So, you need to stop your strawberries from being eaten up by bugs.
In this article, we’ll cover these topics:
- How to tell what bugs are eating your strawberries
- Techniques to get rid of strawberry weevils, caterpillars, slugs, snails, and other animals that eat strawberries
- How to get rid of strawberry bugs naturally
- Ways to protect your plants from pests
- And more
You’ll have a solid foundation to get started on strawberry pest control to eradicate the pests, protect your plant, and repel future pest problems!
Questions? Drop me a comment and I’ll get back to you ASAP.
Sound good? Let’s get your strawberries a bountiful harvest.
Last updated: 7/21/20.
How can I tell what’s eating my strawberries
The easiest way?
Play detective and see what kind of damage you see on the plant.
Different animals and bugs leave different chew patterns of destructive behind, so you can check your berries and see what’s eating them.
So, what keeps eating my strawberries?
There are a few different types of bugs, animals, and pests that commonly feed on strawberries.
Depending on where you live and your native environment, you may be attracting a few different pests. It’s your job to find out what you’re dealing with because trying to use a DIY home remedy requires that you use the right approach! It’s pointless to make traps to get rid of raccoons when the actual pests are slugs.
So here are some of the most common strawberry eaters- see which ones are in your yard:
Raccoons are a common backyard pest, specifically all over rural America.
They’re opportunistic feeders and will eat whatever available fruits are available in your yard. Raccoons typically eat the entire strawberry, so if you see strawberries picked clean or just the stem left, it may be the work of a raccoon.
Deer eat strawberries whole and may even take a part of the plant with it.
These animals roam many homes that have large yards or are in more rural areas. If you’ve seen deer in your yard, they can very well be a culprit of eating your strawberry plants.
Man’s best friend, dogs, tend to sample strawberries here and there but mainly aren’t interested in the tarty flavor. They may take a bite and leave a partial strawberry that’s half bitten on the stem.
Partially eaten strawberries? Check for stray dogs.
Birds are probably one of the most prevalent pests for not just strawberries but nearly all fruits. The worst part about birds is that they can pick the fruit through the netting and know exactly when the fruit turns ripe.
Strawberries grow through zones 3-10 and common birds in these areas are robins, blue jays, and crows. They usually pick at the berry so if you notice partially eaten ones, even through basic barriers and nets, you may be dealing with birds.
They can be dealt with using other measures like fake deterrents, shiny bird tape, or even pie tins that reflect sunlight or aluminum foil.
Slugs and snails
Slugs will eat strawberries, especially if they’re overripe.
They pose less of a problem because you probably wouldn’t eat the ones that are overripe anyway. And leaving them there on the plant just attracts other bugs to the area.
However, some slugs will eat the berries even before ripeness. It all depends on the local environment and how hungry and fierce competition tends to be. There are many ways to get rid of slugs, especially if you’re growing a strawberry potted plant.
Caterpillars are various plant-eaters but tend to focus on young leaflets.
They’ll gladly eat strawberries though, and end up leaving a bunch of holes through the berry. If you see holes going directly through the berry, that’s a confident signal that caterpillars are eating your plant. Thankfully, caterpillars can be controlled using home remedies.
Aphids feed on strawberries and usually do so in large numbers. These bugs can quickly decimate and destroy the plant, especially if it’s breeding season.
They can also migrate to neighboring fruits, veggies, and other greens because they feed on a variety of plants. They’re definitely one of the harder to control pests that eat strawberries.
These are earwigs, also known as pincher bugs, are usually found in moist areas that are sheltered, dark, or hidden. Strawberries are a perfect plant for them to eat because of the sheer number of leaves.
They can hide in the soil, rocks, mulch, leaves, topsoil, or even within leaf litter to protect themselves. They use the available moisture around the area to keep their livelihood and will feast on the berries for a nutritious source of food. You can check out this page to see earwig control methods.
Do strawberries have bugs?
Yes, the majority of strawberries that are store-bought have bugs.
You should always wash them before you eat them. Mites, worms, fleas, and other small bugs may be residing in the strawberry leaves and even within the berry.
You can check out this page to see how to clean your strawberries before consumption.
How do I protect my strawberries from bugs?
That’s why you’re here, right?
This completely depends on the bugs you’re dealing with. There is no single solution that works against all pests, so you’ll have to do some research and choose what works for you. The majority of bugs can be controlled by using a simple mixture of dish soap and water. This can be sprayed on the strawberry plants to kill bugs on contact.
You can also use essential oils, such as peppermint or neem oil as a natural repellent to safeguard your plants.
Using natural predators that eat strawberry bugs can also be an option. Essential oils may be harmful to certain people or pets, so use as directed by the product label and research it before use. We’ll cover these DIY techniques later.
What bugs do strawberries attract?
With their sweet taste and nutritious composition, strawberries tend to attract many different bugs and animals.
Their aromatic scent and moisture content of the berry naturally brings many bugs to the yard.
Earwigs (pincher bugs), mites, berry weevils, snails, slugs, aphids, deer, possums, beetles, tarnished plant bugs, tortrix moths, leaf beetles, birds, and sap beetles are all common pests found on strawberry plants.
What animal eats strawberry leaves?
A variety of animals eat strawberries and strawberry plant leaves. The most common ones are squirrels, deer, raccoons, possums, birds, amongst others.
Depending on the animal you’re dealing with, you’ll have to use the proper extermination method.
You can try using deer repellents, predator urine, natural repellent pellets, bird tape, and more. The point is to keep your yard clean to reduce the animal attractants.
Once you clean up your yard, controlling the animals will be a lot easier. Then use the proper control method to get rid of the animal eating up your strawberries.
Using a barrier such as tree netting, DIY fencing, or plant covers will get rid of the majority of animals.
Only the most cunning ones will still get through, such as small birds. You can try using a greenhouse for full protection, as there are many that you can buy for cheap and completely block nearly 100% of animals and many different pests.
Slugs are a common strawberry eater
Slugs eat strawberries and that’s no surprise.
They eat nearly any plant that has young, leafy greens for them to consume. Slugs tend to focus on leaves rather than the actual berry, but they’ll eat strawberries if they’re overripe.
You can stop slugs and snails simply by harvesting on time. If the slugs still eat your strawberries before they’re ripe, they’re probably starving for food or the competition can be fierce. Both slugs and caterpillars eat strawberry leaves.
Regardless, you can do some basic practices to keep slugs off your strawberry plants.
Use diatomaceous earth
Sprinkle some diatomaceous earth on the soil surface (or mix it in). Make a ring of DE around the stem of the plant to keep crawling bugs off the leaves.
This forces slugs to cross the powder in order to get to the foliage, so it’s effective for pests that can’t fly.
Spray some dish soap
Just like strawberry weevils, you can use dish soap to deter slugs from your plant. Sprinkle a mixture of dish soap and water on the leaves.
This makes it less appealing to them and can help repel them.
Build a slug trap
Use a container and fill it up with some beer.
Place the container near the soil surface by digging a hole that aligns the tip of the container on the surface. The slugs will be attracted to the beer and drown in it. This is effective for snails and slugs.
You can also check out this page on getting rid of slugs for more natural techniques.
Cyclamen Mites are tiny black bugs that also may be white to brown. They eat the strawberry flowers, leaves, and stem until the strawberry is no more.
Cyclamen mites are a common strawberry pest that congregates on the bottom of the leaves as they eat, breed, and complete their life cycle.
DIY remedies are often lackluster and these mites will either require you to purge your entire yard or consult a professional exterminator.
Cyclamen mites need heavy pruning and some kind of pesticide to kill them.
You can use dish soap and water, vinegar, or some kind of essential oils to kill them. However, completely eliminating them can be very hard to do unless you’re 100% on everything you do.
Tarnished plant bugs
Tarnished bugs are small pests that deposit their eggs all over plants during the springtime. One the eggs hatch, the nymphs eat the new seeds and strawberry buds.
These bugs can be controlled by pulling weeds, keeping your yard tidy, and getting rid of their establishment site.
Strawberry bud weevils
Bud weevils are a common pest for strawberry plants. They can appear as tiny bugs on your strawberry plant. Other times they’re described as black bugs.
The strawberry bud weevil, AKA SSW, clips flower buds and stops them from ever blooming.
This may be the reason behind failed blooms, no strawberries bearing, or if you notice flower buds suddenly disappearing. The bud weevil eats a variety of plants, but the strawberry weevil feeds commonly on strawberry plants.
They’re native to the US, but also show up in Canada. Within the US, they can be found from Florida, Texas, Minnesota, and other coastal areas.
The bud weevil needs its own section for control. Here we’ll discuss how to get rid of the SSW.
These weevils are extremely destructive and can be found attacking strawberry roots. They’re about 0.25” in length and feast on a variety of plants. Strawberries are just one of the many different types. Strawberry weevils will also find their way into your home looking for moisture.
Weevils that have matured eat on the strawberry leaves.
Some common signs of weevil damage are a repeated “scallop” puncture along the edges of the leaves. They feed in a very specific pattern, so if your leaves appear this way, that could be a telltale damage signal. However, the damage may be confused with grasshoppers, which feed in a similar notched pattern.
Adult weevils are minuscule in terms of damage compared to the weevil larvae though. The larvae eat the strawberry roots, which directly hurts the plant from absorbing moisture and nutrients through the soil and this results in wilting or dropping.
If you spot adult weevils on your strawberries, there are very likely weevil larvae hiding under the soil eating the roots.
How to get rid of strawberry weevils
You can remove larvae by using a variety of natural techniques. The easiest and fastest way is to use some sort of parasitic nematodes.
You can buy a tube of them and apply them to the soil around your plant. They go into the soil and seek out the larvae and then eventually kill them. This disrupts the weevil life cycle and will significantly reduce the overall population.
Use solar heat
Weevils can be killed using trapped heat. The process is to cover the soil surrounding the strawberry plant with an insulated tarp. The trapped heat will then kill all the pests within the soil.
Not only will this kill weevils, but other flies that burrow under the soil will be eradicated like sawflies and millipedes. Each approach is different and typically the makers of the tarps will have their own directions. Use as directed.
But the process is to usually just cover the soil with a plastic tarp for many weeks during the summer when the temperatures are high to suffocate and “burn” the bugs.
Adults weevils can be handpicked. Put on a pair of gloves and remove them, and then drop them into a bucket of warm water and dish soap.
Dish detergent suffocates the weevils and kills them over time. Removal can be quite effective in disturbing the life cycle and killing them. This works best when there are only a few, as it’s not practical to do when there are hundreds of weevils swarming your strawberry.
Spray dish soap
You can mix a few drops of dish soap and a cup of water, then pour both into a spray bottle. Spray the mixture on the strawberry plant to kill any weevils present.
Use natural soaps when possible.
Apply sticky tape
You can buy some sticky tape and wrap it across the soil to catch and kill any nearby weevil beetles. There are many different types of tape such as horticultural tape, yellow sticky tape, and even just regular fly tape.
Set up stakes around your fruits and veggies and wrap the tape going across from stake to stake. Other tapes can be applied directly across the length of the planter. Using pest tape is a natural approach and doesn’t require you to constantly monitor the situation, which is nice.
You can use some of the tape around the base of the plant also. This will stick and trap any bugs that attempt to climb up the plant stem.
Use sticky stakes
Sticky stakes are the same approach as sticky tape.
The stakes are stuck into the soil and any bugs that come across the sticky surface will get stuck. The nice part about the stakes is that you don’t need to do anything to set them up.
Just stick them and that’s it. No need for repotting or rearranging your plants. You can even set up a perimeter of sticky stakes and run sticky tape across from one to another. This approach will make your entire plot of strawberry plants highly shielded against flying pests.
You can use any pressurized hose to spray the weevils off the strawberry plant. The water will blast them off and disturb them from feeding.
Do this twice a day- once in the morning and once at night. Although it’s not likely to permanently get rid of strawberry weevils, it’ll definitely help reduce their numbers.
Strawberry weevils eat plants that have high moisture content and prefer humid environments. If you don’t overwater, you reduce the chance of raising the moisture content in the air.
This is especially true in greenhouses or areas with naturally high humidity.
Keep your plants tidy
Strawberry weevils require some kind of shelter to protect them from the elements.
Keeping your yard clean can help reduce some of the moisture content in the area.
Things like leaf litter, excess foliage, leaf litter, grass clippings, and overgrown plants can also contribute to this problem. Prune your plants. Remove any leaf litter. Keep things tidy. Basic TLC works.
How to keep fruit flies off strawberries
Fruit flies are often confused for whiteflies, which are two different types of flies.
You could also be dealing with fungus gnats, which appear in soils that are saturated with water. Whatever the case, you can handle most flying pests by doing some basic practices.
Reduce the amount of water. If you’re overwatering or you have poor draining soil, this attracts fungus gnats and whiteflies to your strawberries. If you grow them in potted plants inside a greenhouse, this just traps the moisture in the air and adds to the humidity.
So you need to take steps to avoid overwatering or reducing the amount of moisture in the air ASAP.
You can use box fans or dehumidifiers to help bring down the humidity levels in the air. You can water less often and let the soil dry out to destroy the fungus gnat habitats.
Whiteflies tend to appear on various plants that have tender green foliage. They tend to lay eggs in a pattern and are easy to tell apart from fruit flies and fungus gnats because they congregate on the bottom of leaves and scatter when you disturb them.
They can be controlled using a variety of natural methods, such as essential oils, sticky traps, and more. See this guide for whitefly control.
Fruit flies will favor overripe berries as they make perfect environments with their fermentation. The flies deposit eggs and the newly hatched larvae eat up the surrounding food, which would be strawberries in this case.
This is why it’s important to harvest on time. Not only will you prevent fruit flies, but you’ll also stop other bugs like fig beetles from eating your ripe fruits and veggies. You can see this page for fruit fly control.
How do I stop caterpillars eating my strawberries?
Caterpillars can be a difficult pest to manage against strawberries because they’re very persistent pests like slugs. They’ll eat any soft foliage like leaflets.
Overripe strawberries are a prime target for caterpillars to munch on due to their soft rotting texture and sweet aroma.
You can control caterpillars in ways similar to slugs. There are many DIY home remedies to kill slugs and snails, such as diatomaceous earth, borax, beer traps, or even light traps.
Snails are difficult to control because they constantly eat and feast on many different plant foliage. Plus adult females deposit eggs in hundreds of amounts so complete eradication is nearly impossible.
You can use a variety of techniques for strawberry protection against snails:
- Sprinkle borax around the perimeter of the potted strawberry
- Apply diatomaceous earth within the soil of the plant
- Build a beer trap or light trap around your plants- this works for strawberry planted directly into the soil
- Attract some natural predators of slugs and snails to help eat them
- Pick them off by hand and toss them into a bucket of soapy water
- Spray them with a mixture of dish soap and water
- Plant some companion plants that deter slugs naturally
How to you keep slugs off strawberries organically
You should use organic control methods!
For slugs, you can build a beer trap, use diatomaceous earth, or even dish soap.
Use your own mixtures at home- vinegar, apple cider, dish soap, garlic spray, chili pepper, and even vegetable oil all can help. Since you’re eating the plant, you’ll want to stick to organic control, right? Especially if you’re growing organic strawberries.
Let’s cover some of the organic ways to keep everything organic.
What to spray on strawberries for bugs
You can spray a few different solutions made at home to kill and repel strawberry bugs.
Here are a few of the most effective ones:
- Dish soap and water (few drops of detergent and 1 gallon of water)
- Various essential oils (peppermint, lavender, neem, etc.)
- Apple cider vinegar (equal parts apple cider and water)
- Vinegar (equal parts vinegar/water)
- Vegetable oil (1 tablespoon of soap, 2 teaspoons of oil, 1 quart of water)
- Chili pepper spray (pepper powder, chili powder, 1 quart of water, few drops of dish soap)
- Garlic spray (2 bulbs of pureed garlic, 1 quart of water, let sit for 24 hours, then add ½ cup of vegetable oil and 1 tsp dish soap, then fill the entire container with water)
These should get you started. They’re less of a risk than commercial brands that contain harmful residues.
There are dozens of pesticides you can buy from the department store that work to protect your berries from bugs. The problem is that they contain residues that last and you may end up eating yourself.
But if you must, here’s what to buy from the store.
If you need to use commercial store-bought pesticides, look for poisons that have the following ingredients:
These are effective pesticides to use on your plants to kill many different bugs that commonly eat strawberry plants (most of the ones covered on this page). Use as directed by the manufacturer’s label.
You should also use DIY sprays rather than commercial ones as they use many poisonous residues, especially because you’re using it on an edible plant. Opt for organic or natural pesticides ALWAYS.
Here are some additional resources you may find useful on your quest:
Did you get rid of the strawberry bugs?
By now, you should have a decent idea of what pests are eating your strawberries and what you can do to control, eliminate, and repel them naturally.
If you have a question, drop a comment below.
Or if you found this page helpful, please tell a friend.
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.