Can't figure out what's eating my chard

daisies4ever(9)October 28, 2013

I bought a house this summer and put in a raised bed a couple of weeks ago. I planted some chard starts, just to have SOMETHING going in my garden before winter. They were doing fine here in California; there are no insects around that I can see except maybe some ants. But something is eating one leaf at a time. It doesn't look like the ants are doing it.

I've been out at night with a flashlight and never see anything; haven't seen flying bugs around. What would be eating chard this time of year? My only other experience was spinach leaf miners when I lived in Washington state.

I have snail bait and diatomaceous earth around the plants to no avail.

How can I deal with this when I don't know what I've got? Any help will be appreciated.

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zzackey(8b GA)

I would look for a Katydid or a grasshopper. Those are my main enemies here.

    Bookmark   October 28, 2013 at 8:16PM
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If it isn't slugs/snails, it just may be caterpillars. Check closely on the underside of the leaves. If so, discard any that you find and apply BT.


    Bookmark   October 28, 2013 at 8:32PM
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nancyjane_gardener(Zone 8ish North of San Francisco in the "real" wine country)

Where are you in CA that you don't have insects???? Even now, with our warm fall in No CA we have plenty! Though the nights are getting very cool.
I'm with woohoo, but there could still be a grasshopper around.
I still have plenty of slugs, snails, earwigs, pill bugs, and LOTs of the little white cabbage moths that love our brasicas so much!
Good luck and happy gardening! Nancy

    Bookmark   October 28, 2013 at 8:51PM
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theforgottenone1013(MI zone 5b/6a)

A picture of the damage could help identify the chard fiend.


    Bookmark   October 28, 2013 at 9:34PM
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I'm in the Sierra Foothills. Really, the bugs have been almost zero lately and my raised bed is so new, hardly any bugs have discovered it yet. It's also a bit sterile as I put it on a gravel terrace; it's hasn't had time to get "real."

This is what my chard looks like. Huge chunks are eaten every day but I can never see what's doing it! No caterpillars around. I check many times a day and see nothing, just the evidence! I'm perplexed and dismayed :-(
See photo in link:

Here is a link that might be useful: Chewed up chard

    Bookmark   October 28, 2013 at 9:58PM
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seysonn(8a WA/HZ 1)

Without knowing your chards' size and the pattern they are eaten, another likeLy suspect : VABBITS. They are around 365/24

    Bookmark   October 28, 2013 at 11:58PM
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Nope, can't be rabbits. I've never seen one here. That chard leaf is only about 4-5 inches long. Mysterious sections disappear at all times of the day. Like it's fine one minute, half chewed out an hour later. Then more, a few hours after that. I have a direct view from my kitchen only 15 feet away and I look out and go out ALL the time. It has to be an insect. It's eating one section of leaf at a time, one leaf at a time, one plant at a time, then goes on to the next plant when it's chewed down to the ground, over 2-3 days. I swear, I can never catch it in the act!

    Bookmark   October 29, 2013 at 12:46AM
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Accidentally posted twice...sorry.

This post was edited by daisies4ever on Tue, Oct 29, 13 at 1:15

    Bookmark   October 29, 2013 at 1:13AM
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sunnibel7 Md 7(7)

Well, you think it is bugs and you haven't seen any of them, either. So maybe what you haven't seen isn't a good diagnostic tool here? :) Rabbit is my first choice. Are the stems eaten as well on these disappearing leaves? Then it is probably a rabbit or other mammal. If the thick main stem of the leaves is left behind and/or the leaves have a skeletonized appearance then insects are more likely. Your picture shows the early damage of a leaf, and I can't really tell from that.

    Bookmark   October 29, 2013 at 10:01AM
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I know, that's why I'm so worried my whole crop will disappear without my being able to do anything about it. This is definitely a stealth "critter."

Stems are eaten right down to the ground along with the leaves, which are *not* skeletonized. The photo shows the first typical phase: large chunk gone one day, bigger chunk later or the next day, gobbled down to the grround the next, then the next leaf gets started on and when that's gone, the next plant.

You know how leaf miners love spinach and chard, laying their eggs inside and killing the leaves? Well, I was wondering if anyone knew what loves to eat chard like this. Some bugs love certain things. Nothing has touched my leaf lettuce sitting right next to the chard. Whatever it is likes chard and not lettuce.

I've lived here for six months now and I've never laid eyes on a rabbit. I'm home most of the day, too, and see my garden from my kitchen window.

    Bookmark   October 29, 2013 at 10:16AM
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theforgottenone1013(MI zone 5b/6a)

Since you say the entire stems are being eaten, that points to something other than insects or slugs. And since you say you don't see any rabbits, I'm going to say that it's mice that is eating you chard. You are unlikely to see a mouse, no matter how vigilant.


    Bookmark   October 29, 2013 at 10:34AM
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All very interesting ideas. The weather just turned very cold so time will tell now. If I ever catch the thief and solve the mystery, I'll post it here. Thanks for the input.

    Bookmark   October 29, 2013 at 10:37AM
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zzackey(8b GA)

Can you put a trap out for the mice?

    Bookmark   October 29, 2013 at 11:42AM
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