Mysterious Nighttime Muncher

carolb_w_fl(zone 9/10)December 2, 2012

This has me stumped: something is decimating certain of my plants during the night - eating unbelievable amounts of foliage, while leaving neighboring plants untouched.

1st instance was 12" clumps of alfalfa completely stripped of ALL leaves overnight. I'm assuming some sort of caterpillar, since it ate leaves from between stems in the clump. Then I noticed broccoli leaves missing - 5" (or so) leaves eaten down to the stem, & a little papaya plant met the same fate - entire leaves gone in 1 night. They are nothing but sticks now = (

I rooted around the base of plants to see if it was cutworms, but can't find anything, & no slime trails to indicate snails or slugs. Edges of eaten areas on broccoli look torn, ragged, like grasshopper damage, but grasshoppers are nowhere right now. I realise it may be more than 1 culprit, but the M.O. seems so similar, I suspect 1 type of animal/insect is responsible. I'm picturing a mass of giant cutworms hiding somewhere around here, but I have not found any frass around or on the damaged plants.

There are no rabbits or squirrels here on this island, tho we do have rats & possums. I'm wondering if katydids might be responsible - tho I've ever known them to eat that much, that fast...?

Anybody have any clues/solutions, similar experience?

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I recently found a rather large black caterpillar under the EDGE of one of my containers.....He ate the tomato plants during the nite and found a tiny protected spot to hide in during the day....


    Bookmark   December 2, 2012 at 6:11PM
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whgille(FL 9b)

Carol, that sounds like a good mystery to be solved soon before they eat all your veggies. In my garden I had the broccoli, cauliflower, kale eaten at night but I know it is my little dog that loves some crops, he doesn't care for collards or lettuce. I solved the problem planting a big bucket of miniature peas and now he just get in the bucket to eat his peas. The 3 dogs also like tomatoes but they wait for me to give them the ripe ones.:)

Doug, that is funny, at least you found the offender,lol


    Bookmark   December 2, 2012 at 6:41PM
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carolb_w_fl(zone 9/10)

Thanks you 2 - I've been wondering if our neighbor's poodle, who likes to sneak into our yard, might be munching on the broccoli - but the papaya? (it was in a pot up out of his reach too)

I'm still searching around the garden bed, under the mulch, but it's a much bigger area than a container. I'm also wondering about possums...?


OK - after looking @ UF's info, I'm thinking it IS cutworms, so I wrapped the plants w/ some sheer nonwoven poly fabric & crossing my fingers that'll do the trick.

This post was edited by carolb_w_fl on Mon, Dec 3, 12 at 12:26

    Bookmark   December 3, 2012 at 11:09AM
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