The Q&A Archives: Bugs eating rhubarb problem....

Question: I have grown rhubarb for over 25 years. Since I moved into a new house I have a bug that eats tiny little holes in the leaves. I spray and shortly after that they are back. I know that it is not slugs but I am thinking it is spiders. We have a problem with spiders leaving marks on our house too. You clean the house off and then they are back. I do use a yard spray around the house but it must not be strong enough. My yard used to be an open field and this is a new subdivision. Neighbors have the same problem with the rhubarb and the house... Do I have to use a strong chemical? I love the toads and hate to destroy anything that will leave them safe is the best. I have pets also..Thank you.

Answer: Rhubarb is usually pest-free, but it can be troubled by cabbage worms or a beetle called the rhubarb curculio. A rust-colored culprit, the beetle bores into every part of the plant. Fortunately, they're easily removed by handpicking. Other not-so-common pests include Japanese beetles, flea beetles, cutworms, army worms and spider mites.

Tiny holes in the leaves sounds more like flea beetle damage rather than spider mite, caterpillar or worm damage. Stippling of the leaves is symptom of spider mite infestation. Japanese beetles skeletonize leaves so we can rule those out, as well. Cutworms and caterpillars leave droppings (called frass) directly beneath where they are feeding.

Without knowing exactly what you're dealing with, it's difficult to recommend a control strategy. You might try inspecting both sides of the leaves in the morning, mid-day and at dusk to see if you can find the critters while they're feeding. Once you do, capture a few and if you can't identify them, take them to your local garden center for positive identification. Once you know what you're dealing with, you can make a least-toxic choice of control methods.

Good luck with your rhubarb!

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