What’s Eating My Strawberries: Woodlice or Slugs?
Since I began growing my own veg, I’m come to terms with a few things, especially where pests are concerned.
Slugs eat lettuces for example. It’s just something that happens, and gradually I’ve realised that the only way to get close to combatting their prolific munching nature is to sow so many seeds that there is enough harvest for the both of you.
But what about the stuff I didn’t expect them to eat? This has taken me by surprise. You assume you’ll lose some salad leaves to the slimies, but I certainly didn’t think I’d be racing the woodlice population to my newly ripening strawberries.
After waiting what has seemed an age for ripe strawberries, I have excitedly picked several over the past few days, only to find a big hole on the underside of the fruit. On closer inspection I’m finding the hole frequented by scores of hungry woodlice.
At first, I wasn’t too concerned, but over the last couple of days it has got beyond the joke. I’ve managed to beat the woodlice to just four ripe strawberries out of dozens of the fruits.
How to Stop the Woodlice
I was at a complete loss as to what to do. I did some googling, and the best suggestion I could find was ‘grow your strawberries in hanging baskets’. That’s a lot of hanging baskets…
Nothing on the Internet seemed conclusive. Other suggestions included keeping things tidy. Woodlice like dark, damp places, so cutting off dead leaves and removing anything nearby that they can hide and shelter under is said to be very important.
Get Rid of the Wood!
And then it dawned on me. As the old saying go, the clue is in the name!
Back when I was creating my strawberry patch, I had a brief moment of attempted artiness. I’d rescued some nice old bits of sleeper and planted my strawberry plants around the sleepers.
Sleepers, which of course, are made of wood – which woodlice not only eat, but hide and shelter in.
Right there in amongst my prized strawberries are two big, woodlice-attracting lumps of wood. It’s like a woodlice paradise. Why wouldn’t they want to live there?
Woodlice… or Slugs??
However, the plot then thickened further. There is also a school of thought that a woodlouse’s teeth aren’t strong enough to chomp into fruit and vegetables, and instead they are opportunistically finishing off what a slug or snail has started.
Again, this makes sense. My garden is full of slugs and snails, and they’re not just interested in lettuce. Plenty of them gravitate towards my strawberry patch, and a quick rummage around the plants will find them hiding out there.
All of which leaves me two things to try, starting with extra night time slug patrols. If the tooth theory is true then the little woodlice aren’t actually going to cause me any problems, and flinging as many slugs into the green bin will save strawberries.
But just in case, I’ve dispensed with the sleepers, and with them literally hundreds of woodlice. The sleepers were brimming with the things, and I’d venture that their mouths were smeared a strawberry shade of red.
So for now, its watch this space as to whether the strawberries are saved, or my rescue attempt has come too late. I’ll report back if any difference is made, but if anyone else out there has any other ideas, this desperate allotmenteerist would love to hear them!