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What's Eating My Lettuce and Spinach?

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  • What's Eating My Lettuce and Spinach?


    I’m having a problem with something eating my lettuce and spinach plants. As you can see, it leaves sharp, jagged cuts in the leaves, unlike the more rounded cuts made by caterpillars. Sometimes, small pieces are cut off and left on the ground. I have not seen any actual insects on the plants, and have not noticed any droppings.

    This seems to happen overnight. I have seen carpenter ants in the area, but I’m not sure if they eat plants like these. I have sprayed them multiple times with Ortho MAX “Flower, Fruit, and Vegetable Insect Killer,” but it hasn’t helped. No rabbits or other animals have access to the garden.

    I have planted lettuce and spinach in the same spot in previous years, but never had this problem. There are carrots and onions nearby, but they are untouched.

    Any help would be appreciated. Thanks.

    Zone 9 (Arizona)
    Attached Files

  • #2

    Here are some pictures taken about 5 days later.

    If it was caterpillars, the plants would be completely gone by now. The "V" shaped cuts and the pieces left behind make me think it might be some kind of bird. Do birds eat spinach?

    I've covered some of them with a screen to see what happens.
    Attached Files


    • #3
      Hello SilentJim. Ken here with The Home Depot in the Chicago area.
      Sorry to hear about your plant problems. I think the problem might
      be earwigs. They are nocturnal and during the day hide in crevasses
      in the plant leaves. Check during the day or go out at night with a
      flashlight to see what critter is active. When you spray, make sure
      to spray the underside of the leaves too. Another thing you might
      try is Diatomaceous Earth. It will cut them up as they travel to and
      from your plants. Good luck and let me know what you find. Take care.


      • #4
        I agree- they seems to be's some info :


        Earwigs can be found in almost any zone, although they more likely to inhabit southern climes. You might have trouble spotting one—not only are they quick movers, they are also nocturnal, and tend to hide out during the day when you are tending the garden. They like decaying wood and plant material, and dark, damp spaces. Often times they can be found in basements and woodpiles. The name "earwig" comes from the Old English ear-wicga, which means "ear insect", and it is named so because it's hind legs are shaped like human ears.

        Identifying Earwigs
        These one-inch long dark brown insects are easily identified by their forceps.
        Earwigs feed on other insects, such as aphids and spidermites, which is one benefit. Unfortunately, they will also feed on the rest of your garden.
        They are especially fond of flowers, lettuce, celery and fruits.
        Leaves will appear jagged and full of holes.
        How to get rid of Earwigs
        Generally, Earwigs are not as much of a threat to your garden as other pests, but they are just as big of an annoyance! Try these remedies:

        Lay one-foot sections of bamboo or garden hose in the beds between your plants. Check these “traps” each morning, and dump the earwigs into a bucket of soapy water.
        Spread petroleum jelly around the stems of your plants. Earwigs won’t crawl over it.
        If they are infesting your woodpile, try sprinkling borax around it, but keep pets and children away from this area after doing so.
        Combine equal parts soy sauce and olive oil, put it in a small plastic container, and secure the lid. Punch holes in the top of the container, near the lid. Make the holes large enough for the earwigs to get in. Bury the container in the soil just up to the holes. The soy sauce will attract the earwigs, and the oil will prevent them from escaping. Change the mixture as needed.


        • #5
          It does look like earwigs. There are some great ideas here. Here is a link to a proven way to get rid of the earwigs that is natural, non-toxic and best of all free! Its is done with materials you already have!!
          Landscape world-Danny's Landscape Services