Holes In Hosta Leaves-It Might Not Be Who You Think!

So, you walk by your prized Hosta one afternoon on a stroll and it looks like this:
Hosta "Guacamole" with damage
or this:
Hosta "Lakeside Shore Master" with damage
or this:
Hosta "Journey's End" with damage
Your first thought is probably to go and grab the beer, eggshells or the copper banding. To be honest, these things might not work. The damage in the pictures above is not from the infamous slug but from another enemy of the gardener-the cutworm. At this time of year (late Spring) cutworms are usually the culprits in my garden.
So, you ask, how do you tell the difference. Well, it seems that cutworms make larger "neater" holes. Here are some examples
cutworm damage
cutworm damage
cutworm damage
Slugs, on the other hand, are "messier" if that makes any sense. Since I apparently don't have any slug damage at this time I found this photo online of an example:
slug damage
If you still don't know which you have you can go out at night with a flashlight and look for the culprit(s). Both slugs and cutworms like to feed at night. You can also look for cutworms during the day. Here is how I do it:
Find a Hosta that is being attacked.
Hosta "Journey's End"
Gently pull back the mulch from around the Hosta
Look carefully around the Hosta, I found this cutworm at the base of the stems on this Hosta
Can you spot the cutworm in the photo below?
Now all you need to do is squish it. No chemicals needed:-)) Seriously, finding them and squishing them has been the best and easiest way I have found to control them. If you catch them early enough you won't have significant damage to your Hosta.
Here is a cutworm I found near my Hosta "Guacamole"
Did you notice how far away from the Hosta this one was? You have to make sure to check the whole area surrounding the Hosta-they can be anywhere around it. I usually will only find one cutworm in an area, but I usually check the entire area just in case.
So, the next time you have holes in your Hosta don't blame the slug, you could have a different enemy:-))
Stop by my blog for tips and gardening ideas!

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Rhonda B

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Have a question about this project?

13 questions
    on Jul 5, 2016


    on Jul 5, 2016


    • Rhonda B
      on Jul 6, 2016

      I recommend diatomaceous earth or Sluggo/Sluggo plus. They are the best products to use if you have a serious problem. Good luck:-))

    • MargaretHoulihan
      on Jul 9, 2016

      I also have used BugGettaPlus. Not just BugGetta, but the one with Plus. The holes can also be from earwigs. I have a major infestation of them this year. The BugGettaPlus comes in a small pellet form and you sprinkle it on the dirt around the plant. Do not get it on the leaves. It attracts the slugs, grubs and earwigs, so you do not want the bugs on your leaves.

  • Jeanette Bombeck Dean
    on Jul 6, 2016

    We had hail and heavy rain damage some hosta leaves..... Should those leafs be removed from he plant?

    • Rhonda B
      on Oct 18, 2016

      You can remove them for aesthetic reasons but it is not necessary. I just wouldn't remove too many because the hosta leaves produce food for the plant and removing too many might cause a set back especially late in the year.

  • Sandra
    on Jul 7, 2016

    Our area has an overpopulation of deer & at first we weren't bothered but now, they're ravenous & hostas have become acceptable menu items. I've tried spicy sprinkling, cut up Irish Spring, professional products but at some point, I forget using one of the options & suddenly, they're chewed to the ground. What do you suggest that has staying time? Ours are varied & fully established, large & when they're gone, it's a big loss.

    • Rhonda B
      on Jul 8, 2016

      To be honest-a tall fence and a noisy dog are about the only things that will keep them out but if that is out of the question try Milorganite (sold at lowes and Home depot), Deer Away Repellent Powder or coyote urine (sporting good stores). All of these products need to be applied first thing in spring and then continuously applied to keep the deer away. Another idea would be to run a radio on a talk show near the area all night to scare them. Some gardeners have also had luck with the motion sensor lights and sprinkler. Your best bet with keeping the deer away is a combination of tactics and to change them up so they do not get used to them. Hope this helps keep your hostas safe from those darn animals. Good luck!

    • Sandra
      on Jul 9, 2016

      My listed address is not correct- currect is PA, 1 hr NW of Phila. Our neighbor, head radiologist at our hospital with avocation of President of Phila Rhododendron Society, he had Amish blaze a trail through his wooded acres so they could install a 9 foot fence at perimeter & an automatic gate for cars. The rest of us deal w deer & they're so brazen that in daylight, they amble along our driveway & don't hurry unless we walk toward them. I've had a debilitating level of Lyme disease- they are more than an annoyance. No dog & not getting one! We have motion sensor lighting & that serves to help them find the 'food' & even though their sight may not be great, I think it aids them to find their way on our property. I hadn't heard of coyote urine but considering that they're accustomed to our chat & being in the yard, I doubt the radio would work. I was noting the condition of 'deer food, hostas that they now eat' during a visit to my son's house & his are eaten level to the ground. It used to be they'd eat everything else before they'd bother hostas but clearly, now, they consider it their favored delicacy! Thank you for your suggestions! I never thought I'd BUY coyote urine for any purpose!

    • MargaretHoulihan
      on Jul 9, 2016

      I use DeerOut. It is an online product that smells like peppermint/cinnamon. The deer stay away from it. A regular hand-held pump sprayer works fine. The plants need to be sprayed about every two weeks. If there is a heavy rain, I re-spray right after it. Haven't lost a bud or a leaf since using this product.

    • Sandra
      on Jul 9, 2016

      Thanks! I'll check it out! Now I need to figure out how to move me to PA where I am but then needed to do other things more than that.

    • Marsha
      on Jul 12, 2016

      I've used bird netting over my hosts and day lilies with great results!! It is so fine that I leave it on over the plants and you can barely detect it. Amazon sells deer netting which I haven't ordered yet but plan to as it looks very similar but would be cheaper. 7 by 100 ft for 18 bucks.

    • Sandra
      on Jul 12, 2016

      Thanks Marsha, I'll check that out re: deer netting. Without seeing it, I can't imagine that it wouldn't look awful but you say 'barely noticeable. Also, an earlier comment talked about slugs & showed leaves after the slug's over & that looks so much like the leaves on sweet potato vines we planted at my son's house. There has just been tragic accident caused when other driver ran into the car of my DIL, killing her mother instantly. It's that driver's 4th accident in 6 weeks with alcohol & heroin shown in her blood!. Court dates in NJ are very overloaded- they must develop a way to disable a drivers' license. Now she's in jail but could post bail & do the same to new person. We planted outside there but were upset to find that leaves were so damaged , needed to know what did it! I saw a beetle that day & wondered if that might be culprit- I need to know what will kill slugs and/or beetles. We are familiar with deer but haven't come up against every part of leaves gone but the veins. Do they also go to pepper plants? Are sprays available for that problem? It seems this is more challenging summer than all prior summers & attempts at helping my son's house have been difficult. Hostas are chewed to ground there. Here, I followed a suggestion- plant mint nearby- those remain OK! Then Irish Spring- where put- untouched but didn't know the tip meant to drill hole in bar of it & hang it above hostas- talk about remedy showing! That will but by time Fall arrives, I'll be an expert! Thank you for all the help! Ronda B from Muscatine IA, thank you, will try it all. It's a big, time consuming project, this property management!

    • Marianne
      on Jul 15, 2016

      If you go to the dollar store and buy a cheese shredder and shred the Irish spring soap around your Hostas nothing will eat them!

    • Cindy Nazareth
      on Aug 1, 2016

      Melorganite spread around the base works for me.

    • Cathie Pearce Lundry
      on Aug 8, 2016

      I use Melorganite around the perimeter of my yards along with "repel" granules. If I'm gone more than a week I put deer netting on my prized plants for added protection . Downside is I trap snakes in the net. Ugh!

  • Kathie
    on Jul 8, 2016

    will this work also for bunnies eating my hostas?

    • Rhonda B
      on Jul 8, 2016

      Fortunately rabbits are easier to keep away from hostas then deer-I have excellent results with Milorganite, any of the spray animal repellents, and even blood meal. All of these need to be reapplied regularly especially after rain to keep them away. Good luck!

    • Jeanne
      on Aug 4, 2016

      Seems like the catch and squish method would work, but since rabbits are quite tasty, why waste the meat? (I've been threatening the rabbits in my yard with that for the last year.)

    • Rhonda B
      on Oct 18, 2016

      Too funny!

    • Gloria Traylor
      on May 19, 2017

      What about neem oil?
    • Ann
      on Jun 1, 2017

      Irish spring works great for deer. I would think it would work for bunnies too.
  • Anthony Paquin
    on Jul 14, 2016

    I have the slug problem with hostas. How can I eliminate them?

    • Debbie
      on Jul 16, 2016

      Use Slug- getta... slug bait and killer. Shake it around the plant.

    • Cindy Tuxhorn
      on Sep 12, 2016

      I wash and crush eggshell then sprinkle them around the base of the plant ,they can't get to the stems and the shell will compost and add calcium to the soil...

    • Michelle Ball Baisden
      on Sep 18, 2016

      Beer in jar lids placed around your garden or flowers /plants !! They are somehow drawn to this and then you will find them awful plant eating things dead in the morning!! Change every couple days

    • Dixie
      on Sep 29, 2016

      I don't use the Slug-getta because I'm afraid the birds will think it's food. This is gross but - I pick them off at night with some long tweezers and drop them in a jar or plastic bag of salt. They dissolve - more or less.

    • Tanya Coleman McQueen
      on Mar 3, 2017

      I sprinkle cinnamon around them.

    • Priscilla Williams Bates
      on May 23, 2017

      I have heard old coffee grounds. They don't like to crawl in them

    • Maureen
      on Jun 1, 2017

      I have pet ducks. : )

  • Kaye Smith
    on Oct 11, 2016

    What causes brown leaves

  • Mary Rita Ortense McDevitt
    on May 23, 2017

    Is the cutworm the same as a grub?
    • Kat6286927
      on May 30, 2017

    • Bonnie Wells
      on Jun 1, 2017

      Q. What is the difference between white grubs and cutworms? A. Cutworms are moth larvae and white grubs are beetle larvae. Cutworms are usually a little longer (1-2 inches) than these grubs (1/2-1 inch long). White grubs are white (hence the name) while cutworms are brown or tan-colored.
      Q. How do grubs in lawn affect the grass?A. Both cutworms and white grubs live in the thatch layer of the lawn during the spring and summer. This spongy layer on the soil’s surface protects them and allows them access to food and water. White grubs eat the grass-roots, causing the lawn to wilt and then dry out. This leaves the grass more likely to die when stressed, such as during heat spells and droughts. Cutworms eat the blades of the grass, killing the top first.
    • Lynn Grooms
      on Jun 10, 2017

      How do you get rid of the grubs and cutworms in your grass?

  • Sarah Potapova
    on Jun 1, 2017

    My chickens are eating my hostas, I don't want to put a fence around them so is there a way to deter my hens?
  • Mar7689875
    on Jun 9, 2017

    I have a cabbage plant, am now finding little green egg like thingies at the base of the new leaves and a few holes, what is eating it? and who is laying eggs in there? meemaa03@yahoo.com
    thank you for any help u can give, and also what can I use to get rid of it?

  • Twilla Cummings-King
    on Jun 26, 2017

    What can you do to stop deer from eating them??
    • Paula
      on May 12, 2020

      Liquid Fence Deer and Rabbit Repellent. Comes concentrated and lasts forever. All the other stuff I've tried didn't help at all. You do have do get used to the smell, which fades quickly. Love the stuff. Directions are to spray daily for a week if you have a lot of rain. Then once a week, which trains the animals to avoid the plants. I have a LOT of hosta.

  • Albertmay
    on Jul 15, 2017

    I have newly planted petunias in the front of my hosta bed that are being destroyed by something. Safer's hasn't worked. Could this be cutworms?
  • Millie
    on Mar 4, 2019

    Can u grow Hosts in the house and do they need a lot of sun or could they live in a basement apartment.

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