Bugs eating my dahlia blooms!

Farmington, UT(Zone 6b)

Help! This is my first summer gardening, so I have no idea what to do. I'm growing some Dahlia 'Duet', which is red with white tips. I keep finding that bugs are eating off the white tips just as they emerge from the bud! You can see from the picture that they eat the tips and then stop. After all the tips are gone, they then take a litle break before devouring all of the petals (I'll post another picture of that). Any ideas for keeping pesky pests away from my blooms?

Thumbnail by GardeningMommy
Farmington, UT(Zone 6b)

Here's the flower after all the feasting is done.

Thumbnail by GardeningMommy
Abilene, TX(Zone 7b)

That is a beautiful flower. How strange that they are eating the white parts first. Smart bugs whatever they are. I am sorry I cannot help. I don't think I have ever grown dahlias. Maybe I should though as they are very pretty. I know someone will come along to help you out.


Warren, PA(Zone 5a)

Hi Gardening Mommy,

Yikes! I don't know the answer to your question. This is my first year growing Dahlias too (although not my first year gardening). Ours have not bloomed yet, so I haven't experienced the bugs eating the blooms thing. You might try posting this same question over on the Dahlia forum. I gotten lots of good and friendly advice over there.

Good luck and hang in there!

Kent, WA

Hi All,
I have dahlias but I haven't had trouble with the blooms being eaten. Try posting your question in the Dahlia forum. I'm sure someone over there could help you.

Springfield, OH(Zone 6a)

If you have a spray bottle, put a tsp of dishsoap in a quart of water and spray early in the morning, that should do the trick. Depends on the bug, but most times this works, and won't hurt your flowers. Right now, the Japaneese Bettles are nesting all down inside my Dalhias, I just pick them off and squish them! Or catch them and put them in a bowl of soapy water. Argh, they make me mad!

Ayrshire Scotland, United Kingdom

Hi guy's, dont have a clue about the beetle, we may have it here and call it something else, but the buds being eaten befor the flowers open is either earwigs or slugs, if it's slugs, I would have expected you to see the slime trails by now, if it's ear wigs, you can trap them in shreaded paper pocked inside a flower pot, place this upside down on a garden cane as close to the plant as pos, the earwigs hid in the paper/straw will also do, and in the morning, drown them all in a buchet of boiling water, or shake them out and stamp on them or, set fire to the paper in a can, they feed at night like the snails, and hid in daylight so the birds dont eat them. good luck, WeeNel.

Menasha, WI(Zone 5a)

Earwigs do that damage for me. It takes place very early as the flower is opening - hence the tips are gone but the rest is fine. They will more or less live in the flowers if it's not too hot, later eating some holes in the leaves or flower. Trapping of the earwigs is possible.

Farmington, UT(Zone 6b)

Thanks everyone.

So, I'm pretty sure it's earwigs, not slugs. No signs of slug trails, and I've got earwigs that keep coming into my house, so I'm sure they're living in abundance in my yard. I found a Jerry Baker 'Earwig Elixir' recipe the other day, which consisted of garlic, water, and dish soap, and tried that on the dahlias. I'm not sure yet if it worked . . . I need to check again, and I'll let you know. If not, I'm going to try the dish soap thing, and then work on setting up traps for the earwigs. I have a dozen more dahlias that are will be flowering somewhat soon, and I really want to keep the earwigs far away from those!

WeeNel, Iike your clever little trap! Thanks for the advice.

Springfield, OH(Zone 6a)

Tell me, would you share your recipe, it you don't mind my asking, pweeeeese!

Farmington, UT(Zone 6b)

Here's the Anti-Earwig Elixir recipe:

1 whole head of garlic, chopped
2 drops dishwashing liquid

Place 1 cup of water and the garlic in a blender, and puree until smooth. Strain, then add the dishwashing liquid to the remaining liquid. Add enough water to make 1 quart of spray. Apply to earwig-infested flowers with a hand-held sprayer.

I still don't have a real report for this recipe yet, since I think the first time I sprayed it was onto young buds that already had the white tips chewed off. I just sprayed again, so maybe in a few days I can tell you what I find.

Good luck with you own pesky earwigs!

Farmington, UT(Zone 6b)

OK, here's my report on the Anti-Earwig Elixir. I think it helped a little bit, but not enough, as I still haven't seen a 'duet' with more than 50% of its white tips. I think that if I sprayed the dahlias every day it might keep the earwigs away, but if not, it's not that much of a help. Too bad!

Burien, WA(Zone 7b)

We have a local garden guru that swears his home made traps get the earwigs. He makes them out of plastic bottles. If you are interested, I can send the instructions, or post them or whatever.

Farmington, UT(Zone 6b)

Shune, I'd love for you to post the instructions, as I'm sure the others are interested as well. Thanks!

Burien, WA(Zone 7b)

OK, you take an small water bottle (empty) and cut the top off about a quarter of the way below the neck. The top piece will look like a funnel. Put a small blob of tuna fish cat food in the bottom piece of the bottle. Turn the "funnel" piece over and put it back on (in) the bottle. (The bottle neck is now pointing toward the bottom of the bottle, but not touching the bottom.) Tape them together. He makes a kind of hanger out of paper clips and hangs them in the bushes, or you can just lay them on the ground.

During the night, the earwigs come out to feed. They go down the "funnel" and then can't find their way back out. (The opening is 'floating' in the middle of the trap)

He says you have to use tuna fish cat food, because that is the only kind they like. He's kind of goofy, but he's very popular (Ciscoe Morris). This was in the paper and if it sounds too confusing, I could try to post a link to it. I haven't tried to do that before tho. If you try it, I would be curious about the result. :-)

Ayrshire Scotland, United Kingdom

the same remedy with these traps work for slugs/snails etc, but add some beer instead of tuna, tuna will atract all the neibourhood cats if they smell it and boy, believe me, these guy's will know how to open the trap, do the toilet in your flower borders as a thank you and be in a line up for the next evening feed. these earwigs are a real pest at the bud/flowering stage of the plants, but we should remember that earwigs have a huge appatite for greenfly, white fly and a lot of other sap sucking insects that we dont want, the birds also love the juicey earwigs, so ballance is better than trying to kill everything in the garden. Good luck to all your trials, one will surely work out good. Weenel.

(Zone 4a)

I have researched several home remedies on ear wigs and it seems like the easiest trap to use is a shallow dish with vegetable oil mixed with soya sauce...half and half?? Maybe try that?

Quilcene, WA

The plastic bottle described by shune works great to trap slugs. I put about a tablespoon of Sluggo in it and it catches lots of slugs. Just put it in your garden near the plant to be protected, but place the trap with the opening a little lower than the bottom, or it will fill with water when it rains and dissolve or dilute your bait.

Ayrshire Scotland, United Kingdom

By the way, I forgot to mention, the earwigs are only active at night, they go for cover in daylight which is why you probably dont see them munching your plants in daylight, but if you open one of the chewed flowers, you will maybe find them hiding in the tightly packed flower buds, Good luck. WeeNel.

Verona, KY

I just came in from checking my dahlias, and it had slugs all over it. The leaves are all mangeled up.

(Arlene) Southold, NY(Zone 7a)

Try using Bug Geta Plus. It comes in a large green container and you just apply it where you have slugs AND earwigs. It has worked miracles for me. For the first time I have uneaten 'Fireworks' clematis!

Dublin, CA(Zone 9a)

Be careful with that one if you have pets, it has metaldehyde as one of its active ingredients which is extremely toxic to pets. A safer option is Sluggo or any other product with iron phosphate as the active. I'm not sure if it works on earwigs or not, but it does work on slugs.

(Arlene) Southold, NY(Zone 7a)

Sluggo does work well for slugs but, sadly, not for earwigs.

Springfield, OH(Zone 6a)

Pirl, help me , I need you and your sissors to come get these stupid slugs away from my dalhias!!
BTW, How are you doing?

(Arlene) Southold, NY(Zone 7a)

Well, thanks, and I did spend sufficient time with the slugs and the scissors today, then I applied more Bug Geta Plus. I should buy stock in Ortho! All my newly planted dahlias get a sprinkling of the Bug Geta Plus and so do the hostas. They're just not pretty when they're half eaten.

Woodbury, MN(Zone 4a)

Vinegar kills slugs too, makes them fizz. (Really gross and cruel, but slugs deserve no less...) You have to spray them, and not the plants, though. I discovered this when spraying weeds.
I usually use Sluggo, but after going through a 25 lb bag last summer, I supplement with diatomaceous earth.
My carnations get the buds nibbled off; I'm going to have to try the earwig trap!

(Arlene) Southold, NY(Zone 7a)

Which earwig trap? Not the grapefruit one, I hope!

Woodbury, MN(Zone 4a)

I think the oil and soy sauce. We have neighbors who don't bother keeping their cats contained, and I swear I'm gonna poison the next one that craps in my garden, so the tuna fish one is a no-can-do. I didn't see a grapefruit one, or did I miss it?
BTW, I think the "Earwig Elixir" will also work on vampires. ^_^

(Arlene) Southold, NY(Zone 7a)

The grapefruit earwig catcher is half of an eaten grapefruit, so you're only using the shelled out rind, on the ground overnight. They're supposed to congregate within the shell but when you go to pick it up the next day you have 100 earwigs zipping down your arm: yucky!

Woodbury, MN(Zone 4a)

Uh, yeah, I think I'll pass on that one.

Reynoldsville, PA

i have several dahilas that i planted there is something eating @ the leaves there are several little holes on them any idea whwt might be after my plants and any suggestions for any home remedies

(Arlene) Southold, NY(Zone 7a)

Earwigs and slugs are always my first two thoughts when it comes to dahlias being eaten. Sorry but I don't know of any home remedies. I've had no choice but to resort to Ortho's Bug Geta Plus to prevent the problems.

Rehoboth, MA(Zone 5a)

Mind you, I have been gardening for 62 years,this has been the first time I have small, white snails eating lilies, dahlia, Zinnia and others, I pick them up to crush them but they are simply too numerous to get them all, all other stuff, such as crushed garlic has not helped, Do you think Bug Geta Plus will help?

(Arlene) Southold, NY(Zone 7a)

Yes! Try it!

First call the places where you shop to be sure they have it.

Thumbnail by pirl
Dublin, CA(Zone 9a)

If you have pets, you might look for something like Sluggo which has iron phosphate as the active, vs the metaldehyde that's in Bug Geta and some other products--it is very toxic to pets.

Rehoboth, MA(Zone 5a)

Yes, I do have a golden retriever but he can not go where I need use it

(Sharon)SouthPrairie, WA(Zone 7a)

For slugs, I use a spray bottle with ammonia diluted to about 1/5. Spray on the little buggers and they DO melt. It also does not hurt the plants, except my irish moss, which it burns.
I have seen on other forums that if you spray the ground around the plants and also the eggs this is very effective too.
Earwigs are a real problem! Burning your home made trap means lots of add'l work making more traps! I do like the idea of the shredded paper, though, and will have to try it if I have the serious problems that some of you seem to have.

Palmdale, CA

I always urge people to use natural pesticides or traps instead of any type of human made chemicals for the safety of all animals that God/nature created. Course there are times that the only way to get rid of the problem is with the use of chemicals, but please try the natural way first before an accident happens, even for the dog that isn't supposed to be able to get into the area you are treating. One thing that you can count on with animals is that you can't count on what they will do.


Portsmouth, NH

I also try to use non-chemical options and have recently used Slug Shields specifically for my Dahlias. They work great and have little maintenance.

(Arlene) Southold, NY(Zone 7a)

I've never heard of Slug Shields but would like to know more about them. Where did you buy them? Thanks.

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