What's eating the rhubarb?

Asked April 24, 2019, 11:39 AM EDT

Hello. I planted a healthy looking rhubarb plant last July (or August) and was pleased that it's coming up nicely now this spring. However, once it went in the ground last year and now again this spring it looks like it's being eaten by something. I don't see any Japanese beetles so it can't be that. Last year I sprayed soapy water on the leaves in the hopes that would help. And by the fall, I thought, well, maybe whatever's chewing it up will die and come spring it'll look fine. But it's not looking fine.
Any tips?
And will the stalks be ok to eat even with the chewed up leaves?
Thanks so much in advance for your help.
Mollie

Denver County Colorado rhubarb slugs

2 Responses

Mollie,
It's definitely not Japanese Beetle damage. They don't show up in Denver until mid-to-late June and their feeding results in distinctive skeletonized leaves. My best guess from your photos is slugs. They are common garden pests that make irregular-shaped holes in leaves and do a lot of damage. The stalks are fine to eat despite the damaged leaves.

Here's some more information about slugs and some strategies to control them: https://extension.colostate.edu/topic-areas/insects/slugs-5-515/

Thanks so much for the quick answer and solution. I've kept a few pans of beer near the plant for the last 3 days and have trapped just 1 slug but at least that's one less that's chewing on my plant. I'll keep at it.
It sounds like they're quite hard to get rid of and, as well, it could be I planted the rhubarb in the wrong spot.
Thanks for your help.
Mollie