The Q&A Archives: Tulip Pests

Question: I've noticed small (1/4-1/2") ragged holes in the leaves of my not-yet-in bloom tulips. What sort of insect would be responsible for this damage, and what can I do to stop it? Also, one or two of my tulips appear to have been munched on -- the tops are sawed off flat. I didn't know bulb leaves were fodder for animals. Could insects have done this too? Thanks--and please answer soon, while I still have some plants left!

Answer: Well, there are a number of possibilities. Let's take the "munched" leaves first. YES, little and big critters would love those leaves. Either deer--if you have them in your neighborhood, or rabbits which I think we ALL have! Rabbits can be kept out with fencing that extends at least a foot underground. Then there's always the family dog who could be tied close to the garden...that MIGHT work as a deterrent. The cat, if you have one, would also be a threat scaring the bunny off. But if you have one, why's the bunny there? I'd go for fencing!

Now the ragged leaves might be a bit trickier. It could be snails or slugs. It seems a bit early for them in upstate NY. If that's the problem though, you could plant some little dishes of beer in the garden. Snails and slugs love beer, stop by for a sip, fall in and drown. Then every few days you dump them out and refill with beer. OR try some diatomaceous earth which actually lacerates the tissue of the insect causing it to die of dehydration. Just sprinkle it around the plants. You will need to be careful not to get it into flowers, because it could be harmful to bees. Generally, it does not harm beneficial insects. You also need to be careful because it can irritate your eyes and lungs. Wear protective clothing. Also, use agricultural varities NOT the product made for pools-that doesn't have the sharp edges needed!

Inspect the plants regularly and see if you can find the actual pest. If you see any beetles, etc. send us another question via the web page and we'll try to identify the culprit.

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