Garden Strawberry Plants – How to Get Rid of Common Strawberry Pests
Strawberries can fall prey to a lot of different garden pests, from aphids to fruit flies to slugs, mites, and beetles. Some insect pests attack the leaves, the crown or the roots of the plants, while others consume the precious fruits that make up your harvest. Whatever the case, you’ll want to know what they are and how to get rid of them as quickly as possible. Thankfully, these common pests have common solutions, so trying to deal with them will be easy.
Aphids are incredibly common garden pests, attacking almost any leafy plant they can find. They are small, bright green, soft-bodied insects that like to stick to the undersides of leaves and stems, feeding on the sap and causing overall damage to the plant. They can also pass along diseases to your strawberry plants. As they feed, they leave behind a sticky substance called honeydew that can attract other pests and diseases. In large enough infestations, aphids can ruin entire crops of plants if left unchecked.
To spot-kill aphids, mix vinegar with water at a 1:3 ratio in a spray bottle and spritz the mixture on your strawberry plants. Make sure to hit the stems and undersides of leaves, since that’s most likely where the aphids are hiding. Repeat the treatment a week later at a time until the infestation is gone. Insecticidal soap sprays are also effective– just put a dollop of liquid soap into a filled spray bottle of water and you’ll be good to go. You can also sprinkle diatomaceous earth (DE) on your plants if the liquid sprays don’t seem to be helping much, but be careful to not kill your pollinators with it if the strawberry plants are flowering. Attracting ladybugs, the most well-known predator of aphids, to your garden will also help protect your plants.
Fruit flies are another common sight around gardens. While fruit flies aren’t a danger to you in any way, unlike their close cousins the horse flies, they are still a major threat to your fruiting crops, especially if there’s an infestation of them nearby. The adult flies lay their eggs in the fruit, and then the larvae attract cockroaches and other nasty insects.
The old adage of catching more flies with honey than vinegar will be put to use literally here. Mix a small dollop of honey, or around a teaspoon of sugar, and a few drops of soap into a half-full dish or jar of water, and set it out next to your plants. The flies will be attracted by the sweet smell and drown in the water thanks to the soap. Avoid chemical pesticides when dealing with fruit flies, as you’re more likely to harm the environment than kill the infestation with them.
Two-spotted Spider Mites and Cyclamen Mites
Both two-spotted spider mites and cyclamen mites are tiny arachnid pests that primarily feed on the leaves of the plant. In small and controlled amounts, this feeding can trigger a reaction in the strawberry plants and improve the quality of your strawberries, but it’s very easy for the spider mite population to go wildly out of control once it shows up. While two-spotted spider mites can be dealt with easily, cyclamen mites are incredibly vicious and resistant to many chemical pesticides, making them more of a challenge to get rid of.
Mites prefer arid environments, so blasting them with a strong stream of water can be effective in washing them off of your strawberry plants. Insecticidal soap mixtures or pesticides are also effective against mites, though they can affect beneficial insects as well so care has to be taken. In worst case scenarios, particularly with the cyclamen mites, you may need to cut out your infected strawberry plants from your garden entirely and treat your soil with an approved pesticide. Small infestations of cyclamen mites can be treated by removing the affected parts of the plant and wiping the rest of the plant down with rubbing alcohol to control it. Make sure to rinse the plant well after a few hours to prevent damaging it from alcohol burn, and repeat as needed.
Weevils in general are destructive pests towards a variety of crops, but strawberry weevils, as their name implies, are the biggest threat towards strawberries specifically. These particular weevils are also known as strawberry bud weevils or strawberry clippers, due to the way they burrow and lay eggs inside strawberry buds, rendering the bud unusable for fruit production. Strawberry bud weevils are often confused with strawberry root weevils, whose larvae attack strawberry roots but are less dangerous to the plants overall. Both kinds of strawberry weevils are a hazard to your strawberries, though, since they can cull production rates by 70% if left to infest.
To get rid of strawberry weevils, remove all infested flowers and other parts of the plants, including any that might have fallen to the ground. Spray the plants and ground with either a pesticide or an insecticidal soap. Repeat until all signs of weevil infestation are gone. You can speed up the process by handpicking the adult weevils off of the plants and dropping them into a container of soapy water. Applying sticky tape to the soil around the strawberries is also effective at trapping and killing strawberry weevils.
Slugs and Snails
Garden slugs and snails eat any above-ground parts of strawberry plants that they come across, just like with any other garden fruit or vegetable. You can tell that they’ve been eating your plants by the shiny, sticky trails and the irregularly-shaped holes in the leaves, fruit, etc. that they leave behind. They’re primarily active at night and like to hide in damp, dark holes during the day, which means catching them in the act might be difficult.
Unlike the other pests on this list, both slugs and snails are molluscs, meaning that typical insecticides are ineffective against them, but thankfully there are lots of other substances that are great slug deterrents or killers. Liquid coffee spray, coffee grounds, vinegar spray, garlic spray, salts, diatomaceous earth, and wide copper strips are effective deterrents. Beer traps, slug pellets, ammonia spray, and natural predators/parasites of slugs and snails like hedgehogs or nematodes are effective killers. There are also several “traps” you can make to lure all of your invading slugs and snails into a contained space to dispose of later, like a damp piece of wood or a handful of citrus peels.
Contrary to popular belief, eggshells do not deter or kill slugs and snails— they actually love them, and prefer eating them over plant matter if they’re available. They also love eating cornmeal, another supposed slug/snail killer. Eggshells and cornmeal would make effective traps for them, but they shouldn’t be used as deterrents or killers, since it will just encourage the slugs and snails to stick around your garden and create havoc.
Japanese beetles are incredibly devastating pests, both as adults and as larvae. The adult beetles will skeletonize the plant leaves (i.e. leaving only the veins and structure of the leaf behind) and even chew through flowers, while the larvae grubs will damage the root systems and kill the whole plant entirely. Japanese beetles will attack almost any sort of leafy plant, but they prefer roses above all else, meaning that strawberries, who belong to the same plant family as roses, are at risk of being wiped out by this highly invasive insect.
Getting rid of Japanese beetles is simple, though, since they are slow-moving and can’t hurt people. You can spray your plants with a soap solution to deter the beetles, or even pick the beetles off the plants into the soap solution if you have the time and patience. Neem oil spray is also effective, as well as setting up beetle traps. Regular insecticides work as well, though be careful not to poison your beneficial insects and pollinators with them. You can set parasitic nematodes on the beetles, or even bring in a small flock of chickens before planting season; the chickens will go nuts over the larvae grubs and eat almost all of them before they hatch into adults, severely reducing their numbers.
There are many, many more kinds of pests that can attack strawberries, but these six are some of the most common ones around gardens. Some of them are a little trickier to handle compared to others, but they can all be kept away from your plants with the right substances and tools. It’s best to use natural solutions to take care of your pests, like making homemade sprays and bringing in native predators/parasites, since overusing pesticides and insecticides can damage your plants and the soil. It also might be a good idea to encircle your garden with plants that are natural pest repellents, like alliums (onion, garlic, chives), mints and culinary herbs (peppermint, basil, rosemary), geraniums, or marigolds. All-in-all, it’s best to keep your garden clean and free of rot and excessive dampness, as most pests are initially drawn to the rotting plant material and then can potentially prey on your strawberry plants later.
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