the surface of the soil, so a plant without long roots may be the target of their feeding.
Adult Japanese beetles eat the sections between the veins of leaves until only the skeleton of the leaf remains. They can also feed on buds and flowers.
What’s The Fix?
Avoid planting strawberries near grass of any kind, which is the preferred food of white grubs. If planting in an area that previously had grass, wait at least two years between removing the grass and planting strawberries.
Seeding the soil around your plants with the bacteria Bacillus popilliae, bacteria Bacillus lentimorbus, or parasitic nematodes will help to control white grub populations as well. NaturesGoodGuys Live Beneficial Nematodes can help save your strawberry plants in a natural and eco-friendly way.
If you find more than a few white grubs in the roots of your strawberry plant and need to resort to an insecticide, look for one that includes imidacloprid such as Quali-Pro Imidacloprid Insecticide.
Adult Japanese beetles can be removed by hand and dispatched in soapy water. A spray of kaolin clay, a natural mineral, can prevent them from coming back. Japanese beetles are also vulnerable to neem and insecticidal soap.
2. Strawberry Crown Moth
The adult strawberry crown moth has a distinct yellow jacket pattern—a black body with bright yellow stripes. However, it’s the larvae of this moth that do damage to strawberries, feeding on the roots and crowns of strawberry plants.
Larvae are white with a brown head and grow to about 25mm long. They hatch on strawberries in early summer, begin feeding, then overwinter in the crown of the plant.
They resume feeding again in early spring before pupating into their adult form and laying eggs to start the cycle again.
Identifying Strawberry Crown Moths & Damage
A strawberry plant damaged by strawberry crown moth larvae will begin to appear stunted and limp. The foliage may begin to turn red as the larvae continue to feed.
Larvae weaken the connection between the plant and its roots, so one test is to pull the plant and see if it separates from the ground at the crown line.
Check the underside of leaves for eggs, which are smooth brown or orange and laid individually, not in clusters.
How To Prevent Strawberry Crown Moth Damage
The best management for strawberry crown moth larvae is to remove and destroy infested plants. Keep the area around plants clean.
Topping strawberry plants—cutting them down to about 1 inch above the soil at the end of their summer production—can discourage moths from laying eggs on plants in the spring.
An alternative option would be to use strong scents to keep the moths away from your strawberry plants. If you’d like, take a look at our guide on the simple ways that cloves keep moths away.
3. Spider Mites
The tiny spider mites, which include the two-spotted spider mite, strawberry spider mite, and carmine mite, suck sap from the underside of strawberry leaves. Their numbers increase in the spring just before the strawberry fruits, then decline throughout the summer.
Even a few spider mites can reduce your strawberry crop if they attack your plant in the vulnerable growing time of early spring. Any strawberry plant with more than 25 mites per leaf by late summer may begin to suffer severe wilt and stunted growth.
How To Identify Spider Mite Damage On Strawberries
- Leaves with a reddish, rust-like tinge.
- Plants that are dry, withered, or stunted.
- Tiny white, yellow, or green speck-like mites on the underside of leaves.
- Presence of webs
What’s The Fix?
The best fix for spider mites is combining a variety of treatments. These include releasing commercially available predatory mites that feed on spider mites. Bug Sales’ 2,000 Live Adult Predatory Mites may help reduce the population of bad mites and keep your strawberry plants healthy.
Using polyethylene plastic mulch around plants can also help reduce the number of spider mites on your strawberry plant. Water your plants regularly to reduce the stress on the plants – stressed strawberries attract spider mites like nothing else!
Lastly, try switching to mite-resistant varieties of strawberries. Spider mites quickly develop tolerance to chemical treatments, so insecticides are not usually a long-term solution.
4. Strawberry Leafrollers
Strawberry leafrollers are small moths colored a mottled reddish brown, but it’s their larvae that damage strawberry leaves. Leafroller caterpillars are green when young but turn brown as they grow older, reaching up to ½ inch in length.
They are best identified by their behavior of rolling up leaves with their silk webbing, living inside the roll, and continuing to feed on the leaves around them.
Strawberry Leafroller Damage
A rolled-up strawberry leaf held together by sticky strands of silk is a sure sign of strawberry leafrollers. Strawberry leaves may also look scorched or wilted as the young caterpillars feed on them before they begin to roll.
Fixing Strawberry Leafroller Damage
Strawberry leafrollers rarely infest a plant to the point of damaging it. Remove dead leaves and other debris from around the base of plants to discourage their presence.
You can also remove damaged and rolled leaves as you find them.
5. Strawberry Crown Borer
The strawberry crown borer is a brown, flightless weevil about ⅕ inch long. Both adults and larvae can damage strawberry plants, although larvae damage is much more severe.
Adult crown borers feed on leaves, but larvae bore into the crown of the strawberry plant (giving them their name) where they can feed until they hollow it out, killing the plant.
What To Look For
If strawberry plants are becoming stunted or dying with no other signs of damage, cut apart the crown of one of your plants to check for crown borer larvae – white legless grubs about ¼ inch long.
Repairing The Damage
Chemical controls are not very effective, but physical measures are. Remove infested plants and till the soil before planting again.
Because they can’t fly, crown borers crawl on the ground from plant to plant, so you can also plant new strawberries away from problem areas.
6. Cabbage Loopers
I swear these names aren’t made up! Cabbage loopers are larvae of a small mottled-brown moth. These tiny caterpillars, only about an inch long, are bright green with a white stripe down each side. They are easily recognized by their behavior of reaching their bodies up and over in an arch, the “looping” motion for which they get their name.
They produce about four or five generations each year, feeding from early spring into the fall. Although they aren’t major pests of strawberry plants, they will feed on the foliage if strawberries are planted near their preferred foods, which include cabbage and lettuce.
Identifying Cabbage Looper Damage
To identify cabbage looper damage, look for small irregular holes between leaf veins. You can also check for caterpillars on the underside of leaves. Pretty simple, right?
Repelling Cabbage Loopers From Strawberries
Make sure your strawberries are planted away from cabbages and lettuce. You can remove visible caterpillars by hand.
Parasitic wasps such as Hyposoter exiguae, Copidosoma truncatellum, and Trichogramma spp. will keep cabbage loopers under control. Be sure to plant a variety of flowers that can provide these beneficial wasps with nectar and pollen.
The bacteria Bacillus thuringiensis, known as B.t., can help control cabbage loopers. You can find it online such as Monterey Bacillus Thuringiensis (B.t.) Worm & Caterpillar Killer.
Spinosad is also an effective natural herbicide. Try out Natural Guard’s Fertilome Spinsosad Bagworm, Tent Caterpillar and Chewing Insect Control Oil.
7. Potato Leafhoppers
Although not a common strawberry pest, both the adult potato leafhopper and its young nymph form can cause damage to strawberry plants. Resembling a tiny green grasshopper, leafhoppers only grow to about 1/8 inch long. Adults have clear wings and distinct spines on their legs.
When startled, the nymphs tend to walk sideways or backward while the adults make their characteristic long leap to safety. Leafhoppers feed on leaf sap from early summer through fall.
How To Identify Potato Leafhopper Damage
Leaves that have been drained by leafhopper damage will appear stunted, curled, or yellow along the edges. Check the underside of leaves for leafhopper nymphs.
What’s The Fix?
Introduce natural predators like lacewings or ladybugs from a local nursery that carries them or from an online supplier like NaturesGoodGuys 1500 Live Ladybugs.
For a more natural approach, read our article on how to attract ladybugs to your garden.
8. Strawberry Aphids
Aphids are tiny insects, usually green or yellow, that cling to stems and the underside of leaves and feed on the sap of your strawberry plant. They are known as sap-sucking pests.
They usually don’t cause direct damage to strawberries, but they can transmit plant diseases and accelerate the growth of sooty mold, both of which can harm your plants.
Aphid Damage To Strawberry Plants
Here are some signs that you have aphids on your strawberry plants:
- Strawberry leaves that are curled with small dead spots.
- Stunted shoots.
- Presence of aphids on the underside of the leaves.
- The presence of a sticky secretion called honeydew that you can feel by touch.
- A high population of ants.
There are so many reasons why aphids may be attacking your garden. For more information, you should read our article on the 6 main reasons why aphids will be in your garden.
What’s The Fix?
A small infestation of aphids can be managed just by pruning the affected areas of the plant. Physical movement, like spraying aphids with a blast of water or wiping them off by hand, can also keep their populations low.
Aphids may avoid feeding on plants surrounded by reflective materials like plastic mulch. If aphid numbers are high, you should resort to chemical management; neem, canola oil, and insecticidal soaps are all effective against aphids.
Consider planting fragrant plants near your strawberries, as these can have a deterrent effect on aphids due to their strong scent. We have an excellent guide on the scents that aphids hate right here!
9. Strawberry Bud Weevil
The strawberry bud weevil, also called a strawberry clipper, feeds on the pollen of immature flowers by puncturing the bud with its snout. A female will then lay eggs in the flower bud and nearly sever it from the stem, the “clipping” action that they are named for.
Strawberry bud weevils are about 1/10 inch long, with a distinct long “snout” similar to other weevils. They are reddish-brown, with two black spots on their backs. They are active in June and early July.
Identifying Strawberry Bud Weevil Damage
Here are 6 signs that strawberry bud weevils have taken up residence on your strawberry plants:
- Flower buds that fail to open.
- Flower buds that are partially hanging.
- Buds that have fallen off the strawberry plant.
- Visible weevils on your plant.
- Presence of white larvae inside flower buds.
- “Bullet holes” in the petals of immature flowers from weevil snouts.
Chemical Control To Repel Bud Weevils
Although you can discourage strawberry bud weevils by clearing weeds from around your strawberries, chemical control is the best way to eliminate them from your strawberry plants completely.
The two most effective insecticides are:
- Brigade – Somall Bifenthrin I/T 7.9 F (generic Talstar), for Insects
- Carbaryl – Southern Ag 10641 Carbaryl 5% Dust Insecticide
Be sure to read the directions thoroughly before using these, as they may have adverse effects on wildlife, pets, and pollinators. We have a more in-depth guide on simple tips to keep weevils out of your garden here.
10. Lygus Bugs
Lygus bugs also called tarnished plant bugs, are beetle-like insects about 6mm long. They have long antennae and flattened backs with a distinct brown or yellowish triangle near their head.
Lygus bugs start laying eggs in the stems of your strawberries in early spring. Young Lygus bugs resemble fast-moving aphids.
Signs Of Lygus Bug Damage On Strawberries
- Misshapen fruit has a “puckered” area of dense seeds.
- Fruits will sometimes remain white, green, or brown instead of turning red.
You can check for young aphid-like Lygus bugs by shaking your strawberry plant over a piece of white paper.
What’s The Fix?
Lygus bugs are best controlled by encouraging their natural predators, like damsel bugs, big-eyed bugs, assassin bugs, crab spiders, and certain types of predatory wasps. Planting various types of flowers can help attract these beneficial bugs. The presence of lygus bugs will attract the predators as well.
Keeping the area near strawberry plants free of weeds can discourage their presence too.
11. Strawberry Thrips
Strawberry or western flower thrips are thin, winged insects just under 1mm long. Their color can range from white to dark brown, depending on their life stage. They begin feeding and laying their eggs in your strawberry plants in early spring.
Thrips damage strawberries by sucking sap from leaves, buds, and flowers. They won’t stop your plant from producing edible fruit, but the berries will look “wilted” and unattractive.
Identifying Thrip Damage
Fruit that is brownish/yellowish around the cap instead of bright red indicates a possible strawberry thrip population on your strawberry plants.
Repelling Strawberry Thrips
Natural predators and chemical management are two options to control strawberry thrips.
Usually, thrip populations remain too low to cause much damage, but some years their numbers boom. Early in an infestation, you can introduce commercially available natural predators like Orius (minute pirate bug) and the predatory mites Amblyseius cucumeris and Ambylseius swirskii.
Chemical management can be effective too, but insecticides that work on harmful thrips, like spinosad and azadirachtin products, will also kill beneficial thrips and predators of other harmful insects, so use them with care.
If you’d like, take a look at our in-depth article on the different ways to get rid of thrip eggs fast so you can keep these nuisances away from your strawberries!
12. Spotted Wing Drosophila And Other Fruit Flies
The spotted wing drosophila, sometimes shortened to SWD, is a tiny fruit fly introduced to North America from Asia. Both the common fruit fly and the SWD lay eggs inside berries.
The common fruit fly prefers to lay eggs in overripe berries, but the female SWD will lay eggs as soon as a strawberry begins to turn red.
Both types of larvae hatch shortly afterward and begin feeding on the berry from the inside out. The summer life cycle of a fruit fly is about eight days.
What Does Fruit Fly Damage Look Like On Strawberries?
A berry infested with fruit fly larvae might not show damage until you cut into it. Look for sunken brown spots on the outside. If you suspect damage, look for the tiny worm-like white larvae, only about 3mm long, inside the fruit.
What’s The Fix?
Harvest berries quickly so larvae don’t have time to cause damage inside them. (There’s no harm in eating the eggs or larvae.) If you see adult fruit flies around your plants, discourage more from hatching by making sure you don’t leave rotting berries or other fruit in the area.
Commercial fruit fly traps are available, but these are usually sticky traps that also catch beneficial insects and other small animals with no discretion. Use with care!
Hummingbirds feed on fruit flies, so encourage hummingbirds to visit your strawberry patch by hanging nectar feeders nearby. Insecticides may help control adult populations, but no insecticide kills larvae once eggs have been laid.
Black pepper is an easy, eco-friendly solution that you probably already have in your kitchen! Check out our article on the different ways to use black pepper to keep fruit flies away for more information!
13. Sap Beetles
The name sap beetles refers to a variety of small almond-shaped beetles between ⅛ and ¼ inch long. They have small knobs at the end of their antennae and are typically shiny black.
Dusky sap beetles have no markings, strawberry sap beetles have a faint mottled brown pattern, and the largest variety, the picnic beetle, has four distinct orange spots on its back,
In June and July, adult beetles begin to feed on damaged and overripe berries.
Signs Of Sap Beetle Damage
Small cavities dug into ripe berries, almost like someone used a tiny melon baller! The holes they eat are similar to the damage caused by slugs. Check for signs of sap beetles on and around the strawberry plant.
Repelling Sap Beetles
Keep the area around strawberry plants clean and dry. To discourage sap beetles from gathering, make sure you remove all overripe berries and other overripe produce from nearby.
Place homemade traps like trays of beer or vinegar; the beetles will be attracted to the smell of fermentation.
Because sap beetles only come to berries that are ready to be harvested, insecticides are a poor solution; you might kill the beetles, but you’ll make the berries inedible too. Take a look at our article on easy ways that cloves keep beetles away for an in-depth look at using this wonderful scent to repel sap beetles!
14. Isopods And Millipedes
Isopods, also called pill bugs, potato bugs, sow bugs, woodlice, or roly-polies, are terrestrial crustaceans (a type of arthropod), not insects. They are widespread and easily recognized by their segmented shell and ability to curl up into a ball. Millipedes are also another type of arthropod, not an insect.
Both millipedes and isopods are beneficial for gardens, feeding on decaying matter and helping break it down into nutritious compost for plants. However, they will feed on ripe strawberries too, especially berries that have open wounds from other pests.
What To Look For
Holes in your strawberries, usually with the feeding isopod or millipede still inside. A hole without a culprit may be hard to identify but check for isopods and millipedes under dead leaves or other damp places near the base of your strawberry plants.
You can read about the simple reasons why millipedes are in your garden to see if other plants or items are attracting these pests near your strawberry plants.
How To Keep Millipedes Away From Strawberries
Both isopods and millipedes require moisture, so keep the area around the base of your strawberry plants tidy and dry. Spread a dry material around your plants like bark mulch or diatomaceous earth.
Keep ripening berries from laying directly on the ground. A growing rack like this Iceyyy Strawberry Support might be a good solution. Remove any decaying matter near your plants as well.
15. Meadow Spittlebug
The meadow spittlebug sometimes called a “froghopper,” is a small blunt-headed insect best known for the frothy wet mass it creates on stems and leaves, a safe nest where its nymphs grow to adulthood. The adult spittlebug is mottled light to dark brown and only about ¼ inch long.
Spittlebugs feed on the sap of plants from late spring to fall, and although they are not a common pest of strawberries, their presence on the plants can stunt growth.
Signs Of Spittlebug Damage
Look for distinctive clumps of white spittle on or near strawberry plants. Affected strawberries may have stunted fruit and wrinkled, dark green leaves.
Preventing Spittlebug Damage
Clear weeds away from strawberries to discourage them from gathering near your plants. Spittlebugs are usually found in small numbers and do little damage, so minimal control is needed. You can remove adults and spit-encased nymphs by hand or blast spitballs away with water.
16. Slug And Snails
Slugs and snails are common garden pests that can cause extensive damage to the entire strawberry plant, especially the leaves, stems, and fruit.
They are most active at night when the air is cool and damp, finding moist places to shelter during the day. They can range from ¼ inch to nearly a foot long! You can read more about the places snails come from at night here. You may be providing these mollusks shelter without even realizing it!
Here’s What Slug And Snail Damage Looks Like
Snails and slugs chew irregular shapes, so look for rough holes in leaves and berries. A sure sign of slug and snail infestation is the slime trail they leave behind, appearing as a glistening film wherever they have traveled.
Remember, slugs and snails are mostly nocturnal, so you won’t typically catch them in the act. However, they will come out during the day on cool, rainy days when you can catch them chomping on your strawberry plants.
How To Prevent Slug And Snail Damage
Clear up weeds and other areas around your strawberries that may provide moist hiding places to discourage slugs and snails. For the simplest prevention, check your strawberries each evening or morning and remove any slugs and snails by hand.
Slugs and snails do not like to crawl over coarse, dry material, so you can try scattering sand, ash, powdered eggshells, diatomaceous earth, or similar substances around your plants. Harris Diatomaceous Earth works great at repelling slugs and snails.
Shallow trays filled with beer placed near your strawberries will attract and drown slugs and snails, lowering their population in your garden.
You can also try using commercial slug bait like this pet and wildlife-friendly Garden Safe 4536 Slug & Snail Bait.
There is also some speculation that plants such as marigolds repel slugs. Even though it may not be fully supported yet, there isn’t any harm in trying it out! You can read more about this method in our article on whether French marigolds really repel slugs.
Armyworms, including beet armyworms and southern armyworms, are the larvae of a small brown and gray moth.
These smooth-skinned caterpillars vary in appearance as they age, but are usually yellow or greenish on top, lighter yellow or pink on the underside with a dark stripe that runs the length of their body. They reach about 30mm long before they pupate into their moth form.
Female moths lay their eggs on the underside of leaves in clusters of 50 to 150. The eggs are covered with a white scale that gives them a cotton ball appearance.
Signs Of Armyworms
Armyworm damage has a “sucked dry” appearance. Strawberry leaves fed on by armyworms are skeletonized to veins and transparent connective material. Berries may have shallow brown wounds.
Check for the presence of armyworms or armyworm egg clusters, which look like fuzzy white clumps, on the plants.
Getting Rid Of Armyworms
Dispatch any armyworms you find by dropping them in a bucket of soapy water. Eggs can be removed and crushed by hand as well.
Applying spores of the bacteria Bacillus thuringiensis (remember B.t.?) or introducing a natural predator like the ichneumonid parasitic wasp, Hyposoter exiguae, can control armyworm populations.
You can use a pheromone trap specifically targeted toward armyworms. Armyworms also avoid areas that have been treated with neem oil.
Cutworms are caterpillars, not worms, the larvae of the Noctuid moth. A variety of different species affect strawberries, but the most common is the black or greasy cutworm.
These caterpillars grow to about 1.5 inches long, have a chubby appearance, and are mottled gray or brown. They curl up into a ball when disturbed.
Eggs hatch in the fall, and as soon as the weather begins to warm the next spring, larvae move into strawberry plants and begin to feed. They will spend the day hiding in the soil near the base of the plant, only emerging at night to chew leaves and stems close to the ground.
Clues Of Cutworm Damage
Small irregular holes in leaves at the bottom of the plant or, more seriously, stems that have been severed near the ground. Cutworms may damage the crown, preventing the strawberry plant from producing new growth.
A cutworm can devour most of a berry, taking out such sizable chunks that you may think it was a larger animal at work!
Fixing The Damage
Keep the area around your strawberries free from weeds. Remove cutworms from your strawberry plants by hand by searching for them at night with a flashlight and dispatching them in soapy water.
Introducing spores of the bacteria Bacillus thuringiensis can keep cutworm populations low. You can use an insecticide with spinosad to spot control problem areas. This one from Monterey Garden Insect Spray, Insecticide & Pesticide with Spinosad Concentrate works well to repel cutworms.
19. Strawberry Root Weevils
These many species of flightless beetles feed on strawberry foliage. They have a long narrow “snout” like other weevils, but their backs are uniform in color with no distinct pattern.
Adults begin to feed on leaves in late spring and summer. Their damage to plants usually is not enough to prevent strawberries from fruiting.
Root weevil larvae feed on the roots of strawberry plants from the time they hatch in late summer until they emerge as adults in the spring, going dormant during the winter months. They can damage roots enough to kill the plant.
Identifying Root Weevil Damage
Leaves with scalloped or notched-shaped pieces eaten out along the edge signify the presence of adult weevils. If plants are wilting, check the roots and base of the plant for signs of larvae. They look like legless white grubs that can grow up to ½ inch long.
What’s The Fix?
One strategy is to remove affected plants immediately. If you are dealing with root weevils year after year, rotate your strawberries annually.
Some other solutions, like introducing parasitic nematodes, have shown some success at controlling root weevils.
20. Cyclamen Mites
The cyclamen mite thrives in warm climates and greenhouses, although it can also survive in small protected pockets throughout your strawberry plant such as unfolded leaves. The mite itself is too small to be seen with the naked eye.
Cyclamen mites often first locate a plant in late summer, lie dormant in the winter, and begin laying eggs when the weather warms. From this point, their population will increase rapidly, with each new hatch taking only two weeks to mature into egg-laying adults.
Clues To Cyclamen Mite Presence
Most commonly, leaves that are crinkled or crumpled. Flowers might also be withered, and berries might appear brownish and dehydrated.
How To Repel Cyclamen Mites
If cyclamen mites have been a problem in the past, don’t plant them in the same area. You can remove cyclamen mites by dipping the infested strawberry plant in hot water at 100 F for 30 minutes before planting.
To keep mites away, introduce natural predators like the six spotted thrips. Chemical control of cyclamen mites has been shown to be ineffective.
21. Birds Love Strawberries
When you see birds around your strawberry plants, don’t panic! On the whole, birds help strawberries as much as they damage them. The key is to encourage birds that prefer to eat strawberry pests more than the berries themselves.
Below are the most common birds that eat strawberries. If you see these birds near your strawberries, it may be cause for concern.
|Orange-red breast, gray upperparts, white lower belly
|Glossy black plumage with iridescent purple and green sheen
|Sleek brown plumage, black mask, waxy red tips on secondary flight feathers
|Slate gray plumage, black cap, chestnut undertail coverts
|Brown and gray plumage, black bib, chestnut nape
Signs Of Bird Damage To Strawberries
Birds leave distinct holes and peck marks in fruit that are large enough to distinguish them from insect pests. You may also notice bird tracks on the ground near your strawberry plants. Feathers and droppings near your strawberry plants are another good indicator that you have birds pecking away at your strawberries.
Repelling Birds From Your Strawberries
Several studies, like this one from the University of California, Davis, found that increasing the natural habitat around strawberries encourages insect-eating birds like quails and barn swallows and discourages strawberry-eating birds like robins, starlings, sparrows, and finches.
For those birds that want your strawberries, try providing alternative and more attractive food sources by installing bird feeders nearby. Or, grow plants that birds hate to deter them from stepping a foot (or claw) into your garden.
If the birds still won’t leave your berries alone, get 100% protection by covering plants with fine-mesh netting (which has the advantage of keeping out some flying insects as well) or regular bird netting. Phepetroll Garden Floating Row Covers are a fantastic way to keep birds off your strawberry plants.
Aluminum foil is another potential way to prevent birds from pecking at your strawberries. Take a look at our piece on how aluminum foil keeps birds away.
22. Mammals Can Eat Strawberries
Nearly every wild animal that frequents your garden enjoys eating strawberries. If you’re trying to raise a good crop, you’ll have to compete with squirrels, chipmunks, mice, rats, deer, raccoons, rabbits, opossums, and more! If you’d like, you can check out our article on the common animals that love your strawberries for a complete list!
Signs Of Strawberry Damage From Mammals
- Small animals: Small animals, like rodents, may only take a bite out of your berries. Look for teeth marks to get an idea of the size of your strawberry thief.
- Large animals: Deer and rabbits will crop the leaves off the top of strawberry plants. Droppings and tracks can also help determine who is visiting your strawberry patch. Check your plants both during the day and at night to try to catch the culprit in action.
If you go out at night, try this trick: hold a flashlight alongside your head level with your eyes. You’ll be able to spot the reflective eyes of nocturnal animals looking back at you…even tiny ones like moths and spiders!
How To Keep Mammals Away From Your Strawberries
Mammals are hard to keep away from strawberries. Raised netting will discourage some like opossums and rabbits, but smaller, larger, or more determined ones will find a way through. A high fence will block deer and other large animals, but not ones that can climb.
Growing strawberries in an area where your dog or cat roams free will give them protection from many animals, although be careful not to encourage your pets into conflicts with wildlife that likes to fight back, like raccoons!
Your best bet might be to construct a crop cage using PVC pipe and hardware cloth. Or, consider purchasing something like Neorexon 6.5 x 10 Feet Crop Cage Plant Protection Tent.
So What’s Eating Your Strawberries?
Many animals enjoy munching the various parts of the strawberry plant. We hope you not only found your strawberry eater in the list above but found a good way to stop it!
To recap, the best ways to discourage animals from eating your strawberries are:
- Keep the area clear of weeds.
- Clean up nearby rotting debris.
- Remove overripe and damaged fruit.
- Pay attention to the appearance of your plants.
- Check for signs of damage.
- Remove visible pests by hand.
- Encourage insect-eating birds.
- Use physical barriers to protect from larger animals.
Once you know what to look for, it will become easier to quickly spot and identify the critters that are coming to feast on your plants. You’ll be able to stop them in their tracks and enjoy your summertime reward…a bucket of red, ripe strawberries!
We hope this helped you and your strawberries. Thanks for reading!
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Hany KM Dweck, Gaëlle JS Talross, Wanyue Wang, John R Carlson (2021) Evolutionary shifts in taste coding in the fruit pest Drosophila suzukii eLife 10:e64317
Kuesel R, Scott Hicks D, Archer K, Sciligo A, Bessin R, Gonthier D. Effects of Fine-Mesh Exclusion Netting on Pests of Blackberry. Insects. 2019 Aug 14;10(8):249. doi: 10.3390/insects10080249. PMID: 31416215; PMCID: PMC6723514.
Olimpi, E. M., Garcia, K., Gonthier, D. J., De Master, K. T., Echeverri, A., Kremen, C., Sciligo, A. R., Snyder, W. E., Wilson-Rankin, E. E., and Karp, D. S.. 2020. Shifts in species interactions and farming contexts mediate net effects of birds in agroecosystems. Ecological Applications 30( 5):e02115. 10.1002/eap.2115
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