9 Main Basil-Eating Culprits You Have To Look Out For

Last Updated on April 15, 2024 by Real Men Sow

Many basil-eating culprits consume the basil plants, both inside and outside. But it’s not just insects that are to blame. You might also find other pests, such as basil insects, nibbling at your crops. Let’s now look at the top nine culprits and what you can do to eliminate them when growing your basil.

Why Are These Basil-Eating Culprits Consuming My Basil?

Basil plants- may it be sweet Thai or Tulasi are very fragrant. The leaves contain high levels of estragole and linalool, compounds used in the production of fragrances. Eugenol is also produced from the leaves, which makes basil leaves delicious to us but not to most insects. 

Basil oil is often used as an insect repellent. Even gardeners often use them to protect their plants against pest attacks. However, that does not mean the plant itself is safe from pests.

1. Slugs and Snails

Basil grown in the garden is prone to basil-eating culprits like snails and slugs. They are most active at night and after rain. Look out for small, circular holes at the leaf edges or a trail of mucus along stems and leaves to identify their presence.

You can effectively deal with snails and slugs, but you must be fast. They can quickly eat a whole basil plant, especially if they are in large numbers.

Basil-Eating Culprits Prevention

Although they can cause a lot of destruction, snails and slugs are easy to control. Prepare a bucket of soapy liquid and go into your garden in the late evening, especially after rain.

Check each plant, and pick the snails and slugs up manually. Then, you can throw them into the soapy mixture. You can also make a barrier around your basil plants using coarse materials like crushed eggshells, sawdust, or coffee grounds.

2. Caterpillars

There are many types of caterpillars. These caterpillars are often the larvae of many butterfly and moth species, such as the cabbage looper or cabbage butterfly, large yellow underwing, cutworm, or beet armyworm.

These basil-eating culprits all love to eat basil leaves. You can easily spot them by looking for holes in the basil leaves or chewed edges. Also, look out for leaves that have been rolled up and secured with silk.

Basil-Eating Culprits Prevention

Caterpillars are just like slugs or snails in that they have many natural predators. These pests can be found in songbirds, ladybirds, wasps and some species of wasps.

Pick them up by hand or wash them in soapy water. You can also spray the leaves with a solution that contains Bacillus thuringiensis. When the caterpillar ingests it, these non-toxic bacteria disintegrate the its stomach.

3. Aphids

Aphids are a common basil-eating culprit, indoors and out. They can be either black or green, forming colonies along the stems and underneath the leaves near the veins.

Aphids eat the sap of leaves and cause them to turn yellow and wilt. They will produce a sticky, clear substance that ants love. Ants are known to ‘farm’ aphids. This protects them from predators and allows them to produce sweet nectar.

Basil-Eating Culprits Prevention

Aphids are very stubborn, especially if they have ants to protect them. However, they can be managed easily. Ladybugs, soldier beetles, lacewings, and aphid wasps prefer aphids as their prey . This helps to keep their numbers under control.

Potted basil can be easily treated with aphids by washing the leaves under the tap or using a hose. This will get rid of their colonies. Spray the leaves with a solution made of neem oil and other essential oils.

4. Bush Crickets (katydids)

Although they look very much like grasshoppers, katydids are often called bush crickets. Both adults and nymphs consume leaves. In some cases, however, they may eat fruits and aphids.

Katydids are most active at night and can often be heard chirping late in the season. Although they are rare, basil plant bugs can cause severe damage to plants when they become hungry.

Basil-Eating Culprits Prevention

It’s unlikely that you will have a katydid infestation in your garden. However, it is advisable to be vigilant. Birds and other small predators will eat the nymphs and adults.

Spray the leaves with neem oil or homemade pepper and garlic spray. The nymphs will be discouraged from eating the leaves if they taste bitter.

5. Japanese Beetles

The metallic, brown, and green colours of this species of scarab honey beetle make it easy to recognize. They are usually about 0.6 inches (15mm) in length. They can be pretty destructive, especially in summer.

These insects can eat any part of your basil plant, including the roots. The adults eat the leaves and the larvae eat the roots. If the large veins of your basil leaves are not broken, Japanese beetles have likely visited them.

Basil-Eating Culprits Prevention

You can pick up adult Japanese beetles by hand and dispose of them in a bucket with soapy water. Spray the leaves with cedar oil or neem oil to protect them. This will give them a bitter taste.

It can be difficult to get rid of soil larvae. It is best to use beneficial nematodes in spring before there are any infestations. Sprays containing Paenibacillus populiae can also be used. These bacteria are responsible for the milky spore illness in Japanese beetle-grubs.

6. Leafhoppers

Leafhoppers are small insects that suck the plant sap from basil leaf. They can grow to a quarter inch (6 mm) in size and are found under the leaves, clustered together around the veins.

Although leafhoppers are difficult to identify, they can cause serious damage if not treated. You can see signs of leafhopper infestation by curling leaves, yellowing around the edges and a scorched appearance, also known as ‘hopper burn’.

Basil-Eating Culprits Prevention

Diatomaceous earth is a great way to protect basil plants against leafhoppers. It is usually sold as a powdered form of this natural rock. Spread it around the base to keep the adults away.

Spraying Kaolin clay solution onto the leaves and stems will also work. This will create a powdery layer which irritates both adults and nymphs. Organic pest control can also be done with the nymphs.

7. Leaf Miners

Many insects are eating basil leaves, including moths, flies and beetles. The common trait they share is the digging of tunnels within the leaves by the larvae.

It is easy to spot leaf miner damage: The leaves will be covered with squiggly lines or patterns. It can turn yellow or brown in severe cases.

Basil-Eating Culprits Prevention

Because the larvae consume the leaves from the inside, leaf miners can be difficult to eradicate. They are protected against natural predators and insecticides are applied directly on the leaves.

Prevention is the best treatment in this instance. Before the adult females have a chance of laying eggs, spray the leaves with neem oil and an organic insecticide. To prevent pests spreading, you can also cut infected plants and set them on fire.

8. Spider Mites

Spider mites are a nuisance, especially when they are not caught in time. These tiny insects live under leaves and sucking sap. They then create a web like spider web to protect them while they feast.

Spider mite infestations are most obvious in leaves that have yellow or brown spots, or are curling up. If you see webs, check the underside of your basil leaves each week.

Basil-Eating Culprits Prevention

Although spider mites aren’t insects, they are closely related to ticks and spiders. They don’t respond to pesticides or insecticides in the same way as other bugs.

A mixture of isopropyl alcohol and water is the best home remedy for spider mites. Spray the bottom of the leaves with 1 part alcohol to 4 parts water once per week. Repeat the process for one month, spraying a new solution every time.

9. Pets And Other Small Animals

Your basil plants are not only being eaten by insects and bugs, Cats and dogs, in particular, will love to eat the basil leaves. Wild birds, rats and possums can also eat basil grown in the garden.

It is easier to keep small animals away than protect your basil from insects. Basil grown indoors is best kept out of reach by pets. You can keep your garden pest-free by using wire mesh or netting that is held up by a support structure.

Basil-Eating Culprits Takeaway

Remember that for most of these basil-eating culprits, there are biological controls or non-chemical ways of removing them from your basil crops. There’s no need to use up all your insecticides at once if you can take some time and look into suitable ways to combat undesired pests attacking your Tulasi and Sweet Thai growing in your garden.

Real Men Sow
Real Men Sow

Hello, I’m Pete and I’m currently based in the west of Scotland, in a small place called Rosneath, where I’m exploring my garden adventures. I personally started gardening around 6 years ago and initially, I started out by growing my favorite fruits and berries, such as strawberries, Raspberries & Gooseberries. Since then I’ve added a lot of vegetables and working closely with my neighbor, it’s been a lot of fun.