What is Eating my Marigolds? Revealed!

Beautiful Marigold
Beautiful Marigold

For years, I’ve heard Marigold tales about how they repel every garden insect, including bugs, snails, rabbits, groundhogs, and deer!

I’ve even heard of it being used to target and destroy certain weeds. I assumed the Marigold plant was pest and disease resistant.

But one day, I discovered that some raiders had eaten my lovely Marigolds. So it’s possible that certain insects can still eat portions of this plant.

Generally, a variety of pests like slugs, snails, spider mites, and caterpillars may eat the Marigold leaves, foliage, and buds and carry many plant diseases from other plants well. Furry animals like Rabbits and Birds may also eat your Marigolds.

Beautiful Marigolds
Beautiful Marigolds

While most of these pests eat the plant, others choose to lay eggs and breed on it.

To discover a successful treatment and prevention, you need to learn about the many types of pests found in the garden.

Here is a guide to help you identify these pests and ways to treat them effectively.

Is Pest Infestation Common in Marigold?

Healthy Marigolds are rarely infested with any pests or insects. The musky smell of the Marigolds is known to repel many pests and insects.

Terpinen-4-ol is a substance found in Marigold flower resin, including thymol with pest-repellent properties.

However, a few common garden pests such as Caterpillars, Snails, Slugs, Thrips, Cutworms may occasionally infest your Marigolds.

The water requirements of a plant affect a variety of factors. Pests infestations are also dependent on the watering schedule of the plant.

A standing water source like a pond, holes filled with water, invites the pests and insects to grow.

Beautiful Marigold Blooming
Beautiful Marigold Blooming

What is Eating my Marigolds? Revealed!

Different pests are attracted to marigolds which often leave visible damage.

Therefore, we have compiled a list of pests prevalent in strawberries and their damages, along with ways to prevent and treat them.

1. Caterpillars

Caterpillars are often attracted to marigolds. They tend to chew large holes in the leaves and destroy young and tender plants.

They often reside in the plants themselves and eat them for nutrition until they turn into butterflies.

Suppose your marigold plant is infested with caterpillars. You might also see random birds like crows and blackbirds attacking your plant.

They are just trying to eat the pesky caterpillars but damaging the plant. To avoid them, try covering your marigold with plastic wraps, cage.

Caterpillar in Marigold
Caterpillar in Marigold. (Source: Wikimedia Commons)

They are pretty difficult to catch due to their ability to camp lounge and blend in with the plant’s color.

An adult caterpillar’s size varies from small as 1 millimeter to almost 14 centimeters.

Caterpillars often look very similar to sawfly larvae but are differentiated by the number of pro-legs, stemmata it has.

Treatment for Caterpillar Infestations

  • Pick the caterpillars and put them in soap water to kill them.
  • Using a potent insecticidal brand of soap mixture and water would be beneficial.
  • The caterpillar eggs can be removed using neem oil and homemade insecticides.
  • Use microbial insecticide known as bacillus thuringenesis, specific to caterpillars and does not hurt other insects.

Home Made Recipe to Kill Caterpillars

Pepper and Garlic Mixture
  • Mix one tablespoon of dried chili pepper and one whole bulb of minced garlic with one tsp of soap water with one liter of water.
  • Mix all the components and spray them on the plant after 24 hours.
Chilli Spray
  • Combine three ounces of dried chili with 1/2 gallon of water for five minutes, then add 1/2 gallon of cold water and three drops of liquid soap.
  • Mix all the components and spray them on the plant after 24 hours.
Vinegar Solution
  • Vinger acts as an insecticide and natural pesticide to remove insects.
  • Mix two tablespoons of vinegar in four-liter water and spray on the insects directly or on the plant surface.

Preventive Measures

  • Place cardboard or tin foil at the base of the plant to repel caterpillars. It also helps the plant become eggs-free, as most caterpillars lay eggs at the bottom.
  • Use parasitic wasps, which feed on the caterpillar and their eggs.
  • Mow the grass and weeds around the garden to remove hide spots and breeding grounds.

2. Japanese Beetles

Japanese Beetles are another insect that might be eating your marigolds. Some gardeners often use marigolds as ‘bait plants’ for Japanese Beetles, so they do not attack other plants.

The general idea of planting marigolds is to protect other plants like tomatoes or strawberries from being eaten.

The Japanese Beetles are quite devastating as they attack the underside of the leaves, which are full of stomata.

It is vital for the plant in their transpiration, photosynthesis process. In other words, the plant often starves when the stomata are damaged.

The leaves of the marigolds often look skeletonized after Japanese Beetle plant damage.

Japanese Beetle infestation is relatively easy to recognize from the pattern of holes formed in their leaves.

Japanese beetles in marigold.
Japanese beetles in marigold. (Source: Twitter)

Japanese Beetles usually have elongated, pointy bodies, which may be brown, brownish-white, and are C-shaped.

You can also identify them by the specific rust, green tint color in their body.

They even resemble caterpillars at times in their shape and are known for their foul rotting, decaying smell.

Treatment for Japanese Beetles

  • Inspect the foliage and remove the Japanese Beetles by handpicking them during the mid-summer, cool morning when they tend to be less active.
  • Shake the marigold plant firmly, which drops the beetles on the ground. Then pick up the insects and place them in soap water.
  • Beneficial Nematodes are natural predators of Japanese Beetle grubs. They enter into these bugs’ bodily holes and find their way into their bloodstream, killing them in two to three days.
  • Use sweet-smelling odor traps which attract flying insects, which feed on the beetles.
  • Use insecticidal soap to kill beetles effectively.
  • Insecticides based on pyrethrin are safe and efficient to manage these insects.

Home Made Recipe to Kill Japanese Beetles

Natural Neem Oil Spray

Scientific evidence also supports that neem oil “repels, retards growth, inhibits feeding” Japanese Beetles.

  • Two tsp neem oil
  • One tsp Castile soap
  • One liter water

Spray the Neem Oil spray once a week to eliminate the insects.

Insecticidal Soap Spray to Kill Japanese Beetles

Using homemade insecticidal soap to kill Japanese Beetles can also be very helpful.

To create homemade insecticidal soap, follow this mixture recipe:

  • Five tablespoons of liquid Castile soap
  • Three liters of water
  • Two tablespoons of vegetable oil

Spray the emulsion on the plant, which acts as natural insecticides to kill the beetles.

Diatomaceous Earth Solution
  • Add five tablespoons of diatomaceous earth powder to a spray bottle of water.
  • Make the solution and spray to kill larvae and adults. It will kill them once it dries out.

Preventive Measures

  • Handpick the dead Japanese Beetles and place them in water to kill them.
  • Then set the bowl filled with dead Beetles near the plant to prevent fewer insects.
  • Remove any fruit trees, rhododendron bushes, and fruit bushes from your garden as it attracts Japanese Beetles.
  • Plant a row of Japanese beetle favorites in another area of your yard to attract bugs.
  • African marigold, borage, evening primrose, and knotweed are good beetle bait plants. Pick insects by hand from the trap crop.

3. Earwigs

The earwigs are reddish-brown bugs that grow to be about 3/4 inch long and feast on the leaves of marigolds in the evenings.

They often feast on tender shoots and also eat leaves, flowers. These insects do not cause much damage to plants compared to other insects.

The earwigs are most active during the afternoon, evening periods. The primary reason to remove earwigs is their appearance and the damage it causes to the plant.

Earwigs often tend to feed closer to the ground. They use the pincers to eat holes through leaves, petals, and marigold blossoms.

They will skeletonize leaves in severe circumstances. Snail damage may appear identical, yet both organisms leave distinct slime tracks.

Earwigs on branch of a plant.
Earwigs on a branch of a plant (Source: Pixabay)

They often grow in damp, mulched areas near potted plants, garden beds.

But, there is also a bright side to having earwigs in your garden. They eat aphids, snails, slugs, and other insect larvae, which control their population.

Having only a few earwigs is beneficial for your garden collection. They are only treated as pests when their damage becomes extensive.

Treatment for Earwigs

  • Traps made with tuns, vegetable oil can be beneficial. This attracts many Earwigs, then simply remove the tangles afterward.
  • Use outdoor insecticides such as Diazinon during the evening.
  • Use sticky barriers such as sticky tape and petroleum jelly near woody plants, making the insects stick to them and reducing damage.
  • Make cotton rolls dipped in isopropanol alcohol and rub it along the plant surfaces to remove earwigs infestation.
  • Apply Potassium salts of Fatty Acids to weaken their exoskeletons, which kill by dehydrating them.

Home Made Recipe to Kill Earwigs

Garlic and Cayenne Pepper Mix
  • Mix six cloves of minced garlic, one tablespoon of cayenne pepper, one tablespoon of dish soap, and one liter of water.
  • Mix all the components well and allow them to sit for at least 24 hours.
  • Spray the liquid on the plant whenever required to remove Earwigs.
Oil Pit Traps
  • Mix one part soy sauce and one part vegetable oil in a small container.
  • Punch holes on the container, allowing earwigs to enter.
  • Bury the container in the soil, allowing holes to keep out.
  • The Earwigs become attracted to soy sauce and become trapped by the oil.
  • Change the mixture frequently every 2-3 days.

Preventive Measures

  • Remove any mulch from the area where the plants are located.
  • Use diatomaceous earth to repel earwigs. It also works as a natural, nonchemical pesticide.
  • Spray petroleum jelly around the stems.
  • Use damp rolled-up newspaper, cardboard boxes in the garden to attract Earwigs and remove them.

4. Grasshoppers

Grasshoppers might also be eating your marigolds during the daytime. They usually eat the leaves and flowers from the edges and not the center.

The leaf damage patterns towards the edges make it easier to identify grasshopper plant damage than others.

Other insects do not often come near the marigold plant due to its musky smell, but it does not bother grasshoppers.

Grasshopper feeding on the flower
Grasshopper feeding on the flower 9Source: Pixabay)

We need to be aware of grasshopper infestation, as they carry large swarms with them, making them one of the most challenging insects to control.

Grasshoppers spend their lives on floating vegetation and lay eggs underwater aquatic plants.

Some grasshoppers are pretty large and often exceed 11 cm in length.

Treatment for Grasshoppers

  • Have a few natural predators, such as spiders, toads which help keep the grasshopper population.
  • Use natural grasshopper control methods such as introducing grasshopper disease (Nosema locustae).
  • You can also use insect killers concentrate, which contains carbaryl or permethrin.
  • Make use of neem oil which acts as a natural insecticide.
  • Also, sprinkle boric acid on the garden wall edges to remove insects.
  • Use insecticides when the insects begin to lay eggs around June to control the grasshopper population.

Home Made Recipe to Kill Grasshopper

Red Pepper Flakes and Water Mixture
  • Mix one cup of red pepper flakes in two pints of boiled water.
  • Spray on the plants, stalks, and buds of trees to prevent grasshoppers, furry critters from attacking the plant.
Garlic and vegetable Oil Mixture
  • Crush six cloves and mix in 1/2 cup of vegetable oil mixture.
  • Add five cups of water to the emulsion.
  • Mix well and put it in a spray bottle.
  • The oil suffocates the grasshoppers and aphids and forces them to move away from the plant.

Preventive Measures

  • Provide a water source or birdbath for birds like kestrels and larks, known to eat large quantities of grasshoppers.
  • Leave a large patch of unmowed grass in the garden, which serves as food for the grasshoppers, so they will not attack the plants.
  • Introduce robber flies in the garden by plating daisy, sunflower, and calendula. They attack grasshoppers and compete for food, becoming a natural resource competitor.
  • Tilling the garden during early spring, when they lay the eggs, is another method of disrupting their lifecycle.

5. Slugs and Snails

Slugs and snails are the most typical culprits for eating marigold leaves and petals. These bugs are drawn to the plant and like it.

You won’t notice these pests on the marigold plant during the day since they are nocturnal.

If you find slime trails around the plant, it’s a clue that slugs and snails have been there. If the leaves have been nibbled carelessly, this is another sign of these pests.

Slug damage is primarily determined by rainfall and nighttime temperatures. Slugs require damp soil and feed when temperatures are warm are above 50 degrees Fahrenheit.

They prefer moderate winters, wet springs, moist summers, and irrigation. Their numbers are reduced during the winter and during the hot, dry summers.

Some slugs will go dormant as a result of this. Grass cover, mulches, soil cracks, and worm tunnels provide then places to hide and lay eggs.

Slug in the garden eating a lettuce leaf.
Slug in the garden eating a lettuce leaf (Source: istock)

Slugs lay eggs in the fall, usually in late September and early October, when the rains begin. You’ve already won half the battle if you can minimize the population before they lay eggs.

Treatment for Slugs and Snails

  • Start by handpicking snails and slugs about two hours after sunset. Sprinkle salt over them or put them in the bucket of soapy water.
  • Slugs dehydrate when sprayed immediately with a solution of equal parts household ammonia and water.
  • Spray a small portion of ammonia on the plant and wait for a reaction in the next day or two to see whether it is sensitive.
  • Metaldehyde is the most prevalent active ingredient in synthetic chemical baits, so use it in the fall. Slugs may recover when the conditions are too wet in late winter and early spring.

Home Made Recipe to Kill Slugs and Snails

Table Salt
  • Sprinkle table salt directly on the body of snails/slugs.
  • Table salt will absorb their body fluid and dehydrate them to death.
  • Place the container in the spot and bury it so the rim is level with the ground.
  • Add 2-3 inches of beer with a mixture of one tablespoon yeast, one tablespoon flour, one tablespoon sugar, and a cup of water.
  • Snails/slugs love the smell of beer, they will then drop into the container and drown.
Coffee Grounds
  • Sprinkle some coffee ground around your plant.
  • Caffeine is toxic to snails and slugs.

Preventive Measures

  • Make a trap using Copper strips. Slugs/Snails when touches copper, it gets charged with current and dies.
  • Place a trap board under the plants between garden rows to prevent them.
  • Remove dark and moist habitats to prevent slugs. They love to hide in such places.
  • Avoid watering your plant late in the day.
  • Introduce predators like Snakes, Lizards, Frogs, Toads to control slugs/snails naturally.

6. Aphids

Aphids are also commonly known as plant lice and greenflies and are common marigold pests.

These insects do not prefer marigolds due to their musky smell from the natural compounds Terpinen-4-ol.

But the yellow color of the plant foliage may attract aphids.

They can cause much damage to marigolds, leading to stunted growth, mottled leaves, and a lowered growth rate.

If your marigold is infested with aphids, they will often have a sticky secretion around their buds and leaves.

Aphids are tiny, green pear-shaped pests that are prevalent in the summer.

According to the research, marigolds repelling pests like Aphids is quite contradictory and varies.

Jim Schmidt a home horticulture specialist with University of Illinios Cooperative Extension Service stated that, Companion gardening is more fiction than fact.

He further added that Marigolds not only attract aphids (yellow is their favorite color), but they also attract the leafhopper.

Leafhopper is a tiny sucking bug that transmits a virus that causes the plant to wilt and stunt, a disease known as “yellow aster.”

While another research has reported that marigolds have been quite effective in removing pests from ornamental plants.

Black aphids on a plant stem.
Black aphids on a plant stem. (Source: Pixabay)

Treatment for Aphids

  • Apply insecticidal soap; neem oil mix sprays on the plant.
  • Introduce natural predators like ladybugs or lacewings to ensure the aphid population is under control.
  • Sprinkle diatomaceous earth over infected plants destroys the exoskeleton of the aphid.
  • Use a hose to water spray and remove the aphids.

Home Made Recipe to Kill Aphids

Vinegar and Castile Soap Mixture
  • Mix one tablespoon of Castile soap with one tablespoon of white vinegar in one gallon of water.
  • Pour the mixture into a spray bottle and spray on the affected areas of the plant.
Tomato Leaf Spray
  • Tomato leaves contain a toxic compound known as alkaloids.
  • Chop the tomato leaves and soak them in water overnight.
  • Drain to remove the solids and dilute with water.
  • Pour into a spray bottle and spray on the affected areas of the plant.
  • Apply directly on the leaves, around the stems to remove aphid infestation.
Garlic Oil Spray
  • Take 2-3 gloves of minced garlic, add four tablespoons of vegetable oil.
  • Mix one pint of water and one tablespoon of dish detergent.
  • Mix all the components well by shaking and stirring.
  • Strain the mixture and remove the solids and pour into a spray bottle.
  • Spray on the plants to remove Aphids.

Preventive Measures

  • Plant garlic, chives, or onions near the marigold flower beds. The aromatic smell of these plants acts as a natural repellent.
  • Grow young plants under row covers. When the plants start to blossom, remember to remove the covers.
  • Plant flowers like alyssum and borage around the garden, attracting insects prey on aphids.

After the aphids have been removed from the plant, they typically do not want to colonize it again.

7. Cutworms

Cutworms usually eat the leaves and stem in an irregular shape, making it difficult to differentiate from other insects.

They feed on the roots and foliage of young plants underneath the soil, making the damage less visible.

Usually, the cutworms are found in black, brown, grey, and even green color with spots, stripes, and soil-like colors.

They eat leaves and can sever plant stems; one worm can easily cut through the branches of numerous young plants in one night.

Because stems are pretty thick to chew through, the damage is more restricted to foliage as plants mature and get bigger and tougher.

Cutworms eating the leaf
Cutworms eating the leaf (Source: Wikimedia Commons)

Cutworms are generally around 5cm in length, and when picked up, they curl into a C-shaped.

In the case of cutworms, the insect’s larval stage does the most damage to the plant. So it is best to mitigate any growth at all if possible.

Treatment for Cutworms

  • Pluck and remove the visible larvae by putting them into soap water.
  • Use chemical pesticides that include carbaryl, cyfluthrin, and permethrin to kill the cutworm pests in the evening when they come outside to feed on the plant.
  • Using Bacillus thuringenesis (Bt) deals with most of the larval pests found in plants.
  • Introduce beneficial insects like parasitic wasps and green insects, which attack cutworms.

Home Made Recipe to Kill Cutworms

  • The calcium in the eggshells acts as a natural repellent against cutworms.
  • Crush some eggshells and sprinkle them around the plant soil.
Popsicle sticks
  • Place popsicle sticks near the stem of the soil; it prevents the cutworms from wrapping around the stem.
  • This is very effective in protecting the younger plants against cutworms.
  • Cornmeal is a natural pesticide for them cutworms.
  • Crush some cornmeal and sprinkle on the plant stalk. If they ingest it, they will die eventually.

Preventive Measures

  • Place barriers using aluminum foil, cardboard boxes around the plant.
  • Surround the stems with diatomaceous earth, which prevents the cutworms from eating the stems.
  • Delay translating the plants by a couple of weeks to cut off Cutworms to feed on the plants, eventually killing them or forcing them to relocate.
  • Plow till the garden to expose cutworms and destroy their winter habitat.
  • Pests like cutworms and ants often avoid coffee due to its smell. Sprinkle some coffee ground around the plant stem to repel them.

8. Thrips

Thrips are more difficult pests to control because they are challenging to detect.

The damage they inflict frequently appears like a nutritional or disease problem rather than insect damage.

Ornamental and edible plants are the first target for thrips to attack.

Thrips have a small, slender body 1/25 inches long, while the larger thrips can be almost 1/2 inches long.

They are piercing, sucking insects that cause damage by feasting on plant secretions.

Thrips in the leaf of the plant
Thrips in the leaf of the plant. (Source: Wikimedia Commons)

Treatment for Thrips

  • Use a water hose to spray the plant, which dislodges the thrips with a blast of water.
  • Introduce natural predators like nematodes and predatory mites, which feed on eggs and help population control.
  • Spray the plant with pyrethrin pesticide in 3-4 days intervals to tackle against thrips infestations.

Home Made Recipe to Kill Thrips

Neem oil, Dish Soap, and Water Mixture
  • Add 1-2 drops of neem oil and two tablespoons of dish soap in one liter of water.
  • Mix the components well by shaking and stirring.
  • Pour the mixture into a spray bottle. Spray on the affected areas of the plant.
Essential Oils
  • Add a few drops of essential oils such as peppermint, lemongrass, rosemary, and dilute with water.
  • Mix oils in a gallon of water and spray thoroughly.
Kaolin Clay
  • Mix one liter of Kaolin clay, one tablespoon (15 ml) liquid soap with 2 gallons of water.
  • Apply Kaolin clay for plants every 7 to 21 days.

Preventive Measures

  • Prune the damaged areas of the plant to prevent further spread to other nearby plants.
  • Keep your garden free from weeds. They serve as breeding grounds for thrips to grow.
  • Cover the plants with a fine mesh that prevents thrips from drifting into the plant through air breezes.
  • Place blue sticky traps around the plant near the stem or leaves. The thrips get stuck to them and die.

9. Spider Mites

Marigolds attract spider mites because of their many thin leaves, which provide an excellent feeding supply for these chlorophyll-hungry bugs.

They withstand spider mite infestations effectively, allowing them to divert spider mites away from more essential plants for weeks at a time.

To identify spider mites on Marigolds, keep an eye on the plant’s foliage whenever you are watering them.

If you observe yellow or brown spots on the leaves of your mint plant, you may have a spider mite infestation.

Spider mites are tiny, measuring less than one millimeter (0.04 inch), and appear in various hues.

Two-spotted spider mite
Two-spotted spider mite (Sorce: Pexels)

Many species lay small, spherical, initially transparent eggs and construct silk webbing to help shield the colony from predators.

They consume the leaves as well as lay their eggs on them.

Treatment for Spider Mites

  • Neem oil is a natural miticide; it’s a chemical agent that kills mites. Using this solution, liberally spray the leaves of your Marigolds.
  • Similarly, rubbing alcohol mixed with cotton can treat infected plant parts.
  • Use an insecticide containing permethrin or pyrethrin.
  • Insecticidal soap and horticultural oil are also helpful.

Home Made Recipe to Kill Spider Mites

Dish Soap Solution
  • Mix three tablespoons of dish soap with a gallon of water.
  • Spray on the affected leaves every week.
Cayenne Pepper
  • Mix one tablespoon of Cayenne pepper or one hot chilly pepper into one cup of water.
  • Spray the mixture on the affected parts.

Preventive Measures

  • Clean your plant every once in a while. Dust on leaves and stems encourages spider mites.
  • Water your plant properly as water-stressed plants are more susceptible to spider mites.
  • Apply Horticulture oil early in the season or late fall to destroy eggs.

10. Furry Animals

Animals like Rabbits, Rats, Squirrels, Birds, and Possums might often eat marigolds available in open spaces.

It can be identified by the dropping found near the plant, observing actual rabbits in the garden, or the pattern formed in the leaves, stem.

Rabbits’ infestations in the garden make plants susceptible to tularemia, also known as rabbit fever.

Rats sometimes may eat Marigolds as they don’t have other plants to eat as they are nocturnal and feed during the night.

Birds don’t generally consume marigolds, but slugs and caterpillars attract them, so they rip apart plants in search of them.

Birds searching for insects on marigolds.
Birds searching for insects on marigolds. (Source: Pixabay)

Preventive Measures

  • Plant vegetation like forsythias, lilac bushed, daffodils, and snapdragons to keep the rabbits and other animals away.
  • Ensure to fence in the garden using mesh wires, fences, and wires to prevent animals from entering the park.
  • Make use of animal repellant spray on the plants.
  • Using rabbit repellent such as Fooey, Liquid Fence Deer & Rabbit Repellent Granular can be beneficial in repelling rabbits away from the marigolds.
  • Use shiny or loud objects near the plant, such as hanging pots and pans near the fence.
  • Windchimes and shiny ribbons on trees, fences, and branches near the marigold can also be beneficial.
  • Clean the garden area so that rats can’t hide.
  • Try some homemade recipes like Cayenne pepper and Garlic mixture to deter animals from Marigolds.
Beautiful Marigold
Beautiful Marigold

Insects that Do Not Attack Marigolds

Marigolds repel several insects and animals due to their musky smell from the flowers and the toxic chemical released from the roots.

Pests Repelled by MarigoldsReasons
NematodesMarigold roots release a toxic chemical (alpha-terthienyl) which prevents the hatching of nematodes eggs.
MosquitoesWhen it comes to repelling mosquitoes, the essential oil of Calendula officinalis (a kind of marigold) is similar to DEET.
WhitefliesLimonene is a prominent chemical component of French marigolds, and whiteflies have a negative reaction to it.


Looking at this list, you should understand that marigolds are resistant to pests and insects due to their musky smell.

However, they require proper care and effort for their overall growth and development.

Providing proper dry conditions, weeding, tilling the garden after winter are primary factors we can manage to reduce pest infestations.

Animals and birds also attack and eat the ornamental plant from time to time, which can be prevented by repellants and fencing the plant.

If nothing seems to work, you can always use the appropriate chemical, organic or biological treatments mentioned above in the guide.

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