Tag Archives: pests

What’s Eating My Basil?

Gina's Basil copyrighted

My friend and neighbor, Gina, texted me some photos of her basil leaves this week. Unfortunately, the first one didn’t come in right away, so I saw only the 2nd and 3rd ones until just now. The above photo (the 2nd one to arrive) shows leaves with holes in them. The 3rd photo, below, shows a worm or caterpillar on a basil leaf. Here’s that little critter:

Gina's Basil Worm copyrighted

My Suggestion: insecticidal soap

Insecticidal Soap

GardenSafe is the brand I use, and is the same photo I texted back to Gina. Normally, I use Neem Oil because it doesn’t wash off  with rain, but this time of year it is so hot around here, the oil melts and slides right off the plants. Both of these products are safe to use on vegetable plans as well as flowers. I insist on organic gardening in my kitchen garden, and these products are perfect for that. The only down-side of the soap is that, after a rain, you will need to spray again. I got this insecticidal soap at Lowe’s, and my Neem Oil at Ace Hardware, but most any good garden center should have them.

Because I missed that first photo — it was late arriving in my in-box —  I didn’t see the whitish squiggly things that Gina mentioned, and told her it was probably mealy bugs. Now that I have seen it, I see I was wrong. The squiggles she mentioned appear to be trails left behind by slugs. For more information see my April 20, 2015, post entitled, Amy Asks What to Do About Snails.

Something weird is going on in cyberspace yet again:  I emailed all the photos to myself to get them on the computer, and again, the same one is the only one that hasn’t shown up yet. Those white squiggles Gina mentioned can be seen in the top photo above on part of a leaf showing out from the main one with holes in it. Looks like slug trails to me.

Amy Asks What to Do About Snails

I saw Amy again when my wonderful composted top soil for my new herb garden was delivered (see Raised Bed Kitchen Garden is Almost Complete. This is the same Amy who asked me why her hydrangeas wouldn’t bloom. She has been reading this blog — thank you, again, Amy — and reported that her hydrangeas are now blooming. While here, she said has a problem with snails and slugs eating her plants and leaving that slimy trail we’ve all seen in our planting beds and on hardscapes such as walks and patios, etc.

I immediately told her to put salt on them to kill them. I forgot to mention to Amy that she could also place shallow pans such as jar lids or saucers with beer in them in her garden. They will crawl into the beer, then drown. I suppose I was really excited about getting that soil into my new raised bed kitchen garden.

I suspect that what Amy meant (and what most of us mean) when we say snails, is actually slugs. Both of these pests leave that slimy trail, as well as holes in tender leaves. The slugs around here are typically black, as shown in the photo below. Snails have a coiled shell which they carry on their backs. The shells themselves can be very pretty. What a shame they belong to such nasty pests. The snails I have seen here are either brown, such as the one in the 2nd photo below, or a very light tan. Currently, I am seeing far more slugs than snails in my yard, which is why I suspect that may be Amy’s problem, too. Amy, please let me know.

Slug Zoomed - mlm

This nasty-looking slug, and 3 others were on our patio, headed toward my elephant ears, and some petunias. They all met a salty demise.


Unfortunately, the morning I took this photo of a snail, it was very humid due to overnight rain. My camera lens kept fogging up on me. This is the least foggy photo I could get.

Snail Zoomed Adjusted - mlm

This snail was clinging to the stucco of our home, just above some tender hosta, caladiums, and fern. He, too, is no longer with us.


Following my conversation with Amy, I promised to look up more information about this problem. I referred to Rodale’s  Good Bug, Bad Bug. Here’s what I found:

The first thing I learned was that the jar lids or shallow pans should be sunk into the soil so that the lip of the pan is flush with the ground. It seems so obvious, I hate I didn’t think of that myself. The book did not say they would drown — only that they would be trapped. It also suggested traps such as grapefruit rinds, pots, and boards, which should be checked every morning. It’s then up to the gardener to destroy those trapped.

I cannot use the grapefruit rind method. We do not eat grapefruit because of interaction with certain medications. If you are taking antihistamines or certain cardiac medications, as well as other medicines, whether over-the-counter and prescription, please DO NOT eat grapefruit or drink grapefruit juice without first consulting a pharmacist. (I should probably mention, I am a masters’ level public health educator, too.)

Both snails and slugs prefer decaying leaves and flowers, but will also eat tender leaves, bulbs, and even stems. They will attack all tender plants, and can completely wipe out seedlings or new shoots. They are most active during periods of frequent rainfall, which is what we are having as I write this. Both of these critters’ colors can vary, of course, to include green, gray, tan and black. They can also have dark spots or patterned skin.

Rodale says both snails and slugs have eggs which are clear, are either round or oval, and are “…laid in jellylike masses under stones or  garden debris…”  They may lay eggs under any boards that may be put out as traps for the parents, too.

Amy, I hope this helps. I have a feeling we will be fighting these critters for the duration of our rainy season, which seems to have begun early this year.