Hey stop eating my Clematis!

hey-whos-eatin-my-clematisSomething has been nibbling on my unknown & Dr Ruppel Clematis in the new garden bed.  Anyone have any ideas what kind of pest could be making these unsightly bite marks all over the leaves of my climbers?  Hope they don’t start on the large unopened flower buds as dessert afterwards!  I’ve never had any problems with pests on my Clematis foliage in the past so your guess is as good as mine what could be causing this damage.  I didn’t see any signs of insects nearby.  Spraying isn’t something I do in my garden since I want to attract beneficial insects and keep my family & pets safe.  So I may have to just wait and let nature run it’s course.  However I could try a homemade remedy like dishsoap & water once the weather clears up.   Wish me luck!  🙂

UPDATE:  I went out last night like some of you recommended and it was Earwigs as Balisha suggested.  I caught one of the little buggers in the act!!!!  Thanks for all your suggestions & help.


27 responses to this post.

  1. Oh My God! That looks like butchery! Which rascal did it? Did you check for aphids on the underside? LOL! I know, whenever I hear someone say pest, I’d scream ‘APHIDS’ ‘coz I’ve become sooo allergic to them off late, what with a colony of it affecting my plants! I hope the dishwash soap and water works. Good luck, Racquel!

    I’m not sure but it looks like some of the others had some good suggestions. Yep I checked on the underside but no sign of the pesky aphids. Thanks Chandramouli. 🙂


    • Posted by sandra on August 18, 2012 at 5:12 pm

      my clematis was well over 6ft and very healthy till two weeks ago theres hardly any leaves on and the stems have been stripped too its definitely snails there was trails up to the bedroom windows ive put slug pellets down and hey presto loads of them but had to cut it right back


    • Posted by danielle on June 16, 2016 at 1:03 pm

      diatomaceous earth, readily available in most garden centers, helps with most critters, i also purchased praying mantis eggs,


    • A little black bug ate all the leaves on my clematis….What and HOW do I get rid of them. This happens every year and my plant is all ate up again for this year too.


  2. Have you heard my sermon on, ‘make sure it is soap and not detergent’? Detergent washes the bugs and soap dries them out dead. Ivory is soap and most dishwash stuff is detergent. Ignore all that if you already know.

    I would guess slugs with all the rain we’ve had. They are climbing a bit higher since they are out in droves and have multiplied so greatly. How far off the ground is that right now? Since you can’t see any bugs then it must be a slug or those pesky caterpillars that launch out about right now. You reckon?

    Detergent won’t kill a slug. You have to put out a wet rolled up newspaper and then check it in the AM. The slugs will have crawled inside for the day. Or a wide plank laid on the surface of the soil will do. Check on the underside in the am.

    Nope I didn’t hear your sermon about detergent vs soap. Thanks for that tip, it’s very useful. Don’t think it could be slugs since this is a good 6 ft off the ground and I’ve never seen a slug climb that high. The caterpillars might be the culprit. I’ve seen slug damage on my hostas though. I’ve had some success with sprinkling broken bits of shell around the emerging new hosta foliage to keep them from eating them before they unfurl. Hmm…a predictament is what I have here.


  3. If its slugs try Beer in saucers so they climb in and don’t climb out!
    It is early for grasshoppers. They will eat like that too. I hate bugs that do that to pretty foliage)-:

    I’ve done that in the past with much success. I will have to take a closer look when the sun sets this evening. Thanks Cindee!


  4. Hi~~ Aphids are sucking insects and this leaf damage is definitely of the biting/chewing kind. If you were to sprinkle a bit of slug bait (there are very low toxicity brands now) you’ll see a dead critter the following morning.

    Flower garden girl suggested the caterpillar and in my opinion this is also a strong possibility. A lot of times the caterpillar will roll a leaf around itself. I’m assuming it’s to hide but it does just the opposite. I just take them out and squish them. Let us know how it works out.

    Hi Grace, I didn’t think it looked like the typical damage you see from Aphids either. I’ll try the slug bait thing too, thanks. I might have to wait till the sun sets in this area to check for the culprit.


  5. Posted by greenwalks on April 18, 2009 at 1:59 am

    So sorry about your clematis! Those pesky critters… I had a climbing hydrangea that was ravaged by cutworms once but this doesn’t look the same. One thing you’re supposed to do, I hear, is go out at night with a flashlight and nab them in the act. Somehow that’s just a little too horror-movie for me, but you might be braver. 🙂 Good luck, I’d be mad if I were you!

    Thanks Karen. I plan on making a trek into the garden this evening (with flashlight in hand) to see if I can catch the culprit at work. I am mad, just hope it doesn’t eat the buds that are forming right now. 😦


  6. No no … what’s doing that? I think it’s either the naughty slugs or hungry caterpillars. Do something before they get worse. Those soap and water will do it, I hope! Good luck!

    I don’t know yet, but I will get to the bottom of it Blossom. I’m leaning towards the caterpillars since this is about 6 ft off the ground, a bit high for slugs. Plus I haven’t seen any slimy trails. Thanks!


  7. I’d do the soap and water thing, too. There is a natural insect repellant that I use that is made from cinnamon oil. Can’t think of the name of it at the moment. I also use Neem Oil mixed with soap and water (apply after the sun off the plant in the evening).


    Thanks for the suggestions Cameron. I wonder if the Neem Oil would be effective against caterpillars too?


  8. What in the world! I’ll have a closer look at mine now, and I just bought a Dr. Ruppel yesterday for my lattice.

    Dr Ruppel doesn’t seem as effected as the unknown variety, but it’s still upsetting nonetheless. You will love him, he’s a sweet little Clematis. 🙂


  9. I have no idea, Racquel, but it looks like you have gotten some good advice already. I was going to suggest the soap and water, too, but now I’m going to remember Flowergardengirl’s advice about the right kind of soap–I didn’t realize that. I hope it works for you before whatever it is does any more damage.

    I left a comment on your earlier post about the firepit, but I missed the previous one on getting ready to plant…gotta go, I’m heading over to Bluestone Perennials to check out any sales!

    That’s okay Rose, looks like some of the others might be on the right track with this pest. Wasn’t that a great tip of Anna’s about the soap & water? Blogging is so educational! Hope you find some great deals with Bluestone! 🙂


  10. I have had trouble with earwigs in the past. I know they love clematis. Here’s a tip that I found to get rid of them. Keep the garden tidy, eliminating hiding places. Control by reducing population. One way is to create a trap. Invert pots filled with dried grass on stakes. The earwigs will hide here during the day. Earwigs will also hide in moist balls of paper that have been placed on the ground, close to plants. Every few days, discard the paper balls.

    I will have to try that tip to see if it is earwigs, thanks Balisha!


  11. Your poor clematis. 😦 My first thought was it looks like slug or snail damage. They can really do a number on a plant and quickly too. Have you seen any of their telltale slime trails? That’s always a good indicator. Good luck! And have a great weekend. 😀

    I know, it looks so horrible right now with all those holes & bite marks! I haven’s seen any slime trails but I will go investigate tonight when it gets dark so I catch the culprit in the act! 😉


  12. I’m guessing a caterpillar, looking at the damage and seeing holes in the center of the leaf. I’d do a midnight check with a flashlight!

    Thanks Tessa, that’s the plan for tonight. After doing some research online I’m wonderfing if it’s cutworms that came in with the mulch I just got. 😦


  13. I have no idea but something is chewing it up! It seems so early for pests…but they are already in the gardens! I hope you discover what it is, so you can put a stop to it making a salad bar out of your clemmies! gail

    I figured it out Gail last night on my venture into the garden with a flashlight. EARWIGS! I hate those things! Hope there is time to keep them from destroying my Clematis.


  14. Not something you want to discover. I wish I could help. I hope it’s as simple as slugs?? I’ve never had a problem with anything on my clematis(s) before either. Let us know when you find out so we can all be on the lookout and good luck solving the mystery.

    Nope couldn’t be that easy Kathleen. I posted an update on my post today on the culprit!


  15. Posted by thefinancefiend on April 19, 2009 at 2:28 am

    I was going to go with Balisha about the earwigs. They like to hide in mulch, so if you don’t have Aphids, but did in the past I would blame the earwigs. They have to crawl to get up, so putting some diatomaceous earth around the plant should stop them.

    If its cutworms (moth larvae) you will need to put a paper collar around the stems of the Clemantis. Diatomaceous earth should also take them out. And if you have a good garden center nearby, you can buy some nematodes to eat the cutworms.

    Balisha was correct in the figuring out my culprit! Last night my venture into the garden with a flashlight turned up an Earwig. Thanks for all the suggestions! 🙂


  16. Hey, it wasn’t me! 🙂

    LOL, Monica! 🙂


  17. Last year my hanging basket on the deck started to just go limp and die. I decided that it didn’t look good… so why keep it? I dumped it out and between the cocoa mulch liner and the dirt were hundreds of earwigs.They were eating the roots. Nasty little pests.

    Yuck, those are some nasty little pests indeed. Hope my Clematis survive the damage they’ve received thus far.


  18. Posted by Kathy :) on June 14, 2009 at 8:21 pm

    I too lost all my purple flowers on my clematis…I planted it 3 years ago and this is the first blossom…I wonder if I could use a soapy mixture to kill any bugs ???


    Sounds like it could be a pest. I would definitely try the soapy mixture first. Has it been getting enough moisture this season, that could be another problem as well. Thanks for stopping by Kathy. 🙂


  19. I have a clematis for 14 years and it is a beauty. I already have flowers on it and it is almost 8 ft. tall, all because I loosed the dirt around it. Usually the flowers don’t come out till July. But I noticed that the bugs are on it , and I need a cure for the bugs,, HELP!! And every fall I cut it down to the the bottom..

    I had a horrible time with mine last year, but it seems better this year. Now I did spray with a product called Safer Insecticide. 🙂


  20. Posted by Ruth Spencer on July 4, 2010 at 12:48 am

    My Clematis Mandchuricas and Radar Loves have been stripped down to the bare stems by a grey bug that is soft bodied. There are hundreds of them (one for each leaf it seems) and I have been trying to manually kill each one, but each day there is a new population. They have a sort of beetle shape, and are about 3/8 inch long. I have never seen these guys before, but this is the first year that I have had the clematis vines (started from seed). Those bugs strip the small plant in a few hours.

    Anyone know what they are called?


  21. Posted by Carol on April 27, 2013 at 2:42 pm

    My problem is that something is eating the roots of the clematis….I thinking of putting garlic or moth balls at the base. Any suggestions?


  22. Posted by Cheryl on May 23, 2014 at 9:33 am

    my clematis was dug up and roots strewn around ? What ????


  23. Posted by Theresa Hartley on September 10, 2014 at 7:21 pm

    Ruth Spencer… The bugs I have sound just like yours! Did you ever get rid of them, if so, how? Driving me crazy!


  24. Posted by David on July 2, 2017 at 8:27 am

    W have a new Clematis which has grown about three feet and was doing very well. Today I have found two stalks have been broken off. Has anyone any idea what is causing this as this is the second time this has happened.


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