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What Is Eating My Strawberries? 10 Possible Culprits!

The irresistible sweetness of juicy strawberries captivates our taste buds, yet it also attracts pests and insects, disfiguring the fruits after they feast.

Generally, pests and insects of strawberries include birds and herbivores such as slugs, beetles, crows, deer, rabbits, etc., which can invade and damage strawberry patches.

Start by understanding different pests and insects to find a reliable treatment and prevention to protect your strawberries.

Are Pests & Insects In Strawberries Common?

Like any fruit-bearing plant, strawberries are susceptible to pests and insects around the year.

There are over 200 species of arthropod pests reported on strawberries in the U.S., but only 15 species are considered common.

The characteristic aroma, red color, juicy texture, and sweetness attract bugs, small insects, herbivores, and birds.

Some of the most common strawberry pests and insects include tarnished plant bugs, slugs, spittlebugs, and strawberry sap beetles.

Image illustrates some commonly occurring insects of strawberries
A majority of insects have a sweet tooth for ripe strawberry fruits.

Additionally, some herbivores like squirrels, raccoons, groundhogs, deer, cows, rabbits, and birds are common strawberry fruit invaders or pests in gardens and garden beds.

Pests and insects invade ripening strawberries in May and June (late spring and early summer), leaving holes and bite marks and decaying them.

Gardeners may mistake strawberry disease symptoms for pest problems, such as browning/yellowing foliage, stunted growth, leaf spots, or premature fruit dropping.

However, you should match these problems with the signs of overwatering problems before concluding on the pest problems.

10 Common Pests & Insects of Strawberries

Here is a list of prevalent strawberry pests and insects, their damages, and treatments and preventions.

1. Tarnished Plant Bugs

Tarnished plant bug is a deadly insect of strawberries that injects a toxic substance to break down plant tissues.

The Tarnished bug’s toxin kills plant cells near the feeding site on fruits, causing distorted growth surrounding their sting marks.

Bugs cause catface injury, a distortion of fruit shape resembling a cat’s puckered cheeks, through their piercing-sucking mouthparts.

The adult bugs are one-fourth inch in size with wings, a brassy or tarnished body, and yellow or bronze marks. Each forewing has a black tip with a yellow triangle.

The adult females emerge in spring to lay eggs that hatch into 1 mm-sized nymph in about 5-7 days.

The nymphs will feed on blossoms and fresh strawberry seedlings, causing misshapen fruit and fruit discoloring.

Treatments and Preventive Measures

  • Dispose of the damaged fruits as they transmit decay to other fruits in the bush.
  • Apply organic insecticides to slay the bugs and nymphs.
  • Attract beneficial insects like big-eyed bugs, damsel bugs, etc., by planting pollen-producing flowers.
  • Use sticky traps to kill adult bugs and spray garlic around the plant before and during spring to avoid eggs.
  • Mow the grass and weeds around the garden to eliminate hiding spots and breeding grounds.
  • After planting, use a row cover to protect the new foliage from pests.

2. Slugs

Slugs become active during the rainy season and may come out at night. An early way to notice slugs is by their slime trail left around the leaves and soil.

They are slimy bugs infesting strawberries by piercing the ripe fruits and chewing green foliage, rendering them unproductive.

Additionally, they eat the fruits and create holes in strawberry fruits near the cap.

Image represents a slug eating strawberry fruit
Slug leaves nasty holes and makes the fruits unpalatable.

If you are sure that slugs have infested your strawberry fruits, check for tiny, round, jelly-like eggs under the debris around the plants.

Usually, damp places draw slugs, where they reproduce rapidly and lay 3-50 eggs individually that will hatch with hungry baby slugs in 1-2 months.  

Treatment and Preventive Measures

  • Handpick the slugs and cover them with salt.
  • Apply commercial slug baits, which eradicate the slugs.
  • Remove dead leaves and debris from the area to eliminate their hiding spots.
  • Use a copper wire or strip to wrap it around the growing bench to repel the slugs.
  • Keep the soil dry and discourage any dampness.
  • Consider introducing hedgehogs, beneficial beetles, frogs, and toads into your garden.
  • Sprinkle diatomaceous earth around garden beds to repel the slugs.

3. Strawberry Clippers

Strawberry clippers, also known as strawberry bud weevils, are brown beetles.

They are one-fourth of an inch long. You can identify them by their weevil “snout” and reddish-brown body.

The overwintering beetles become active in spring and feed on young buds, causing bloom drops.

An adult beetle will chew through the pedicel to lay eggs. Once the eggs are hatched after a week, the larva will feed for 3-4 weeks.

Treatments and Preventive Measures

  • Dispose of infested fruits and apply insecticidal soap.
  • Apply organic insecticides during the night in the seasons when the beetles are most active.
  • Apply the first spray in early May and then ten days later.
  • Reduce the breeding sites by plowing the garden bed after harvest and removing old mulch.

“In 2022, the Southern Region Strawberry Pest Management recommended 3 pesticides for Strawberry Weevils: Brigade (Bifenthrin), Danitol (Fenpropathrin), and Sevin (Carbaryl). “

4. Spittlebugs

Spittlebugs feed on the fluids and spread Xylella fastidiosa through the xylem vessels of the plant.

Xyllela fastidiosa is a bacteria that stunts plant growth, causing wilting and shriveled fruit.

You could recognize spittlebug infestation by the white foamy substance on leaves, petioles, and stems.

These insects are most active in spring and lay eggs from July through October, where the larva hatches in 1-2 weeks and feeds on the tender foliage.

The spittlebug larva grows into froghoppers that can jump many times their height. Check biweekly for spittlebug foam and nymphs at the base of the plants. 

You can identify them with their body color, which changes from orange to yellow and brown as they grow.

Treatments and Preventive Measures

  • Consider casting them off with a water hose.
  • Neem oil, citrus-based pesticides, or a garlic or hot pepper solution spray to reduce their population.
  • Try exposing natural enemies like birds or frogs to get rid of them.
  • Remove mulch and old dead leaves at the end of the growing season.
  • In summer, cover the bushes with floating row covers to prevent adult insects from laying eggs.
  • Trim broadleaf weeds from your lawn during the fall and winter.

5. Strawberry Sap Beetles

Sap beetles are tempted by the fermenting sap from overripe or injured fruits.

They primarily feed on ripening fruit but prefer soft, overripe, or rotting fruits, causing significant damage.

Sap beetles leave deep cavities in the fruit, similar to the damage caused by slugs, and introduce spores of other organisms, further contaminating the fruit.

The worst thing about sap beetle is that they help spread rot-causing disease organisms from one plant to another.

You can identify sap beetle infestation through damages such as small holes at the bottom of the fruit or a large section eaten from the side.

Treatments and Preventive Measures

  • Identify and discard damaged strawberries.
  • While planting strawberries in garden soil or beds, maintain a 12-18 inches distance between the seedlings.
  • Use sap beetle traps or plastic funnel traps with vinegar to capture the pests.
  • Employ beneficial nematodes that seek out and kill over 200 pests in the soil.
  • Harvest the fruit before they become overripe and dispose of the fallen fruit.
  • Clear all the weeds or tall grasses during the fall before planting your strawberries.

Insecticides can control severe infestations but may also damage ripe fruits.

Therefore, try other methods before resorting to insecticide.

Image illustrates herbivore pests of strawberry fruits
Look for prints, droppings, or other signs to find out the possible culprit.

6. Two-spotted Spider Mite

The two-spotted spider mite is a pale golden yellow bug, usually found on leaf undersides.

This deadly strawberry pest weakens the plant before winter, which results in low-quality yield.

The feeding damage during the first 2-5 months after transplant in late summer or fall.

A female spider mite can lay up to 200 eggs that will start hatching in 7 days. The plant will start wilting once the larvae resort to feed.

However, a severe infestation may only begin when their number starts proliferating.

The most effective way to identify spider mite infestation is to check the underleaves for silk webbings or look for slight yellowish-white flecking on the upper leaf surface.

Plants facing 75 mites per leaflet may become severely weakened and appear stunted, dry, and red.

Treatments and Preventive Measures

  • Spray bug miticides every 7 days until the infestation is removed.
  • Neem oil spray will also work effectively without killing other beneficial bugs.
  • Release predatory mites and grow companion plants like thyme, dill, garlic, etc.
  • Place insect traps around the plant’s base and monitor regularly.
  • Vernalization treatments also help to prevent spider mite infestation.

7. Spotted Wing Drosophila (Small Fruit Fly)

Spotted wing drosophila, or the tiny fruit fly, is a common pest in strawberries and other juicy fruits.

They primarily feed on overripe fruits, hatching their eggs inside that soon turn into larvae.

They can lay about 500 eggs at a time, which will hatch within a week.

You can identify them judging from their bright reddish-orange eyes and oval overlapped iridescent wings.

Therefore, harvest your yields before they become overripe. 

Treatments and Preventive Measures

  • Mix half a teaspoon of soap with 1 cup of water, spray over flies, and wipe with a cloth.
  • Spraying 90% isopropyl alcohol diluted with water will also kill these flies.
  • Focus on early fruit harvest after ripening, and use sticky traps to catch the flies as bait.
  • Maintain sanitation by removing any decaying or fallen fruits.
  • Fill a bowl with 1/2 cup of cider vinegar and 2 teaspoons of dish soap around the plant.

Research in Oregon claims that solarizing the post-harvest fruits under clear plastic bags kills the flies or larvae inside the fruits.”

8. Strawberry Rootworm

The strawberry rootworm is a larva of the same beetle typically found in perennial strawberry production.

Adult beetles emerge during mid to late summer and remain active for 2 feeding seasons, May and July-August, especially at night.

They feed on leaves, leaving tiny holes, while larvae or grubs feed on roots. 

You can identify this pest by its dark and oval-shaped body, approximately 3 mm long, while larvae are white or creamy.

During summer, check for small holes in the ripening berries where they lay eggs.

Treatments and Preventive Measures

  • Prune weeds and grass around the garden to increase sunlight and reduce humidity.
  • Vernalization production methods can prevent rootworm infestation due to cold temperatures (32-33°F).
  • Biological control, such as constantly exposing predators, helps eliminate unwanted beetles.
  • Using sticky traps around the strawberry plantation can check the population of female beetles.
Image illustrates pest and insects identification
Every pest leaves a mark after damaging your strawberries.

9. Small Birds

From damaging the whole fruit to nibbling on them, birds can destroy strawberry patches in a short time.

Birds like Robins, Starlings, Crows, Blue Jays, House Finches, Grouses, Crowned Sparrows, and Orioles feast on ripe strawberries from garden beds.

 But several physical deterrents repel the birds without harming them.

How Do I Protect My Strawberries From Birds?

  • Cover the bushes with small-holed chicken wire mesh or use netting over them to protect the harvest.
  • Install fake traps, scarecrows, or predator toys in the garden temporarily.

10. Furry Animals

Burrowing animals like squirrels and raccoons are excellent climbers who climb the trays to reach the plants.

Cows, deer, rabbits, and groundhogs are all rounding culprits of the strawberry fruits.

You should start with physical control methods to avert them before they become a severe threat.

How to Deter Herbivores?

  • Install a chicken wire fence at least 30 inches high, buried 6 inches deep, to repel burrowing and climbing critters.
  • Alternatively, you can apply the animal repellant spray to keep them away.
  • Consider placing blood meal, feather meal, human hair, and commercial deer repellants near the plant.
  • You can also spray predator urine around the gardens to hold herbivores. 
  • Plant deer-resistant annuals or perennials as a defensive guard around strawberry plantations.

From Editorial Team


Instead of using chemical treatments, switch to biological control to avoid the adverse effects of insecticides and pesticides.

Pests and insects can attract pathogens that spread and destroy strawberry gardens, so switch towards organic insecticides such as neem oil.

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