So, you have a mystery bug eating up your Meyer lemons and you need to get rid of them.
Or perhaps you already know what’s eating your trees, but you don’t know how to kill the bug.
You’re sick of seeing moldy soot on your leaves.
You’re waking up to entire leaves getting destroyed overnight.
Or you’re afraid that you won’t reap the fruits of your labor (literally) this harvest.
In this guide, we’ll cover these topics:
- How to find out what’s eating your Meyer lemon trees
- Common pests that eat Meyer trees
- How to naturally get rid of them
- Ways to protect and prevent further pest problems
- And more
You should have a solid understanding on how to control, eradicate, and manage these bugs after you’re done reading this page.
And if not, feel free to ask me a question by posting a comment.
Sound good? Let’s save those Meyer lemon trees!
What is eating my Meyer lemons?
There are plenty of pests that’ll gladly eat up your Meyer tree.
Everything from the tasty lemon fruit, green leaves, and even the plant roots.
Grasshoppers, scale, slugs, mites, psyllids, aphids, caterpillars, mealybugs, and weevils are all happy to eat your Meyer trees.
Lemon trees are generally hardy and resistant to pest infestations, especially when the tree is established.
However, younger seedlings and trees are vulnerable to bugs, disease, bacteria, viruses, and fungus.
What about the leaves?
Some bugs will form symbiotic relationships with each other, meaning they’ll work together to destroy your tree’s lemons and leaves (and possibly your plant’s roots).
For example, ants may work together with scale or aphids.
They provide a piggyback service or the other insects and drop them off on the tasty parts of your tree (green leaves with plenty of nutrients or the lemon fruit!).
Aphids consume the Meyer and leave behind honeydew (sticky, black soot) which then feed the ants. They work together to feast on your tree.
This is why you may encounter pairs.
If you notice huge chunks missing at a time, it could very well be a rodent or animal like a deer. They chew up entire branches of leaves and can leave your Meyer tree bare.
Other pests will just feed on the leaves and lemons on their own, such as caterpillars, beetles, birds, and more.
There are tons of different pests and getting rid of them starts with finding out WHAT is eating your Meyer lemons.
Bugs or bacteria?
You should always know the difference between a pest problem and a bacterial, viral, or fungal problem.
If you don’t actually SEE the visible bug eating up your leaves, you’ll want to do a thorough examination and see if it’s really a bug that’s eating up your lemon tree.
Otherwise, this could be a bacterial problem that’s eating up your lemon tree and you’re just wasting time by treating for the wrong thing.
Here are some quick techniques to tell the difference.
- Bugs typically leave holes or irregular, jagged damage to leaves
- Lemons with rind damage, weak rinds, or soft rinds
- Holes within lemon rinds or rings
- Visible bugs on the plant, especially under the leaves
- Curling leaves, twisted leaves, or drooping leaves
- Leaves covered with sticky mold
- Thin winding trails all over leaves
- Distorted leaves in any shape or form
- Sooty mold on twigs, branches, and leaves
- Ring of scarred damage on lemon rinds
- Weirdly-shaped fruits
Viral, bacterial, or fungal problems
- Anthracnose (premature leaf drop or stained fruit)
- Armillaria root rot (wilt or collapse of tree)
- Black root rot (black lesions on entire root)
- Citrus greening (yellowing of a single limb, leafy veins, blotchy mottling)
- Blast (lesions on leaves)
Common lemon tree pests
There are a few common pests that feast on Meyer lemon fruit and leaves.
You can use some obvious giveaway clues to see what it can be. Some have obvious signs like the moldy powder mealybugs leave behind. Or the sticky honeydew.
Eggs, nymphs, larvae, and adults can all be used to find out what pest is eating your citrus.
Here’s a list of the most common bugs that eat them:
- Snails and slugs
- Butterfly larvae (Giant Swallowtail)
- Orange dog caterpillars
- Root weevil (sugarcane, rootstock, diaprepes, northern bluegreen, fuller rose, and little leaf notcher weevil)
- Spider mites
- Fungus gnats
- Citrus thrips
- Leaf miners
Depending on the type pest problem you’re dealing with, the difference is that you’ll have to identify the pest first. Then go from there and treat the bugs accordingly.
After all, trying to use some home remedies to kill the wrong pest will prove to be ineffective.
Thankfully there are some things you can do that work across multiple bugs that feast on lemons.
But don’t give up if you see that nothing’s working and bugs are eating up all your Meyer lemons. You just may need to switch up your methodology and try something else.
How do I keep bugs from eating my lemon tree leaves?
There are a plethora of DIY home remedies you can use to get rid of Meyer tree bugs.
If you have pests eating holes through your lemon tree leaves, lemon fruit, or tree roots, you can control them naturally using these solutions.
Depending on the pest you have, adjust your strategy accordingly.
Some methods here may not work for others. It’s your job to find out what’s eating your lemon tree first.
And then you can consider a remedy to kill those pesky pests. Find one that fits to your specific case.
For example, diatomaceous earth can be used as a barrier around your citrus trees. This will protect them against crawling pests like beetles, spiders, and ants.
However, it’s useless against flying ones like fleas and butterflies that deposit eggs on your citrus leaves. These will then emerge as caterpillars that’ll gobble up your tree!
This is why you need to adjust your strategy and develop a treatment plant that suits YOUR pest first.
Whether you’re in the US, UK, Mexico, China, or India, lemon pests run amok!
Spray horticultural oils
Horticultural oil can be diluted with water to make an effective pest repellent for most of the common bugs that feed on Meyer lemon trees.
Depending on the type of oil you buy, you may be able to remain organic if you’re growing organic lemons.
Otherwise, you can opt for an all-natural horticultural oil and use that.
You’ll have to dilute it to 1% using water as the solvent and the process varies depending on the oil composition.
There are plenty of resources online you can check out to find out how to dilute your oil.
Most horticultural oils are harmless to people, pets, and beneficial bugs on your lemon tree.
They’re extremely effective and easy to use, even for the casual gardener who’s never used a DIY spray before.
They should also leave your Meyer lemons safe, but you need to dilute it properly and use the right kind.
Of course, follow manufacturer directions and read the label. Some people and pets may also be sensitive to the specific oils.
You need to do your research and see whether or not the oil is safe for YOUR specific lemon tree. Most should do just fine, including Meyer.
You can plant bug-repellent plants nearby your lemons or around the perimeter of your yard.
This will help keeps bugs out in general and may reduce the number of them in your garden.
Everything from slugs to bees and wasps can be repelled through the power of plants! Stinky, herbal, spicy, or other odorous plants can deter bugs and are extremely effective.
Anything that’s pungent should work well against bugs because they hate the scent of these plants. Use this to your benefit to beat them.
The best part about this? Those plants can blend right into your lemon tree plot without tipping anyone off.
There are many different plants and you’re sure to find one that grows in your hardiness zone.
Some popular choices are marigold, rosemary, citronella, lavender, chives, basil, petunias, and mint.
You can check out this list of pest-repelling plants.
Do some research and see what grows natively in your state. Then buy it from your local nursery and plant it strategically around your yard.
You can plant them between your Meyers, around your Meyer plot, or even around your home. Get creative.
Make a DIY beer trap to catch slugs and snails
If you have slugs or snails, the damage on your Meyer leaves will look eaten with random patterns, but you’ll never see what’s eating it.
This is because slugs and snails come out at night to feed, so unless you come out with a flashlight, you won’t see them damaging your Meyer leaves.
You can easily use beer to catch and kill slugs. The beer attracts slugs and drowns them for a clean, mess-free trap.
Here’s how to make one. You’ll find that you already have all things lying around your home without needed to make a shopping haul.
What you’ll need:
- A shallow bowl
- One or two cans of cheap beer
- A small garden spade
- A garden light (optional)
How to make it:
- Take the spade and carve out a small trench in your yard near the base of the Meyer trees.
- Place the bowl directly into the soil. The edges of the rim of the bowl should be lined up with the soil surface.
- Pour the beer and fill up the bowl.
- Add some soil around the bowl to make it level with the soil as much as you can.
How it works:
- The slugs and snails crawl into the beer and drown.
- It works completely automatically and requires no effort from you once you set it up.
- Make multiple traps and place them around the base of your Meyer trees.
- The snails then will be attracted to the trap, rather than up the stalk of your Meyer lemons.
- Replace the trap as necessary when there are lots of dead slugs.
- You can combine beer with other alchols to see what attracts the most slugs to the trap.
- Beware of other things that eat the slugs, as this can attract more headaches.
- Set up multiple beer traps for heavy slug problems.
Note: You can also use a light source and point it at the beer overnight to further make it more attractive to lure slugs in. Just be sure the source of light does not pose a hazard.
Make your own soap spray
Soapy water is a universal pest killer that takes care of everything from ants to caterpillars. And it’s super easy for you to make at home.
All you need is two tablespoons of dish soap and a quart of water. Then combine them together and stir gently until the suds form.
Pour everything into your favorite spray bottle and spray down the bugs on your leaves. Test it on a single leaf first to assess for damage.
- Are you leaves getting damaged? Add more water or use less detergent.
- Are the bugs not being killed? Add more soap or less water.
Use borax, diatomaceous earth, or boric acid
Borax can be used to create a barrier around your citrus trees to kill ants, beetles, spiders, and cockroaches.
Borax sticks to their exoskeleton and will dehydrate them over time.
Mix equal parts sugar and borax and sprinkle it around your plant trunks. You can also sprinkle the borax around the perimeter of your Meyer garden to build a defense grid.
Borax is safe for pets and people, but you should still avoid contact just so the layer you set up isn’t disturbed. Use as directed.
You can also use boric acid or diatomaceous earth as substitutes. Each of these powders are fine and can be applied around your Meyer lemons or just sprinkled into the soil.
They’re lethal to a variety of pests and won’t harm your Meyer trees when used properly. The trick is to try to get the pest to walk over the powder.
The insect crawls over it and it sticks to their body, giving them tons of small cuts to which they drain precious water.
The insect dies and others will feast on their fallen brethren, which then kills them also.
Borax can be picked up for cheap in bulk in the laundry aisle. Boric acid and diatomaceous earth can be found online or at the hardware store.
Note: be sure to get food grade diatomaceous earth- not the one for pools.
The DE should be pure, natural, and safe for food prep areas. The pool one should be avoided as it’s not safe for edible plants and not pure.
Distribute ladybugs to manage pest populations
Ladybugs can control certain pests like aphids from breeding by eating up their larvae and offspring.
Don’t underestimate the power of the beneficial bugs. If you don’t have them in your area natively, then you can buy them online and release them in batches.
Ladybugs don’t destroy plants and will eat up all sorts of eggs and larvae of other bugs. They also leave after they’re done and will not stay behind unless there are more bugs to eat.
They work for you for free, 24/7. You can attract them through plants, flowers, and making their prey visible to them. They’re very easy to bring to your yard simply by making conditions favorable- make their food source easily seen, provide water, and provide detritus for them to hide.
You can search this site to learn what attracts ladybugs, or buy them online.
Similar to ladybugs, you can use lacewings to manage aphids eating your Meyer lemons.
Lacewings are harder to attract, but you can order them online and release them in your yard just like ladybugs.
You should stick with lady beetles since they’re easier to use before you dive into lacewings.
Attract birds to eat up Meyer pests
Birds will eat a variety of pests like caterpillars, worms, aphids, grasshoppers, and more.
And they are easy to attract. Just set up some shelter (birdhouses) and some food (birdseed and bird feeders). You’ll also need a source of water like a birdbath.
Soon enough, they’ll hang around your garden and help clean up your Meyer trees from any bugs they can pick off.
Find out what kind of bird species live in your area and set up the proper means to attract them.
You can use different types of seeds to attract different birds.
The most common garden birds that are used for pest control are bluebirds, cardinals, grosbeaks, sparrows, pigeons, robins, and ravens.
There are TONS of species you can research.
Prune your plants
Your Meyer lemon leaves and plants should be pruned regularly.
This removes any damaged or rotting foliage that attract bugs to your lemons.
Also be sure to prune any branches, leaves, and fruits that have visible disease or pest activity.
Don’t try to save the leaves that have bugs eating them- just prune it and toss.
Regularly pruning should be part of your cultivation routine anyway.
This will keep your Meyer lemons healthy and redirect the plant’s energy to growing the fruit.
Make a tape barrier
Use a piece of packing tape and wrap it around the trunk.
You only need a small section of the trunk covered with tape (about 2-3”) in length. Don’t wrap more of the trunk than you need to because this will harm the plant.
Then use tanglefoot and spread some of it on the tape. The tape acts as a barrier to hold the tanglefoot and protect the trunk for easy removal.
And the tanglefoot will stick and catch any bugs that try to crawl up the Meyer tree (ants, beetles, and caterpillars).
Tanglefoot is a naturally sticky substance you can buy at greeneries or online. Read the directions and apply it as directed.
You’ll have to replace the tape when it’s full of dead bugs. The tape will leave behind a layer of sticky residue which you can clean up with some mild soap and water.
When you apply the new piece of tape, don’t place it in the same spot as this can damage your Meyer tree.
This tape trap should be effective against ants, snails, spider mites, and other crawling pests.
Note that ants may build a bridge of dead ants to get across, so you’ll need to check in on your trap every now and then.
Other smaller pests like mites can be carried by the currents in the air to get across the trap. So this obviously won’t be effective for smaller microscopic pests.
Apply essential oils
You can spray essential oils to help deter pests naturally. Essential oils are extremely popular for good reason.
They’ve been used as a pest repellent for decades by savvy gardeners because most oils are completely natural or organic and are a safer alternative to toxic chemicals from pesticides.
Regardless of which oil you choose to use, always follow the directions as some people and pets may be sensitive to them.
Some plants may also be adversely affected by essential oils, so you need to test it on a small part of the plant first before you spray down the whole thing.
Some of the most popular oils that repel pests are eucalyptus and peppermint.
You can also play around with wintergreen. These are all fresh-scented oils that are extremely concentrated, so you’ll need to dilute them with water.
Do your research and purchase one type. Then dilute it using a recipe online, such as this one.
Afterward, spray it on a single leaf and see how your Meyer tree takes it. If it’s OK, then spray the whole thing. The oils can help keep bugs off your tree and deter them naturally.
Make a neem oil DIY pesticide
Neem oil can be used as a deterrent against pests. It’s one of the only sprays that are extremely effective against pests and is safe for Meyer lemon trees.
You can buy pure neem oil, dilute it, and then pour the solution into a spray bottle. You can find plenty of recipes online, but you usually just need a few drops into a liter of water.
As usual, test the oil on a single portion of your tree first before you spray the whole citrus tree.
Neem oil is dangerous to sensitive pets and people, so be sure to follow the directions, warnings, and do your own research first before you use any.
But when used correctly, neem oil proves to be an excellent repellent for any pests on your citrus trees.
You can use it to spray down your Meyer lemons to keep the bugs off naturally. Neem oil will have a residue that lingers, but you still need to re-apply it after rain or wind.
Sunlight also breaks down the oil so this may require more applications if you live in a sunny area.
Consider mixing some dish soap into the neem solution. This will help make it sticky and last longer.
You should use neem after sunset or early in the morning because it traps heat and can overheat your plants.
Also, be sure to rinse your Meyer trees after you spray to remove excess solution.
The acidity of pure tabletop vinegar can be used to kill bugs right away. Mix vinegar and water together into a spray bottle in equal parts.
Then spray it on any pests you come across. The vinegar also has a lingering effect and will repel them for several days depending on weather conditions.
Vinegar is also for preserving lemons.
You can substitute apple cider vinegar for regular vinegar if you want to go organic, as ACV is marketed as a health probiotic and thus often sold as organic.
Vinegar shouldn’t hurt your Meyer lemons when used properly. Always test it on a small portion first.
Vinegar actually helps add some acidity to the soil by lowering the pH which can benefit lemon and citrus trees that prefer acidic coils.
You can use waste citrus by putting halves face down in the soil or just diluted vinegar.
Vinegar repels pests and helps the soil’s pH, which is good for Meyer lemons.
Sulfur can be used for pest control. It’s an essential nutrient for plant growth, so it’ll benefit the ones in your yard.
At the same time, it kills insects, rodents, mites, and even fungus.
A lot of people burn sulfur or vaporize it to kill bugs. This is because burning sulfur turns it to a gas called self dioxide, which has excellent coverage and penetrates dense foliage.
You can consider buying sulfur in bulk and making a sulfur spray to kill the pests on your Meyer lemons.
Use a mixture of soap and water and a sponge to scrape off any bugs on your citrus tree.
You can make a soapy water mixture by using regular dish detergent (Dawn or any other brand) and water. Mix a few tablespoons into a bucket of water until it becomes frothy.
The exact ratio isn’t important.
Then get a sponge or dishcloth and dunk it into the soapy water.
Start scrubbing your Meyer tree and clean off the pests. You can dunk the sponge back into the bucket to kill any bugs that you pick up.
You’re basically washing your plants. Be sure you wash the branches, leaves, and trunk.
Clean both the top and underside of leaves and scrub off any visible eggs, bugs, mold, and soot. If you come across anything sticky, scrub hard or use a real brush to clean it off.
Or you can prune that leaf and remove the infestation entirely.
The bugs will be killed in the mixture. If you notice that they’re not, add more soap to the solution.
Keep your plot clean
You’ll want to keep your lemon trees clean.
This will help dissuade anything from eating up dead leaves or organic matter. Do regular cleaning by pruning leaves or removing entire branches that aren’t doing well.
If you have a Meyer tree in your yard with other plants, you’ll want to care for the entire yard.
Bugs that are eating up other edibles and flowers will seek out your lemon stash and start chewing them up.
This means you need to do regular yard work like mowing your lawn, watering, pruning, and keeping waterways clear. Don’t overwater and don’t over fertilize.
Hire a professional
Don’t know what else to do to handle your pest problem?
Consider hiring a licensed professional to come assess the situation.
They can properly suggest a treatment plan to control and eliminate the infestation, and may be able to provide you with some advice. Consultations are usually free.
Ask about alternative, natural treatments to avoid toxic chemicals on your edibles.
Do some research and support your local branches. Read some reviews. Compare prices and get some quotes.
There’s nothing wrong with hiring a pro if you’re short on time or just don’t have the resources to take care of the bug problem.
Is Epsom salt good for lemon trees?
Epsom salt is rich in magnesium and sulfur which can be used as a supplement for Meyer lemons.
This only makes a difference if your tree doesn’t have enough.
Epsom salt can help repel some pests like beetles, snails, maggots, and aphids to a lesser extent. The salts may also kill upon contact.
So you can use it to help your Meyer tree and deter pests naturally. Use as directed.
Salt can be used to stop slugs and snails from eating your lemons. Even regular table salt can be used, but you need to make sure that you don’t saturate the soil with salinity.
Here’s a video demonstrating the process:
What can I spray on my lemon tree?
Sprays are the solution to keeping bugs off your lemons for good.
They have a lasting effect that rivals powders in the soil.
Pair the spray of your choice with some kind of trap (beer trap, sticky trap, sticky tape, etc.) and you’ll have a residual solution that traps, kills, and repels bugs all at the same time.
You can spray any of the following to help get rid of pests naturally:
- Essential oils
- Soapy water
- Neem oil
- Plain water
- Epsom salt
- Apple cider vinegar
Depending on what you’re dealing with, you should act accordingly.
If you want to keep your lemons organic, stick with neem oil, essential oils, or vinegar for best effect. They’re excellent at keeping bugs off your plant without ruining the organic nature of your harvest.
Or if you just want to keep things natural, you can use any of these sprays. All of them can be found with natural, pure compsitions. But only some are truly organic, if that matters to you.
There are plenty of online resources you can review to get rid of a specific pest that’s eating up your Meyer lemons.
Consider using any of the above solutions to help manage them.
Do lizards eat citrus leaves?
Yes, lizards can eat citrus leaves, such as the ones found on your Meyer lemon tree.
Many common species like green anoles, western fence lizards, and even iguanas don’t care for foliage. They’re interested in moving targets (read: bugs).
Just like rodents, birds, and other reptiles, there are some species that will feast on the leaves here and there. Most are carnivorous, but there are some omnivores.
But once in a while they may take a bite from leaves, though this is rare and shouldn’t be a problem for established lemon trees. Lizards get blamed because they’re pretty scary to a lot of people- especially those who hate them. But they’re not destructive at all.
Most lizards are omnivores and will eat both bugs and plants. If you have a lot of lizards in your yard, you may be able to control them and keep them away.
Green anoles are quite common in the coastal US. If you have these reptiles in your yard, here’s a guide for controlling green anoles.
Although this particular species doesn’t eat lemon trees, you can use the remedies outlined in that guide to help control whatever lizard species you have in your yard.
Here are some references you may find helpful to save your Meyers tree leaves:
Did you get rid of the meyer tree pests?
By now, you should have a solid foundation to get started on managing, controlling, and eradicating those pesky bugs from eating up your harvest.
If you have any questions, please post a comment below and I’ll try to get bakchod you ASAP.
Or if you’ve dealt with these pests before, drop off your words of wisdom to get your lemons pest free.
Lastly, if you found this article somewhat useful, please let me know.
Consider telling a friend or neighbor (chances are they have lemon bugs too if you have them) if you liked this guide.
Thanks for reading!
Currently an active researcher in the pest control industry for the past 8 years- with a focus on using natural and organic methods to eliminate pest problems.
I share handy DIY pest techniques I come across here to help out others (and possibly save them from a mental breakdown).
Fight nature with nature.
3 thoughts on “Get Rid of Meyer Lemon Tree Pests (What’s Eating My Leaves?)”
I have a three year old potted Meyer lemon tree. I live in Kansas City, Mo. so in spring and summer I take it outside and bring it in during winter months. I always have leaf drop and I don’t get much good south light, so I have added incandecent lighting. I have also notice a pest problem. Since I have brought it inside it has begun to flower as it always does during the winter months. I also have one lemon that is almost ripened. What can I safely use on my little tree that won’t affect my lemon or the blooms?
Wow! This can be one particular of the most beneficial blogs We’ve ever arrive across on this subject. Actually Excellent. I’m also a specialist in this topic so I can understand your hard work.
Thanks so much for this generously detailed article- much appreciated! Recently bought 3 young Meyer lemon trees and have been educating myself on watering, feeding pruning. Now I’ve noticed some kind of beetle that finds these trees as attractive as I do. Enjoyed your content-rich and well written article so much. Look forward to taking action on your advice- thank you!