10 Animals That Eat Bean Seedlings & How To Repel Them
I love growing green beans in my garden. The plants themselves are low maintenance, and they can produce new pods almost as fast as I can pick them.
Unfortunately, I’m not the only thing that enjoys eating this delicious vegetable.
No part of your bean seedlings is safe from pests. Each one targets separate portions of the plant, so watch out!
Since beans have several benefits to both your garden and yourself, we want to help you make sure that you’ll have your desired harvest.
Let’s look at each of these potential bean-eating culprits, what their damage looks like, and how to keep them out of your garden for good.
As a side note, if you’re noticing super minuscule damage, take a look at our guide on the insects that eat bean seedlings as well!
Deer Snack On Bean Seedlings
Deer are herbivores, meaning they’ll eat every part of your bean plant from top to bottom.
The beans, leaves, and shoots of these plants can be gone overnight, especially if more than one deer are doing the snacking.
How To Repel Deer From Your Bean Seedlings
Here are a couple of ways that you can deter deer from entering your garden and making your bean seedlings and plants into their next meal.
- Add a physical barrier. Fencing in your garden is always an option to deter deer, but you have to determine whether it will be the most practical option for you. Consider the following questions:
- How large is your garden?
- What type of fencing material do you want to use?
- How high should your fence be?
These are all important questions to ask yourself before choosing to add a fence to your garden. Depending on your fence preference, the final product could get pricey for many home gardeners.
- Plant strongly scented herbs next to, or mixed in with, your vegetables. There are certain scents that deer do their best to stay clear of because they interfere with their sense of smell. Since deer use their sense of smell to help detect any predators in the area, this is problematic for the deer.
Adding some common – and delicious – herbs to your garden like mint and garlic will deter deer from the area. As a bonus, when these herbs are ready to harvest, you can easily incorporate them into a variety of meals!
Chickens Peck At Bean Seedlings
The vitamins and minerals in green beans make them a very common – and healthy – part of a chicken’s diet. We certainly want to keep our egg-laying farm birds happy.
However, we need to be mindful of where they may roam during the day to minimize their damage.
How To Repel Chickens
Each of us has our own farm animal handling process, but we have a couple of recommendations that even the pickiest chicken parents and chickens couldn’t argue with.
- Make sure that your chickens have access to feed throughout the day. Well cared for chickens could probably tell you what time they get their breakfast and dinner each day, and let’s just throw it out there that it’s okay to have a time of day when your chickens will intake most of their food for the day.
Even if your chickens are on a feeding schedule, ensure that they’ll still have access to their feed throughout the day.
Whether their feed is kept in their coop, chicken run, or a combination of the two, if your chickens know where their feed is, they’re not likely to stray to your garden for an afternoon snack.
- Make sure that your chicken coop is large enough for the number of chickens you have. If you notice a change in behavior in your chickens such as pecking or other aggressive behavior toward one another, they may need more space to spread their wings. (Pun intended.)
According to a study from Cornell University, a single chicken should have about three feet of space inside the chicken coop, and a minimum of four square feet in an exterior, fenced area of the yard.
If you haven’t checked your coop recently, consider taking a count of your chickens and their available space, and know that a renovation may be needed if your chickens need more space.
After all, a happy chicken means a chicken with less destructive behavior.
Squirrels Munch On Your Bean Seedlings
Squirrels are attracted to your bean seedlings because of the amount of protein that they contain.
The more protein in a food source, the fuller the squirrel can get in a shorter amount of time.
How To Repel Squirrels From Your Beans
Squirrels will eat the beans off your bean plant and the shoots. If you notice this combination of activity on your plants, you’re likely dealing with squirrels as your primary culprit.
Here’s how to get them out of your garden.
- Cover your plants with a plant cage. Plant cages come in several sizes and materials to help keep squirrels and other pests from damaging your seedlings. We recommend a chicken wire cage like Heidi & Olav Squirrel Proof Chicken Wire Cloche, which can be easily stored when not in use and be reused on next year’s crops.
- Remove additional food sources. There is a reason that there are squirrel-resistant bird feeders – they love eating your bird seed!
If you have a bird feeder close to your garden, consider moving it so squirrels can’t make the jump into your garden.
- Sprinkle strongly scented spices around your beans. There are several common household spices that squirrels don’t tolerate well. If you have any of these spices on hand, try sprinkling them around the base of your beans, or any other plants, where you’ve noticed squirrel activity:
- Cayenne pepper
Rabbits Nibble at Bean Seedlings
Rabbits will prefer the leafy green vegetables that you may have growing in your garden over many other options, but it’s not unheard of for these critters to nibble on your bean seedlings too.
Rabbit activity in your garden will be relatively easy to spot. From their circular dropping to the paths that they dig under your fence, you’ll be able to determine if this pest could be your bean-eating culprit quickly.
How To Repel Rabbits From Your Garden Beans
Once the determination has been made that rabbits are the pest nibbling on your seedlings, you can take the appropriate steps to repel them from your garden.
- Use rabbit-deterring scents around the perimeter of your garden. Like many animals, there are certain scents that rabbits will stay away from. Consider sprinkling powdered red pepper around the perimeter of your garden.
Depending on the scent of your favorite bath soap, shredding a bar of soap, or even planting the tiny slivers of soap that are hard to manage, in your garden can be a wonderful deterrent as well.
- Close off your garden entry points. Closing off your garden can be a tough task since rabbits can chew through certain fencing material and can make pathways under fencing to get to your garden, but it is possible.
If you decide to add a fence to close off your garden, we recommend burying the fence several inches into the dirt so that rabbits can’t go underneath to gain entry.
Opossums Scavenge Bean Seedlings
Opossums are scavenging creatures, so the foods they eat if they come across them are not surprising.
With your bean seedlings, opossums are happy for a protein-filled snack – especially when they can’t find enough insects.
Here’s How To Repel Opossums
You’ve probably heard the term “playing possum” before and have wondered what it means. Because opossums aren’t confrontational creatures, they will often freeze or play dead when they spot a predator – a characteristic that you can use to your advantage.
- Add motion-sensing lights to your garden. Since opossums are jumpy and well aware of predators in the area, adding motion-sensing lights to your garden will likely be enough to scare this pest right out of your garden.
- Remove any potential shelter or coverings that opossums could use. Opossums will first come to your yard to seek a shelter of some sort and then stay because of the easily accessible food.
Seal off any opening you may have under your porch or shed and think about relocating or sealing off the area where you store your firewood to ensure opossums can’t gain access.
Like many of the pests above, there are also scents you can use to keep opossums at bay!
Chipmunks Eat Bean Seedlings
Similar to squirrels, chipmunks love to nibble the leaves of bean seedlings and other plants.
The smaller size of the seedlings makes them the perfect snack for these smaller pests.
How To Repel Chipmunks From Your Garden
While you can set up traps to catch chipmunks, they are a challenge. Since they are such a common pest in yards and gardens, and usually live with a high population of chipmunks, it will be hard to determine whether you’ve eliminated your problem.
There are many natural ways to keep chipmunks away from your produce aside from trapping.
You can still use trapping as a method to keep chipmunks out of your garden, but we recommend pairing it with at least one of the other options below for the best results.
- Use pepper spray to protect your plants. There are several pepper sprays for your plants that you can buy in-store or on the internet, like Bonide Hot Pepper Wax Animal Repellent, but you can make your own mixture at home too!
If you’re up for trying your hand at a homemade mixture, thoroughly mix water and cayenne pepper and place the mixture in a spray bottle. Use the spray regularly on your bean seedlings (and other garden plants) to keep chipmunks at bay.
- Utilize bird netting, especially as your plants are maturing. While bird netting’s original purpose is to prevent birds from making a meal of the plants in your garden, it works effectively to keep chipmunks and other pests out, too.
Many available bird nettings won’t tangle or rust and can be reused, so investing in this option will help protect your garden for years to come.
Bean Weevils Eat Beans of course
Bean weevils can consume nearly an entire bean plant overnight if the population is substantial enough.
For a tiny insect, the bean weevil is especially problematic because of the different locations where eggs can be laid – essentially on any part of the plant – which allows the larvae to feed almost immediately.
How To Repel Bean Weevils From Bean Plants
One weevil can lay several hundred eggs at one time, so you can imagine how quickly weevils can become a big problem relative to their size.
- Place sticky traps to determine your activity level. To help determine the level of weevil activity you have, you might consider using a trap like Gideal Dual Sided Sticky Traps to assist in building your treatment plan.
- Physically remove weevils from your bean plants. These bugs are tiny, but if you spot them, you can remove them and drop them into some soapy water to eliminate the problem.
If you’d rather not spend your time picking off individual bugs, we have a helpful trick:
Lay some newspaper under your bean plant and, once the sun goes down, head back out. You can shake the stalk of your plants, and any weevils that are present will fall off onto the newspaper. Then, you can dispose of the newspaper – and weevils – and the job is done.
- Treat your plants with an insecticide. Whether you’re looking to prevent weevil activity or treat an infestation, the right insecticide can help remedy the problem.
Whether you choose to use a chemical-based product or a natural option, use caution while handling the product, and be sure to read the directions thoroughly before use.
Cats Will Graze On Bean Seedlings
I know what you’re thinking: “My cat? Not in my garden!”
If you have an indoor-only cat, indeed, they’re not likely the culprit who’s eating your bean seedlings. However, if you have an indoor/outdoor cat, or have spotted strays in the area, they could be guilty of eating your bean seedlings.
Beans are a wonderful source of protein and vitamins as we’ve mentioned, so they can be a common ingredient in cat foods, which is why they may prey on them.
How To Repel Cats
If you feel as though your own cat could be nibbling your plants, the simplest solution is to keep them indoors and ensure that they have access to their food all day.
For the pesky neighborhood cat or stray cat, however, here are some other recommendations.
- Incorporate fragrant plants in your garden. Certain scents don’t appeal to cats like lemongrass and lavender.
If you can incorporate these into your gardening plans, awesome, but if the time for planting has already passed, consider placing one of these alternatives around your bean plants:
- Orange peels
- Lemon peels
- Coffee grounds
You’re likely to come across one of these other items in your home or your weekly use, and scattering these items around the perimeter of your garden will help keep cats from getting into your plants and causing damage.
- Keep your garden well watered. Cats and water rarely get along, so if your garden is well watered, or if your garden is on a timed sprinkler, cats will stay away.
- Consider adding prickle pads around your garden. Cats like to walk on soft surfaces, so consider adding some prickly materials around your garden perimeter as a deterrent.
Twigs and pinecones may do the trick to keep cats out, but if you find yourself short on natural materials like these, consider using a Scat Mat to help keep cats out.
Voles Will Attack Your Bean Roots
The good news is that voles aren’t much for climbing, so your bean leaves and beans are probably safe. Unfortunately, since voles are burrowing creatures, they will attack your bean plant from the bottom.
Voles may ruin your bean plant’s root system as they burrow, and they’ll also bite into the lower stems of the plant, potentially destroying or killing the entire plant if they get all the way through.
Here’s How To Repel Voles
If you decide to fence in your garden or plants, since voles are burrowing creatures, bury the bottom of your fence into the ground a minimum of two to three inches deep to help deter them from disturbing the root systems.
Here are some other helpful ways to deter vole activity in your garden.
- Keep your garden clean. Voles like to travel and eat in private, so they prefer tall grassy areas or areas where there may be a good amount of ground covering.
If you notice you have garden plants that have become damaged, fallen over, or that weeds have taken over a certain section of your garden, clean the area thoroughly to eliminate shelter for these pests.
- Close tunnel openings if you see them. If you spot holes that are one to two inches wide, you may have vole activity. Fill these holes as you see them to close off the passageway and voles will have to move on.
BONUS TIP: If you scatter coffee grounds over the closed tunnel openings, voles can’t stand the smell, so it will add an extra layer of protection.
- Place traps. If you’re comfortable with traps, you can place them near the tunnel openings you’ve spotted. Voles will come and go from their tunnels several times throughout the day, so you’re likely to catch them and can eliminate the problem.
Beans Are A Slug Buffet
Unfortunately, out of the plants in your garden, beans are a slug favorite.
Slugs will mainly focus on making a meal from the leaves of your bean seedlings and plants, so it is possible beans can still grow. However, because of their activity, the overall health of your plant will be stunted and you’re likely to have a smaller harvest.
How To Repel Slugs From Your Bean Plants
Insects can be a pain to get rid of, but there are options to help you eliminate them and keep your plants protected.
- Handpick slugs off your plants. Similar to the bean weevil, you can hand-pick slugs off your plants and toss them in a bucket of soapy water. To see results, you’re likely to have to check your plant (and remove the slugs you see) daily for at least a week.
- Use crushed garlic. Garlic has a strong smell that slugs don’t tolerate. If you have fresh garlic bulbs, you can crush the garlic and place the pieces around your bean plants.
- Treat your plants with an insecticide. When choosing an insecticide for your plants, it’s important to make sure that the active ingredient will treat the pest you have. For slugs, you’ll want to make sure that you choose an insecticide that has iron phosphate as the main active ingredient.
Check out your local home and garden center for local insecticide options, or you can try a product like Bonide’s Slug Magic Granules for an organic, all-weather treatment option for your beans as well.
Putting It All Together
Beans have several nutritional benefits for humans, so it’s not surprising that some of the vitamins and minerals these plants provide to humans also make them attractive snacks for wildlife.
When you notice your plants aren’t producing to the level that they should be, take a survey of your garden to help determine what kind of pest you may be dealing with. Here are some helpful questions to ask yourself as you survey your garden:
- Do you see any paw prints or tracks nearby?
- What is the condition of your bean plant leaves?
- Are there parts of your plant that are still intact?
- Where is the damage occurring?
With these questions in mind, you’ll quickly be on your way to determining the culprit and putting into place the most effective treatments to get rid of the pest, and getting back on track to have a plentiful bean crop.
DeCalesta, D. S., & Schwendeman, D. B. (1978). Characterization of deer damage to soybean plants. Wildlife Society Bulletin (1973-2006), 6(4), 250-253.
Jaskulska, M., Kozlowski, J., & Kozlowska, M. (2017). Susceptibility of field bean cultivars to slug damage. Folia Malacologica, 25(4).
Marsh, R. E. (1998). Historical review of ground squirrel crop damage in California. International biodeterioration & biodegradation, 42(2-3), 93-99.
Shenkut, M., Mebrate, A., & Balakrishnan, M. (2006). Distribution and abundance of rodents in farmlands: a case study in Alleltu Woreda, Ethiopia. SINET: Ethiopian Journal of Science, 29(1), 63-70.