Minimal leaf damage . . . not much to worry about

>> Saturday, June 11, 2011

Searched the garden with a flashlight before sun came up this morning to try to learn what is eating my plant leaves. Did not find any slugs or snails, which was my first guess. Did find a few sow bugs aka pillbugs. Not really very many to concern myself over. Could it be these that are eating my plant leaves? Upon further investigate via the internet I learned: ‘sow bugs are omnivores or scavengers feeding on dead or decaying plants or animals. Some may eat live plants.’ I think it’s more likely they lust after the decomposing shredded bark I use for mulch.

Besides, sow bugs are a food source for other animals. So, for now, I’m ruling these guys out as the cause of my loss. How do you like the cool 'scientific' touch of this sketch? Looks like something straight out of my high school biology class.

The leaves in question are pepper – only one type, the other two are untouched
Pepper Golden Bell leaf damage

eggplant – I have only one and it’s ion the same bed as the pepper with the same kind of damage
Eggplant Ichiban leaf damage

my only hydrangea – oh no not my only hydrangea!
Hydrangea Annabelle

Curiously, only one of the Hosta has holes and only a couple – slugs absolutely adore Hosta plants and would tend to claim the whole plant as theirs, so again, I don’t think it’s slugs.
Hosta Piedmont Gold leaf damage

A few weeks ago, after much, way too much, rain for this part of the country, I found a great many slugs and only 3 or 4 snails, which I am pretty sure the large population of birds that visit my feeders daily quickly dispatched. With slugs and snails you can expect to find slime trails on the plants and the surrounding area leading up to the smorgasbord. I haven’t found any slime trails at all. So, I think I can rule out slugs. I will try the old ‘beer in a cup’ trick just to see if any are still out there. Just bury the container so the top is level with the ground and they will fall in and blissfully drown themselves in beer. I love this idea because I get to drink the 'excess' beer.

Another clue in determining what is eating the leaves is where on the plant the damage is. The holes are not on the edge, that pretty much rules out most caterpillars, but not all. The holes are irregular shaped – not perfectly round - and the majority of ‘holes’ are actually rips or tears. This is the most puzzling feature of all.

I did get an idea from one website – Yates - that suggested the ripping damage might be caused by birds. Makes the best sense so far. The aforementioned large population of birds could be searching for bugs and ripping my leaves as they pick the little morsels off the plants. I do see several birds wandering through my beds pecking about here and there. Could it be that I will need to surround the plants with netting to keep them out?

Boy, this gardening thing could raise my ‘cost of growing my own’ just a little more. I may as well grow my plants inside a building. Just kidding. The damage is rather minimal so no extreme measures will be needed, yet. I just want the mystery solved and I’m pretty sure that birds are probably the cause.

It is odd though that the leaf damage is on a Golden Bell Pepper plant and not on the Purple Beauty Pepper or the Anaheim. Hmmm, maybe these birds are picky eaters after all.


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