Strawberries are a delicious treat, with their soft skin and delightfully sweet taste. But, if they taste so good for us, it also means they taste good for many other species as well.
There are many animals and garden pests that love feasting on strawberries. If you grow strawberries, you already know this. But how do you know what’s eating your strawberries? And what do you do about it?
In this post, I’ll talk about the most common critters that eat strawberries, as well as how you can keep them away or get rid of them. That way you can keep your strawberries safe and enjoy them as a well-earned treat.
The most common animals that feed on strawberries are deer, birds, squirrels, and raccoons. There are also many garden pests that could be eating your strawberries, including slugs, snails tarnished plant bugs, and more.
There are plenty of organic and natural gardening methods to prevent, scare off, or get rid of all of these unwanted garden pests. So le’ts find out more.
Animals in the Strawberry Garden
Let’s start with the animals that are likely to be feasting on your berries. Before we get into the specific animals, I have a few general tips.
First, make your berries as inaccessible as possible for animals. This can mean using fences, netting, or other materials, although those are often animal-specific. What I did was build a strawberry ladder using old palettes, then put it on my deck, where most animals didn’t go. The harder your strawberries are to reach, the fewer animals will eat them.
Also, don’t kill the wildlife. Even if they are being pesky, deer, birds, and other wildlife are important for the ecosystem, and in many residential areas, it’s illegal to kill them. Try to find solutions that won’t harm the animals, but will keep your strawberries safe.
Deer Eating Your Strawberries
It’s usually easy to tell if deer are eating your strawberries because you will see them. They also might feed on the leaves, not just the berries, which many other animals won’t do.
Fences are one of the best deer repellants. If you can get a fence that they can’t reach over, then you should be able to keep them out. You can also try placing human hair in the garden, which seems to work some of the time. We used to do haircuts on the back porch and sweep the hair right into the garden, but you can also see about getting some from your local barbershop.
Birds Eating Your Strawberries
Birds of all types love snacking on fresh strawberries and can be a pain to keep away. One solution that often works is to get foil pinwheels, or reflective metallic tape, and place them around your berries. The bright light and movement these cause will scare birds off.
You can also cover your strawberry plants in netting to keep birds away. And of course, if you don’t want birds to eat your berries, then don’t attract them! Placing birdfeeders or birdbaths nearby makes it more likely they will bother your plants.
Squirrels and Raccoons Eating Strawberry Plants
These can be some of the peskiest animals because fences usually don’t keep them out. Once again, human hair can sometimes keep them at bay, as can covering your plants with mesh or netting.
If you have a good setup, a fence can work. However, the holes in the fence need to be too small for them to crawl through, there needs to be mesh at the top to prevent them from climbing over, and there can’t be any other openings for them.
If you choose to do a fence, remember that these animals can and will dig. I always dig a trench around my garden and make sure the fence is a few inches deep in the soil to make it harder for them to dig under.
Garden Pests Eating Strawberry Plants
Of course, animals aren’t your only worry if your strawberries are being eaten. There are also many smaller pests that can be a problem.
Slugs Eating Your Strawberries
Slugs are hard to spot because they tend to come out at night and hide during the day. However, they leave behind small, deep holes in strawberries, and recognizable slimy trails.
The first thing you should do is remove plant debris or other places where slugs could hide near your strawberry plants. Then, you have a few options for getting rid of them. You can place a wooden board in your garden, and the slugs will hide under it. In the morning, simply lift it up and remove them.
This can also be done with citrus rinds, which attract them. Lastly, you can spread diatomaceous earth around the base of your plants, which will keep slugs and other pests away.
Or you could consider this slug bait which is intended for organic gardening and is also safe to use around pets.
You may know that salt kills slugs. While that is true, you should not put salt around your plants, as it can cause an imbalance in the soil which will then damage your strawberry plants. It’s also a bit of an awful death for the slug.
Snails Are Eating Your Strawberries
In the same way that slugs are attracted to eating your strawberries, snails also love them.
An organic garden that is safe for lizards will help keep snail numbers in check.
You can also try setting beer traps. Use a shallow bowl or jar half-filled with beer and nestle it into the soil among your strawberry plants. The yeast from the beer is supposed to attract the snails (and slugs) who climb into the jar to get to the beer and then drown.
Personally, after trying beer traps a few times, I’m not convinced this works. But who knows, maybe the snails don’t like my beer offering?
Lastly, this organic snail and slug bait is designed to be effective for snails. It’s safe for organic gardening and won’t harm other wildlife or your beloved pets.
Tarnished Plant Bugs Eating Your Strawberries
This pest is brown and mottled with yellow, bronze, or reddish marks. Their eggs hatch and feed on the seeds of strawberries, resulting in misshapen fruit. If you have misshapen berries, it’s best to remove them, because they won’t grow right.
Remove any weeds and debris from around your plants, so they don’t have places to hide. You can also plant pollen-heavy plants to attract insects that will be helpful in getting rid of tarnished plant bugs.
Making a spray of garlic and water, and using it on strawberries, will get rid of these pests. You can also use garden sticky traps or insecticidal soap like this one. Keep in mind that these can sometimes kill beneficial bugs (the sticky traps) as well, so use them with caution.
Spittlebugs Eating Your Strawberries
While these tan, black, and brown bugs are small, they leave a clear foamy substance around the base of plants that is very easy to spot. They feed on the strawberry plant’s juices, which doesn’t usually kill the plant but does weaken it.
Washing plants with a strong jet of water can sometimes be enough to get rid of spittlebugs.
You can also use garlic spray, or a spray made with neem or orange oil. I recommend this horticultural neem oil as a safe and organic pest control for your garden.
Strawberry Sap Beetles Eating Your Strawberries
These are small, dark beetles that can sometimes have yellow or orange spots. They tend to feed on ripe or overripe fruit, which is bad news for your strawberries.
One of the best ways to combat these beetles is to pick your strawberries as soon as they’re ripe. Then, they won’t have something to feed on.
You can also bait strawberry sap beetles using stale beer or overripe fruit elsewhere in the garden. They will be attracted to this bait, and especially a glass of stale beer or apple cider vinegar can cause them to fall in. Replace the bait every few days until you stop noticing the problem.