What's eating my Sage?!

darkwolfe5October 22, 2009

So I have a handful of different things growing in containers on my "patio" and the most confusing thing is that my sage plant (which I've read in many places has few insect problems) seems to be the only thing that's getting holes eaten in it's leaves.

Not too long ago, we had a little bit of a cold snap, and since most of my plants are still young, I brought them inside for the week...when I suddenly had an explosion of house fly population (killed 8 one night and woke up to 12 new ones buzzing about) So I moved everything back outside and the flies disappeared.

I've checked the sage numerous times and cant find much of anything in large numbers. I've found a few small red/white colored things that are nestled in the crook where some of the leaves meet the stem. and there have been a few spider web like things attached close to the stems as well.

Any idea what it is? and what I can do to get rid of them w/o chemicals that cost more than a poor student can afford?

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nygardener(z6 New York)

Is it outdoors again? Sounds a little like spider mites, though those are usually more of a problem in dry indoor conditions.

I'd start by taking the whole plant, turning it on its side (with some plastic around the pot to keep the soil from spilling out), and running it under the faucet, leaves, stems and all. Also check to make sure there are no eggs underneath the leaves. Repeat every couple of weeks for a month or two.

    Bookmark   October 28, 2009 at 8:26AM
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I ran water over the leafs after I took all the ones with big holes and sides eaten off. I mean there was not one leaf with a hole left on plant. This morning more leafs have holes all over from just overnight. I also sprayed with soapy water afterwards after washing them even. So if it is a crawling insect, it did not kill or stop it by washing off. I also repotted it just after all this treatment. This morning after seeing it so bad, I gave up and sprinkled with Sevin 5 percent dust as it says you can sprinkle on vegetables of all sorts even lettuce. I know I must wash these leafs off in a colander over and over to use now but whatever is eating them takes one inch holes out of them overnight. These insects were not noticeable yesterday at all as I turned leafs upside down and all before spraying and then spraying with soapy water lightly.. They must crawl and attach themselves after dark or can not be hardly seen one.

    Bookmark   October 25, 2013 at 12:42PM
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seysonn(8a WA/HZ 1)

Can you post a picture?
There are various leaf eating insects. But I have not seen them to attach sage noticeably. The only flying insect that eats leaves(that I know of) is flea beetle. The crawlers are: slugs, snails, caterpillars, various worms.

    Bookmark   October 25, 2013 at 5:27PM
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I can not post a picture. I will say this a half circle was out of two or three leafs. I mean a half moon. Also, when I look at back of leafs I notice little pin point dark spots. We will see what happens by tomorrow morning with both sides white with the sevin dust. It may not work immediately. I noticed his other plants for sale had those circles off the sides and holes. I should have not been weak and bought one, ha. I just wanted the sage I could use in dressing and my other sage plant is pineapple sage here in Fl is for placing in ice drinks etc and not for cooking. Also they bloom a long stem of red blooms so pineapple sage you can get over insect bites for the thrill of the blooms. I am just so sorry this sage is going to be bad for bugs. My place of purchase is a native plant nursery. He only uses the soapy water or DE. Dimaceous Earth is full of poison and my husband is a little afraid of having it in the garage stored. I probably should have used it but for sage I would think it would be more dangerous than Sevin 5 percent which must be completely washed off plant as it is.

    Bookmark   October 25, 2013 at 9:26PM
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Mintman2013(6 PA)

Diatomaceous Earth full of poison? Do you have a pesticide that contains DE or do you have pure DE? If you have pure DE it should not contain any poison as it is a natural product composed of mainly silica. If it is pure try to use your DE against your sage pest.

    Bookmark   October 26, 2013 at 8:48AM
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Going to check the DE out. I know it was suppose to have poison and I bet I bought something with DE in it along with poison. Anyhow, good news. No new leaf destroyed since I placed the sevin dust on it compared to the day before leaf occurrence. I rather use the DE however as I think it would be safer since you mentioned I may not have the correct type and the main DE is without poison (pure try). What destroys the insects in that case? Silica is something that causes insects to stay away?

    Bookmark   October 26, 2013 at 11:03AM
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balloonflower(5b Denver CO, HZ 5-6, Sunset 2b)

Personally, once you get them gone, there really isn't much that will go after sage. I wouldn't regularly use anything on them (I manage my house herbs with soapy water and occasional neem). Sounds like you just got something in there, and now that you have it gone, I wouldn't worry too much.

Also, what was the cold temps you were worried about with your sage. I know you said they were young, but sage is very hardy. You could also possibly get by by covering them with an empty plastic tote for insulation at night.

    Bookmark   October 26, 2013 at 12:30PM
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rhizo_1 (North AL) zone 7

The DE must be food or horticultural grade. (There is also a DE manufactured for pool filters. You do not want that.) DE kills arthropods by scratching and dessicating their protective exoskeleton. When handled properly, it is perfectly safe.

The most dangerous poison you've mentioned is the Sevin. It's harmful to so many living things, including you! You should not touch or inhale it or ingest it. Don't get it on your clothes.

Too bad that we can't see a good picture of the leaves. The size, shape, and location of the damage can be quite telling.

I'm wondering if you've considered that the potting medium might be harboring your pests? Earwigs and pillbugs can do a lot of damage to foliage....and they come out at night. Some of your damage sounds typical of weevils or beetles, too.

To check if something is in the soil, place the plant (pot and all) in a large enough container to hold it plus a lot of water. Begin watering the plant, letting the outer container fill halfway with the drainage water. If there's anything in the soil, it should try to escape the flood in a few moments.

    Bookmark   October 26, 2013 at 1:34PM
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so far so good. There were a very few new bites day before yesterday and all looks the same again. After a few days, I am going to wash off all the Sevin I can and start using the soapy water and Neems. If I am going to be able to use the foliage, I need to start trying to get the poison off it. Then I will have to consider if I am a candidate for the bottled sage as usual at the grocery store, ha.

    Bookmark   October 28, 2013 at 10:53AM
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OK. I just read this post about the sage. I too am having a problem with something eating my sage leaves. My sage plant is in a raised garden with other herbs such as basil, thyme and oregano. There is also one tomato plant and one eggplant. Recently I've noticed my sage leaves are being eaten. I sprayed with a mixture of garlic, onion and cayenne. But whatever is eating them doesn't seem to be affected by this. All I see are some very, very small black specks and something that looks like a small web or cocoon looking thing. All too small to show with a picture (I tried). I'm at a loss.

    Bookmark   July 19, 2014 at 10:01AM
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floral_uk z.8/9 SW UK

Black specks(faeces) and webbing(cocoons) sound like evidence of a caterpillar of some description. Pick off leaves with the cocoons, and inspect for caterpillars. For a single plant a close look and hand picking should be plenty to get rid of the problem.

    Bookmark   July 19, 2014 at 11:00AM
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