What's eating my vegetable plants?

Asked June 25, 2019, 9:53 AM EDT

I've recently noticed that something seems to be nibbling on my pole beans, cucumbers, and zucchini. I've attached pictures. On all of these plants, I see leaves completely gone with just stems left. I'm hoping you have an idea of what's going on.

Kent County Maryland

3 Responses

Hi- deer, groundhog, and rabbit are all possibilities and in MD these critters co-occur where fencing is not in place or is inadequate. Rabbit is more likely to feed on bean vines less than one foot high. Deer and groundhog will feed on almost any garden plant.

Please read our web pages on these animals to try to determine which may be dining in your garden.

Keep a sharp eye out especially at dawn and dusk for a direct sighting. Fencing is the surest way to prevent wildlife feeding. Many vegetable gardeners use 7- ft. high polypropylene "deer netting" combined with 3 ft. wide chicken wire along the bottom.

We have a fence and use a deer spray recommended by our local extension office. I don't discount that it could be an animal, but are there any bugs that leave evidence like this as well? Perhaps slugs? When we've had deer get through, they usually wipe out the entire plant or much more than this. These signs are scattered through the garden. I also haven't seen any rabbits. I haven't seen any, but perhaps it could be groundhogs. I'm just curious if you know any bugs that could leave these same signs?

Thank you!

Hi- slugs would feed on soft leaf tissue close to the ground and leave slime trails. We don't know of insects that would produce the feeding symptoms you are seeing. The bean plants, in particular, look like they were nipped by something larger than an insect. When squash flowers fall off male flower stalks or female flowers and small fruits drop from flower stalks it may appear that something has chewed through a stem. Let us know if you discover a culprit.