What's eating my strawberries?

mayberrygardener(z5a, Broomfield, CO)July 31, 2014

I have some lovely alpine strawberries that are in their 2nd year. Last year, we got a few berries off of them, but because we were moving (these are in one of our containers), I'm pretty sure we missed most of the goodies until the birds had taken theirs.
This year, the two leftover from last year that I found all dessicated in the dirt, I took and rubbed and sprinkled the seeds around in the container, and we have TONS OF BABIES. (oh wait, that's the "how to propagate alpine strawberries thread. Sorry, I'll get back on topic now, but let me know if you want to know more about how to grow more of these beautiful and well-behaved plant--no runners, if you have the "real deal").
I have had berries and berries and more berries come up. They start to plump up. They're white, I'm thinking, any minute now, I'll see them begin to blush pink then red... then they shrivel and die. Right there on the vine. NOT slugs, I'm painfully familiar with slug damage on strawberry plants. Something is eating into them, something quite small (because the berries aren't any bigger than my thumbnail anyway) goes in at the top, near where the berry is attached to the vine. The hole that it leaves is maybe 2 mm wide? Really small. But goes in, eats enough to kill the entire berry, but doesn't even eat the rest of the berry. Kinda reminds me of what the hollyhock weevils do... Except that you can SEE the hollyhock weevils, and I can't see anything here. May be nocturnal. Earwig nymphs?
Any idea what is eating my berries or how to dissuade them? I haven't had a single strawberry yet! I prefer organic methods.

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bugdoctor(5 CO)

I think a likely candidate are earwigs or Dermaptera. They are nocturnal and can make a pretty round little hole in soft fruit though 2 mm is pretty small for an earwig. If you go out at night with a flashlight, you will find the culprit feeding if this is your pest. They are easily controlled with rolled up newspapers at the base of plants and discarded the following morning. Repeat as needed until pests are reduced.

I usually think of slugs as strawberry pests, but it sounds like you are familiar with their damage.

Pill bugs or roly polys (sp?) that are crustaceans can munch on strawberries, but they are more interested in them once they are overripe and soft and mushy.

Lastly, we now have the spotted wing drosophila fly here in Colorado. They lay their eggs on ripening fruit, and the larvae turn the fruit to mush. I doubt this is your pest, but worth a look on the web to see if it matches your symptoms.

Hope this helps and keep us posted if you find any insects in the act.
Dan

Here is a link that might be useful: Earwig pests from California

    Bookmark   July 31, 2014 at 10:14PM
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margaretmontana(4-5MT)

What eats my strawberries and tomatoes that touch the ground are millipedes. But you can tell that they are there as there are lots of thread like small worms in the hole. I dust for them but never get them all. So I prune the tomatoes up about a foot so the tomatoes don't touch the ground. Giving up on strawberries!

    Bookmark   August 3, 2014 at 11:15PM
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