The Q&A Archives: Pest On Sweetbay Magnolia

Question: what could be chewing holes in my sweetbay magnolia?

Answer: Sweetbay is seldom bothered by pests, but there are some spectacular moths and butterflies whose caterpillars feed on this magnolia. Visit these Web pages to see the various moths and their caterpillars:

Securifera Moth

Eastern Tiger Swallowtail

Spicebush Swallowtail

Promethea Silkmoth

As you can see, the caterpillars would be hard to miss, so if you haven't actually seen these amazing creatures, then my only other thought is that perhaps slugs are chewing on the leaves. Slugs usually feed at night when it's cooler, but leave telltale shiny mucus trails. I wish I could be more helpful, but without being there to see it myself, I really can't say for sure what the problem is. If you still don't know what the culprit is, have a knowledgeable gardener from a garden center, garden club, or county Master Gardeners (615-862-5995) stop by to have a look. Once you know what the pest is, you can choose the appropriate treatment. However, most plants can suffer an incredible loss of 1/3 of their foliage before it affects plant health. Good luck to you!

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