Slugs or bugs? Cukes and Zukes almost dead

cjaxMay 11, 2012

The garden in my yard has grown well, but after my corn sprouted I started to get these chewed up lines in it. Not such a big deal until my very healthy looking cucumber and zucchini started getting chewed up like crazy. I think the cucumbers are almost dead as the leaves are pretty much gone. I got ladybugs thinking it might be some kind of aphid. When watering I saw tiny, really tiny, white bugs crawling out of the soil along the wall of the garden (walled by leftover concrete block). Ladybugs all left and I still have my leaves getting eaten up. I added earthworms just for fun, and I'm not sure if the black/brown balls are worm poop or from my pests. What looks like spider webs seemed to show up long after the leaves were destroyed.

In the linked photo is the corn on the upper left and either cuke or zuke in the middle. I forgot which is which. Small holes in the middle of strawberry leaves too. Most other things are unaffected (kale, basil, eggplant, bell pepper) and the watermelon seems to be unaffected.

Neighbor suggested slugs early on. Still the diagnosis? What can I put to kill them without affecting the quality of my food?

Ask for any additional photos.

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morz8(Washington Coast Z8b)

cjax, not black brown worm poop, worms wouldn't climb your plants - that's caterpillar frass (poop). I don't know how many plants you are describing, or how many caterpillars (amazing the damage a very few or even one or two can make), it may be possible to hand pick and destroy them. Just after dark with a flashlight could be your best timing, and its an excellent exercise to see what's going on in your garden first hand anyway :) Take your oldest pruners or pair of old all purpose scissors out with you, snip any in half.

Depending on what caterpillar and the scope of the infestation, BT could be used. Bacillus thuringiensis or Bt is a naturally occurring soil bacterium. When applied to plants, is harmless to humans but lethal to caterpillars. Be sure to choose one labeled specifically for fighting caterpillars.

FYI - Aphids aren't 'chewers' and don't make holes. They are sucking insects and easily visible on leaf undersides even in the daytime. You could conceivably have some slug or snail damage to your strawberries, there could easily be more than one pest in your garden being attracted to different plants. If you will go out at night and look, you will know :) If you take a spray bottle of approx 1/4 household ammonia to 3/4s water along with your pruners and spritz the slugs if found, they are dead in a heartbeat and the ammonia water won't hurt your foliage.

    Bookmark   May 11, 2012 at 3:23PM
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If you have leaf chewing larva, caterpillars, in the early stage of life then spraying with Bacillus thuringiensis - Kurstaki, BTK, can help, but once past just a few weeks of age it is ineffective. As a rule caterpillars do not migrate much. They tend to stay on the plant their egg was laid on, so if you see badly chewed leaves and cannot find caterpillars at the edges of the damage it may well have been done by slugs/snails.
If Ammonia is aprayed on plants at the wrong time, ie. Bright Sun, Hot, that spray can cause more damage then the caterpillars. Same with Insecticidal Soaps.
Spraying something is not a good idea because what, unless it is a vey broad spectrum poison that will also kill off the beneficials, it may be a waste of your money, time, and energy.

    Bookmark   May 12, 2012 at 7:52AM
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morz8(Washington Coast Z8b)

kimmsr, I may not have made that clear, and why I always admit I don't write for a living - with reason.

My suggestion was to go out at night with pruners for snipping offenders in half, and to also take a spray bottle of ammonia to spritz slugs which are a little messy with the snipping. The ammonia spray goes on the slugs, not the garden overall. If in the act of spraying slugs you should get ammonia/water on the plants, it is not damaging. No bright sun, the gardener is out in the evening, after dark, with a flashlight at the time the night feeders like slugs, snails, caterpillars are present and active.

    Bookmark   May 12, 2012 at 9:44AM
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JimR36(5b CO)

The pictures show what definitely looks like caterpillar frass (poop), as others have indicated.

Check on the plants repeatedly, and make sure to look on the underside of the leaves. Based on that severe damage, it shouldn't be too difficult to find the culprit(s), and then at least you'll know what you're dealing with.

Bt works great on zucchini leaves. You might have to apply it several times (over a couple of weeks) to slow down the population of troublemakers. Just read the instructions, and have a handy sprayer for the leaves (especially the underside).

    Bookmark   May 14, 2012 at 11:51AM
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