Real Men Sow

What’s Eating My Strawberries: Woodlice or Slugs?

Posted on by in pests, summer with 7 Comments


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.

What Next?
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!

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  1. JimJune 15, 2015 at 11:42 amReply

    Pigeons are eating mine, along with the dwarf beans, and digging up my pea plants. Also something has decimated my cut and come again lettuce, not sure what this is. If all the animals could input into my money saving spreadsheet that would be good!

  2. Julieanne Porter (@GwenfarsGarden)June 15, 2015 at 6:12 pmReply

    I’ve occasionally had those kind of holes in my strawberries and it is usually slugs. I try and remove dead leaves etc so they have less places to hide.

    As for the woodlice, sounds like they are opportunists. It will be interesting to see if things change now you have removed the sleepers. Do keep us informed.

  3. victoria wilsonJune 19, 2015 at 3:27 pmReply

    do what i do. i put out a bowl of cat biscuits. they prefer chomping through those to my plants!

  4. Helen BalawajderJune 23, 2015 at 2:13 pmReply

    There’s a rat eating mine!

  5. MattJune 25, 2015 at 6:48 pmReply

    I’ve had problems with woodlice eating strawberries. Interestingly, we haven’t bothered with straw or matts this year as the soil is dry and my feeling is that fewer fruits have been nibbled.

  6. AnneSeptember 9, 2015 at 9:07 amReply

    My strawberry plants are in a hanging basket (plastic) and the woodlice are eating the fruits just as they ripen.

  7. Steve JonesJune 24, 2016 at 7:10 pmReply

    I have only just found your site, and I would like to offer my tale of woe. This is the first year I have ever had a problem with woodlice eating my strawberries but there are hundreds of them and they’ve got a taste for my strawberries. I don’t understand it maybe it’s a collective conscience thing or something. Anyway great post.

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About Real Men Sow

meIn 2007, I took on a redundant allotment plot with my gardening-mad mum Jan. As all good mums do, she went along with it, but I don’t think she held out much hope. However, over a decade later, and she now lets me do stuff without watching over my shoulder, so I must be doing something right. [ read more ]

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