Holes in plants

Asked June 21, 2020, 4:47 PM EDT

I have a number of plants this season that are riddled with holes, but am finding no insects, caterpillars/droppings, slug trails, or any other clues of what is causing the damage so I can treat accordingly. I have attached photos of some affected plants. Any identification and advice would be appreciated. Thanks. Pam

Clackamas County Oregon

3 Responses

Thank you for the images.

The shredded appearance of the damage strongly suggests slugs and/or snails. Both are certainly thriving during our recent wet weather.

You're most likely to find them if you go outdoors at 10 pm or so. Take a flashlight and be certain to check the undersides of leaves. When you find one or more of the culprits, drop them into soapy water. (If you're squeamish, use tongs or wear gloves.)

"Snails and Slugs" has a good description of their damage and describes a number of non-chemical management methods - http://ipm.ucanr.edu/PMG/PESTNOTES/pn7427.html.

I've dealt with a lot of slugs in my 35 years of gardening, and I've never seen slug damage look like this before. There is no slime trail. Some of the holes are appearing up high on a vining plant, with no damage on lower portions of the same plant. I understand that slug/snail damage is worse than normal with the weather we've had, but if this is slug damage, these are the most creative and industrious slugs I've ever tangled with. :-)

Thank you for the update.

Not all slugs leave an obvious slime trail. Also, frequent rainfall and/or showers can wash off exposed slime

Slugs can, and do, climb. When you think about it, the freshest, most tender leaves are available higher on most plants. In my previous garden I'd occasionally find one curled up at the tip of a delphinium flower stem. The growing point of the stem was gone.

Keep looking at night. Sooner or later you'll find the culprits, who ever they are. If not slugs or snails, write back so that we can discuss their management.