what's peeling the meyer lemons?

louise_sfbayFebruary 26, 2006

Hello All

My BF has a meyer lemon tree with a strange problem. Something seems to be eating the peels only off his meyer lemons. In the last few days a half dozen or more lemons have been denuded of the skins. They are still hanging on the tree and the sections are completely visible and whole, but they have no peel. The flesh appears almost entirely untouched. I assume some animal pest is doing this especially since the damaged ones are close to the deck railing, an easy reach or climb for some critter. Does anyone have ideas as to what it might be and how to stop it?

He is in the San Francisco Bay Area, El Cerrito for those who know the area.

Thanks.

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ichthus(z8b Tx)

I'll be interested to learn what the possibilities might be. My father-in-law has had similar experiences this year with a sour orange tree in the corner of his yard in the Houston area. Usually a 3-4 inch circle of peel is excised with tooth marks around the edges. Sometimes all or some of the flesh is eaten, other times it is untouched. We have guessed it was squirrel or rat, but have collected no other evidence.

    Bookmark   February 26, 2006 at 7:29PM
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rickjames(9 Cali)

I don't live far from El Cerrito and I recently started having some similar damage--I've got a Fukushu kumquat (fruit is very large) that had big chunks of peel taken out, and it's situated so that it would be difficult for the typical opossum, raccoon, squirrel, or roof rat to access. Hunted through the foliage, and found my culprits--a couple of small snails hiding, nasty little buggers. I would have thought it was a four-legged critter, but I am certain it was the snails. Check your foliage, and put down some bait. Last year I had great success with pellets and some handpicking (yuck), but I have a new dog and I haven't yet put down the Sluggo I bought. I've had similar snail issues before.

The other marauders I get are mainly opossums--a very *smelly* creature if you have never gotten near one and very common in the East Bay--that like to chew through my satsumas. Also the occasional raccoon helps itself to fruit (I live near a creek). Some neighborhoods will also have problems with rats, but in my *limited* experience that is more of a problem in other areas. Not many squirrels in my yard (thanks to some very territorial cats) and I think squirrels would be more inclined to do the damage during the day--I don't think they are nocturnal. Is the damage occuring at night?

Can't comment on Texas--do armadillos eat citrus peels? lol

    Bookmark   February 26, 2006 at 8:17PM
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louise_sfbay

I am inclined to the four legged variety of pests. John has found a few denuded lemons lined up neatly on the deck railing in addition to the ones left hanging on the tree.

    Bookmark   February 26, 2006 at 10:53PM
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paty99(z6 NY)

I know squirrels will eat oranges, I've seen them eat them right on the tree. I would imagine rats and possums will also. I've never seen them eat the peel only though, that is very interesting.
Pat

    Bookmark   March 16, 2006 at 1:32PM
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bencelest(z9 CA)

This phenom appeared in this forum about almost 2 yrs ago with pictures and all.
The author believed the culprit came from outer space. I responded maybe bats since the location was in southern california.
After so much answering we concluded that it was a 2-legged creature who did it. Because all of the the denuded fruits were located in easy distant from the shoulder height and never overhead or below the knee as the picture indicate.
It was never solved.
Now I am beginning to think it is not a hoax.

    Bookmark   March 16, 2006 at 6:21PM
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laurie_in_sf(Z10 SF Bay Area)

I have the same issue with my Meyer lemon tree but the culprit seems to be only going for the very topmost lemons. A friend mentioned that it was likely an Austrailian fruit tree rat but I'm still trying to find out more info. Not sure if that helps...

    Bookmark   March 19, 2006 at 1:24PM
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birdsnblooms

Laurie, what in the world is a fruit tree rat? Is this rodent related to bats? Toni

    Bookmark   March 19, 2006 at 4:56PM
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laurie_in_sf(Z10 SF Bay Area)

I have no clue. Maybe it's just a roof rat with a fancy name. I'm just passing along what a friend told me. I was hoping to find out more here.

    Bookmark   March 19, 2006 at 5:44PM
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pstemwedel(z9 Oakland)

I've noticed this as well lately. It does seem localized to the larger (older?) fruit higher on the tree. Perhaps the recent cold snap has had something to do with it?

    Bookmark   March 20, 2006 at 7:39PM
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laurie_in_sf(Z10 SF Bay Area)

With mine it's also the higher fruit, which seems different than with other people only noticing it lower down. Maybe ours is a bat or bird and the others have something else?

    Bookmark   April 23, 2006 at 12:11PM
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nkt38238(Z9 CA)

Well, this question could not have arrived at better time (for me at least), I just spotted this same phenomena with my Meyer lemon last week. I live in bay area, N. CA.

I saw exact symptom on one of my ripe meyer lemon fruits, but it was not hanging on tree. It dropped on the ground, but had only 40% peel bitten off. I've never seen that with my other citrus fruits like mature Navel Orange.

I consider following possibilities since I've spotted these animals in my yard:

(in the order of probability)
+ Rat (this is what I suspect culprit is)
+ Squirrel
+ Snails
+ Racoon
+ Cat

I am not sure that it's snails in my case since as far as I know there are no snails in the area where Meyer Lemon is located.

btw, I find META based product (Corry's) highly effective on snails and it's usable around veggies and fruit plants. I think it's biodegrable. You may purchase it at Costco or at hardware stores.

    Bookmark   April 23, 2006 at 7:30PM
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gardner_dragon(z7 NE AR)

Tree rats and possums both eat the peels of citrus fruits. If the peel is sweet they will leave the fruit. Sometimes they will eat all the flesh and leave the peel.

    Bookmark   April 23, 2006 at 10:42PM
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biscuit22

I am in San Francisco and am having the same problem with my Meyer lemon tree-something is eating the rind off and leaving the inner fruit. They are working on the middle part of the tree. My boyfriend suspects an escaped monkey. We will look for snails and maybe set rat traps. Thanks

    Bookmark   February 8, 2007 at 11:54PM
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bencelest(z9 CA)

Snails were the culprit who denuded the fruits of my citrus. But it took me over a week to find them and put them to rest. You really have to look for them because they are experts in hide and seek. They had me puzzled for over 6 months. Snails were the last thing on my mind.

    Bookmark   February 9, 2007 at 2:46AM
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bencelest(z9 CA)

In an hour's time snails can travel a long distance. So at night after 2 hours after the sun went down, I 'harvested' snails in my bacyard every 20 minutes. After 4 nights I gathered well over 250 snails of different sizes. After that I did not see any more problem.

    Bookmark   February 14, 2007 at 9:36AM
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nkt38238(Z9 CA)

Hi,

I'm returning to gardenweb forums after disappearing for almost an year. Good to see that bencelest is still around to help. I wonder if rickjames and mrtexas are still around. I have not looked around in forums messages in detail yet.

In any case, in my case, it turned out to be rat. Since last year, we have had couple of cats hanging around in neighborhood and lemon peel problem has disappeared along with rats.

    Bookmark   February 24, 2007 at 2:55AM
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rickjames(9 Cali)

'Sup Nkt. Welcome back :)

So integrated pest management does work. Whaddya know.

    Bookmark   February 26, 2007 at 4:10AM
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nkt38238(Z9 CA)

thanks, rickjames.I am finding that my gardening urges surge in late winter/spring and puts me in mood to get/plant new cirtus varieties. However, as year progresses, work (stress in silicon valley), social life (young kids) seem to come out much higher in the grand schema of things/priorities. Will see how long can I keep in touch with these forums as year progresses.

>So integrated pest management does work. Whaddya know.
yeah! and it being free is ever better!

    Bookmark   February 27, 2007 at 2:14AM
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bencelest(z9 CA)

Nkt:
Yes, I am here just on and off depending how busy I am with my work.
It's fun to be here.

    Bookmark   February 27, 2007 at 8:13AM
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renfield

my young tree has been denuded of leaves, fruit and young shoots. I suspect racoon or rat, possibly cat. I haven't found any partially eaten fruit.

What's your guess. I'm right in SF.

ren

    Bookmark   March 10, 2007 at 4:48PM
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jdnospam(z9 CA)

Folks,

I'm in Berkeley and have been dealing with this for the last 3 years, starting usually in May and lasting until December-sh.

I've a very mature myer lemon tree that is regularly traumatized by a pest that peels the fruits. You can see parts of the rind on the ground and completely deunuded or partially peeled fruits on the tree.

I think it is a rat - but aren't they supposed to eat, "hollow out" the frut, too?

It is not snails, there are copper bands around the tree.

Does anyone have suggestions for getting rid of the rat, or what kind of rat?

I've noticed in the last few days droppings - fairly "small", black and about 1/4 an inch long under where my peeled fruit is. Are there mice that peel fruit??

- JD

    Bookmark   June 4, 2007 at 8:21PM
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dadunkley_att_net

Happening to me as well. Totally peeled and left, others peeled with a bit eaten. Now, tiny little pieces of peels covering area next to tree. Left a peeled one as bait on sidewalk by tree and returning 4 hours later in evening, it had disappeared! Rats are supposed to hollow out the fruit. Possums? Help.....

    Bookmark   January 1, 2011 at 4:32AM
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Teamtasia_aol_com

We have a prolific Meyer Lemon tree and for the past 3 years a creature is enjoying the rind of the lemon leaving the lemon beautifully peeled hanging on the tree. I suspect it to be a fruit bat. Any other thoughts?
Rindless in LA!

    Bookmark   March 12, 2011 at 12:13PM
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japonismeblog_gmail_com

oh this is so funny to find some years later! i just posted a photo:

the thing that i can't imagine any of the suggested animals having the ability to leave the bits of peel all neatly like that.

Here is a link that might be useful: the mystery peeler

    Bookmark   March 15, 2011 at 7:26PM
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kirk_rodgers_ymail_com

I live on the San Mateo coast. Whatever it is, is eating not only the rind but now is stripping the bark off. Only effected area is about head high on a otherwise healthy and mature tree. I tied a rat trap in the tree at the site....will see if I caught anything tomorrow

    Bookmark   April 1, 2011 at 4:50PM
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kathinsacto

It's the raccoons peeling the lemons and leaving all the meat on the ground!!! Saw it last night with my own eyes lol

    Bookmark   June 10, 2011 at 12:42AM
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haenftling_comcast_net

I read an article in the SF Chronicle by The bugman that rats eat the rind of the lemon and the inside of the ornge. I don't recall if he had a solution to this problem. I've had a Meyer lemon for many years and this is the first year they started eating my lemons. They also ate the inside of the few oranges I have on a rather small imature orange tree.

    Bookmark   June 14, 2011 at 9:55PM
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ocda

I noticed some fruits since last week in my lemon tree fully peeled and some partially but they are still hanging on the tree. Curiously nothing like tht in my other lemon tree with fruits having a much thicker rind. My son's room window is not too far from the tree and he never noticed flapping wings at night nearby the tree. There were two fruits that are too high on very slender branch tht a rat fruit has to be really small so as to stay up there. Whatever, much investigation to be made.

    Bookmark   June 22, 2011 at 2:04AM
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pistonkeeper_yahoo_com

This is funny, I have been looking all over the web and this is the most complete listing I have found so far. The Lemons on my tree are always left on the tree. It takes two days for the rind to be completely removed. Looking closely it is eating only the white part and the outer yellow part is drying out rolling back as the inner flesh is consumed. I have never caught anything in the tree but snails and I have never caught any near the fruit. I guess it is possible it is the snails but what about a fungus that only attacks the white portion? And there is still the theory of the Aliens. Have fun, Dave
PS: On my neighbors tree it is getting the Green fruit also.

    Bookmark   June 26, 2011 at 5:56PM
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taximomuv3

I am having a similar problem with our orange tree. We live in the East Bay area (antioch), and "something" has been eating part of the peel, and the entire inside of the unripe fruit, leaving a hollowed shell of peel hanging from the tree. We have seen opposums, squirrels, tree rats and racoons in the area, but assumed our dogs were keeping them at bay. I will say that snails will definitely NOT be the culprit (besides, wouldn't the acid kill them?) but they DO eat the leaves (probably why they are found them in the tree). Curiously enough, we also have a Meyer lemon tree that is LOADED with ripe fruit right now, and that is untouched....

    Bookmark   January 14, 2012 at 5:14PM
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LauraQ95076

I have noticed since the beginning of August that something has been peeling the skin off my Meyer lemons. I've found the lemon peels on the ground with distinct teeth marks and on the top of the fence I'm finding vermin droppings where the critters are using the fence to hop onto the lemon tree, but has anyone had any success getting rid of the pests? Is this an ongoing problem? Our neighbors have seen a spike in mice (maybe because our surrounding neighbors have so much ivy?)and we have had three mice brought to our patio by our watch cats :). On New Year's Eve my husband and I were shocked at a rat visiting the inside of our BBQ.

    Bookmark   August 12, 2012 at 2:49PM
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hoosierquilt USDA 10A Sunset 23 Vista CA

Laura, post photos of the damage. You don't say where you live, so it's hard for us to help you identify the culprits. You can add that info in your GardenWeb Zone field (see mine). If you're in California, most like it is Roof (Citrus) rats after moisture and food. Could also be snail damage if the peel damage is more round. Could be birds also, if the damage is roundish and ragged, as some birds apparently like to use the oil on their feathers as a bug deterrent. Opossums will also eat fruit, but usually do more damage. Mice will nibble, rats will peel. If it's Roof rats, you're going to have to either set traps or put out poison bait stations. There's a couple of options for poison bait, anticoagulant baits, but these can have a secondary kill action with predators (like hawks & owls), but safer to use with small kids around or dogs/cats, as their is an immediate antidote (Vit. K shot). Other types of non-secondary kill baits are also effective, BUT they do not have an antidote, so they can be more dangerous to small children or dogs/cats that get into the bait stations. For me, the only really effective measure with my high rat population are poison bait stations, unfortunately. Roof rats can cause extensive damage to your citrus fruit as well as to your homes, car wiring, etc. Worse in the hot dry summers as they're looking for water.

Patty S.

Here is a link that might be useful: UC Davis IPM: Rats

    Bookmark   August 13, 2012 at 12:35PM
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Kiwichristel(New Zealand)

I live in New Zealand and the same is happening to our lemons, but only on one bush. We have two lemon bushes, one is in the garden at the back and one is in front of our house. The one in front of the house might not be a Meyer lemon bush and the lemons on that bush are fine, nothing is eating the skin.

    Bookmark   October 17, 2013 at 7:11PM
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hoosierquilt USDA 10A Sunset 23 Vista CA

Rats are notorious for eating the peels of sour fruits (lemons, limes, citrons), and they'll do just the opposite for sweet citrus - leave you a hollowed out fruit with just the skin hanging. The peel of lemons, limes, citrons are sweeter than the pulp, so the clever rat has learned to eat just the peels of those varieties, whilst devouring the sweet pulp of sweet citrus cultivars. Clever buggers. They'll be the last living animal on the planet. Along with cockroaches, who will be the last living bugs.

Patty S.

    Bookmark   October 17, 2013 at 7:33PM
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Kiwichristel(New Zealand)

If it was rats, why don't they eat the fresh lemon skins on our compost heap? Anyway, we have lots of cats in the area and I have NEVER seen a rat though I now they are nocturnal.

Kiwichristel

    Bookmark   October 17, 2013 at 7:43PM
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hoosierquilt USDA 10A Sunset 23 Vista CA

Well, because they probably haven't discovered them, yet. Why one tree will be affected, and the tree next to it, not, again, no explanation for that. It may also be a bird, as some birds like to use the oils of citrus to repel parasites, and they'll peck the skin to get to the oils (although what I see in your photo looks more to me like bite marks from a rodent, due to the sharp cuts through the skin). So, it may be a squirrel, rabbit (if the fruit is low enough) or some other rodent you have in your area. And, cats and other predators will not catch all the rodents. I have every predator known to man in my area and yard in large quantities - coyotes, weasels, roadrunners, hawks, eagles, kites, owls, bobcats, snakes (no kitty cats, as they would simply become a meal for all our coyotes). I still have plenty of roof rats (also known as citrus rats), as well as many other rodents (squirrels, ground squirrels, mice, bunnies, gophers.)

Patty S.

    Bookmark   October 17, 2013 at 8:00PM
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Kiwichristel(New Zealand)

Hi Patty

First of all, thanks for your thoughts on the lemon peel eating whatsits. There are no squirrels in NZ but we have possums. What intriges me as well is. There is a cluster of lemons touching the ground. I haven't picked them yet as a) I observe them and b) they are not quite ready for picking yet. These Lemons have not been touched. I thought being so near to the ground, snails, mice, possums, anything that likes lemon peel would go for those easy ones. If you look on the second photo I uploaded you can see how they start and that does not seem to be by a rodent. It starts with tiny white marks but no teeth marks. I will upload the whole photo so you can see how tiny those spots are. Those large holes that are seen on the first lemon photo were done over a few days.

Christel

    Bookmark   October 17, 2013 at 8:18PM
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Kiwichristel(New Zealand)

Hi Patty

First of all, thanks for your thoughts on the lemon peel eating whatsits. There are no squirrels in NZ but we have possums. What intriges me as well is. There is a cluster of lemons touching the ground. I haven't picked them yet as a) I observe them and b) they are not quite ready for picking yet. These Lemons have not been touched. I thought being so near to the ground, snails, mice, possums, anything that likes lemon peel would go for those easy ones. If you look on the second photo I uploaded you can see how they start and that does not seem to be by a rodent. It starts with tiny white marks but no teeth marks. I will upload the whole photo so you can see how tiny those spots are. Those large holes that are seen on the first lemon photo were done over a few days.

Christel

    Bookmark   October 17, 2013 at 8:19PM
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Kiwichristel(New Zealand)

This is the photo not zoomed

    Bookmark   October 17, 2013 at 8:21PM
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johnmerr(11)

Think birds... many things like the Meyer lemon peel because it is not bitter. When we sent Meyers to the Fruit Logistica show in Berlin, people were walking around sucking on the peels.

    Bookmark   October 17, 2013 at 9:13PM
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hoosierquilt USDA 10A Sunset 23 Vista CA

Could be birds. Not snails, as the make more round, rasped holes. Could be earwigs as well. Have you checked with your local ag agent in your area to see what they might suspect? Or, your local university?

Patty S.

    Bookmark   October 17, 2013 at 11:29PM
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Kiwichristel(New Zealand)

My husband just said: "Who's worried? you're not gonna spray it or do anything so just put up with it!" MEN! But he is right. I won't treat it with any chemicals and the lemons are edible. I was curious what's taking the coat off my lemon?:) I will ask at my local nursery though. Thanks very much for your thought Patty and John.

Christel

    Bookmark   October 18, 2013 at 1:41AM
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hoosierquilt USDA 10A Sunset 23 Vista CA

Christel, you can always try to cover your fruit as well, to see if it is an animal (who most likely will try to eat or peck through the cover), or insect (which will not). Try putting a little plastic baggy around a fruit, secure with a twist tie and see what happens.

Patty S.

    Bookmark   October 18, 2013 at 12:27PM
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serge94501

Most likely roof rats. Had a house in Berkeley and started seeing this on my Meyer lemon trees. Found a rat and dispatched it. Peel-eating stopped.

    Bookmark   August 6, 2014 at 6:49PM
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