If your avocado leaves are getting holey this spring, you are due for a night hunt. Every May and June, I find myself going out after dark and finding the same culprit: June bugs.
Here’s what I do: Grab a flashlight or better yet, a headlamp. Bring along a cup with a lid. Shine the light on the tree’s canopy and . . .
You’re almost sure to see these guys in the act.
It doesn’t have to be late, just after dark is fine. It’s no big deal if the leaves of a big tree get munched a bit, but a young tree needs as many whole leaves as possible, especially the newly forming ones. So I focus my hunting on young trees.
I place the cup under the leaf and tap the leaf. The bugs drop right in. Cap the cup. Collect some more.
Sometimes I also squish the bugs right there on the leaves. Wearing a glove prevents needing to wash guts off later.
I prefer, however, to collect them because it makes me feel better to use them as treats for my chickens. Watch them enjoy a handful in this little video:
Insect pests other than June bugs
Other insects also do leaf damage on avocados. I’ve found earwigs, Fuller rose beetles, snails, and grasshoppers munching on leaves many times too.
You’ll know if grasshoppers are doing the damage because they’re active during the day and you can spot them in the tree or see them flutter away when you get close.
But if it’s earwigs (pincher bugs), Fuller rose beetles, or snails, you need to follow the same routine as for June bugs and visit the tree after the sun goes down; they’re all active at night. And they’re all collectable or squishable. I’ve found that if you go out at night and collect or squish all you find for a couple nights in a row, you’ll have significantly less damage for the next couple weeks.
If you have chickens, then let them scratch under your tree. They’ll find and eat most of the damaging critters in only a couple minutes.
See these pages at the University of California website for more information on controlling these pests that cause damage to avocado leaves:
You might also like to read my post:
I’ll have to check this out!
Very timely! Thank you
I’ll have to try the same technique to see what’s munching on my two year old semi-dwarf mandarin. Any guesses?
Love the video! I’ll have to look for June bugs!
OMG, I literally JUST came to your page to ask you about this issue.
Unfortunately, where my trees are planted, I have to use chickenwire-like fencing around my trees as I have much larger “leaf munchers” in my neighborhood (i.e., deer). That being said, I do not have access to the leaves. Are there any other methods (perhaps bugs that eat June bugs) that might work?
I know. I’ve been watching you.
Birds will scratch below the trees and eat the June bugs. I have more leaf damage this year compared to the last couple years because I haven’t been running my chickens under the trees enough, but I’m pretty sure I’ve seen scrub jays picking up some too.
Your deer protection might be disrupting this.
If it weren’t too hard, you could give yourself access and collect bugs two or three nights in a row and probably knock the population down enough for the year.
I too was coming to the site today to post the same question. My poor young leaves have been getting decimated. I’m off to hunt this evening.
Great Chicken Video!
Is there a organic systemic insecticide to control bugs like june beetles or earwigs? The new leaves on my young Sir Prize tree are being decimated by either june beetles or earwigs right now.
I feel for you and your Sir-Prize. I’ve got a couple of little trees that seem to taste like candy to the bugs this year. I don’t know of any such insecticide. On a positive note, our trees will survive the onslaught and if we’re patient, we’ll get a summer flush of leaves that are untouched because these bugs generally disappear by late June.
I am an aspiring Avocado farmer with about 15 baby trees. I have just come back from holidays to discover my trees are under attack from something (bitten leaves, droopy leaves and some with brown spots) I am going to go out at dusk and look for bugs to squash as you’ve recommended but wondering if you might have other advice? I have photos I can send/post?
I live in Melbourne, Australia and have grown these from seed for the last 5 years. I am hoping its something that can be turned around / treated.
Thanks for your blog!
I hope you’ve found who has been damaging your baby trees’ leaves. It’s very possible that you have different critters in Australia that find avocado leaves tasty. On the optimistic side, I’ve never lost a young tree to such munching, which tends to be only seasonal. Your trees should recover.
Thank you so much for responding!
I had a tree doctor come and look at them and he also said they should recover.
They haven’t deteriorated anymore and are starting to get new growth so I do think they’ll be OK.
Also glad to hear you’ve never lost a baby tree to munching.
& the issue made me find your blog, so all in all very positive 🙂
Good morning Greg,
I live in Northern California and my avocado plant has taken a turn from flourishing green to being eaten and turning into dread leaves. I water every morning and at night. Attached are photo. I need some assistance with your expertise please. IMG_2720.HEIC
Sorry, but there’s not a way to attach photos here. Have you gone out after sunset with a flashlight to see if any critters are on the leaves?
I’m in hot, rural, southeast Texas. I hope I haven’t already lost my young avocado tree, but I just brought it inside. My problem is with grasshoppers, though we also have June bugs. Never seen them munching, but have seen them hanging around the large pot the tree is growing in. The leaves are almost completely gone now.
Is it possible for the plant to survive if I put a sheer or mesh covering over it? My brother wondered if even a clear plastic bag could protect it from the ravenous beasts.
It looks like they have even taken bites out of the stalk!
The pot was super warm as I moved it to the cold air conditioning, and it will only get very limited afternoon sun inside. Ideally, I would like to put it back outside, if it survives, and only bring it in during the one or two times it actually gets down to 32 degrees here.
Sorry about your little tree’s struggles. I’ve got one small one that seems especially tasty to animals right now too. If yours has almost no leaves then your enemy is the heat/sun. I would paint the branches with white latex as sunscreen and consider shading it lightly although this time of year the sun starts to weaken so this might only be necessary during warm spells until late fall.
I been growing my avocado tree for 3 years starting it off inside from the kernel of an avocado and put it outside in a part shaded area during the warm season and bringing in during the winter. Its been inside now over a month and I’ve noticed that something is eating the leaves. I examined the tree and leaves thoroughly but did not see any critters or insects. What could be in my house eating the avocado leaves…?
I poke around in the potting mix. You might find an insect hiding in there.
My Fuerte since the end of July has grown from 3.5 feet to now 6.5 feet, and made it through the hot summer sun, the Santa Ana winds, and then the downpours we had around Thanksgiving. However, since then something has really started to want to dine on the newer leaves. Lots of holes in these maturing leaves, and chunks taken out as well. Not sure what the sudden culprit of this would be, but are there any known insects this time of year in the Los Angeles/ Socal area that might be hungry for Avo leaves? If so, any recommendations? Also, how tall do grafted Fuerte’s need to be to flower/what month would this occur? Thanks as always!
Good to hear that your tree is growing well. Nice job caring for it through its critical early days.
This time of year (December) I see grasshoppers eating avocado leaves throughout the trees (high and low) and rabbits eating leaves and twigs down low. I have started to see numerous earwigs over the past few weeks, but I haven’t noticed them feeding on avocado leaves yet.
Your Fuerte is certainly tall enough to flower. This doesn’t mean it will, but the potential is now present.
Fuerte is a strange variety in that it can start blooming earlier than most varieties in certain climates. I’ve seen Fuerte trees in such locations as National City, Chula Vista, and San Clemente bloom as early as October. These were particular sites where both the nights and the days are relatively warm; they are up on hills but within a mile or two of the ocean.
I’ve also seen Fuerte trees in other locations already starting to bloom now (December). But for many cooler Southern California locations, Fuerte doesn’t start to bloom until January or February. My Fuerte usually starts in February because it is in a relatively cold spot (both day and night). And usually Fuerte trees in all locations continue to bloom through May.
Since your tree is small, you can expect its first year or two of bloom to be of short duration.
My speculation was grasshoppers since they like to devour my herb garden which is relatively close( 25 ft away) from the Fuerte. The only reason why I wasn’t sure is because the majority of the leaves affected have only a single square shaped hole. Though there are definitely other leaves which look gnawed/ and or multiple holes as well. Will keep an eye out for Earwigs too. Is there any danger of the tree suffering from grasshopper or other non mite type leaf munching?
It would be really exciting if the Fuerte flowered this winter. Wasn’t expecting it to since it was only in a 5 gallon container when I planted it this summer. But in fairness, I have seen other 5 gallon ones that seemed far less mature. so I could perhaps surmise all 5 gallon trees aren’t at the same maturity, and soil/care/environment really affect how quickly it grows. I’m about 19 miles due east of Santa Monica at about 300 ft above sea level(rare frost but fairly hot summers). My climate is probably in-between those coastal higher elevations, and your locale, so perhaps some January flowering if it’s meant to be.
If it does flower and make any fruit, should these be left to mature or picked off? I’m worried that it’s too skinny at the taller parts of the tree, and it could put too much stress on it.
Thanks and happy winter avocado-ing!
Usually the munching that bugs do to the leaves of young avocado trees are more irritating to look at than harmful. I tolerate quite a bit of munching before making much effort to stop it, but I do try to stop it if it keeps happening for a while.
It’s always a hard decision when a young avocado tree tries to hold more than a few pieces of fruit, but fortunately this rarely happens. Young avocado trees often set a lot of fruit in spring only to drop almost all of them in the early summer. So for your tree, being six feet tall, I’d let it flower and set fruit naturally. Then in the summer if it’s still holding more than about a handful, I’d remove some. But Fuertes aren’t known to be precocious so this is unlikely to happen.
It’s never a bad thing to remove the flowers or young fruit if you feel the tree is too small to handle them though. The consequence of doing that is usually that the tree grows more vigorously than if it were holding fruit, and it will be capable of holding a bigger crop the next year.
Thank you so much for your website. It is SO informative!!
I am a brand new gardener and planted a Holiday avocado tree. It has holes on some of the leaves with some leaves having the edges bitten off, and and one of the leaves has white rings on it. Do you know what it might be? Thank you in advance!!
Thank you! Not sure about the white rings on the leaves, but snails can chew avocado leaves in the manner you describe. There are more snails around in my yard and everyone else’s I’ve visited this year than any year I recall. You’ll usually find the snails down low or on the inside of the tree and on the underside of leaves.
Hello, I found some white sticky substance on top of my avocados this year. Never noticed before. I can’ seem to find any info on this? Have you seen it before? Can I treat it? I have pictures if would like to see. Its only the second year this tree has grown any fruit. It is only 4 years old. One year in bucket, 3 years in the ground. Thanks!
Is this white sticky substance on top of the avocado fruit or branches? Does it dry into a powder gradually or remain sticky? If you taste a little bit, is it sweet?
Any guesses as to who’s chomping these leaves?
That certainly could be grasshopper munching. I’ve seen them do that on my trees before. The amount of damage on your tree is no big deal though. That’s a healthy tree. Nice work.
I’ve got a Hass that is fighting for its life because every time it sprouts new leaves, something is eating them. Tonight, I went out hunting for june bugs and instead found silver fish. I couldn’t find anything online about silver fish eating avocado leaves so I wondered if you had seen or heard of this.
Additionally, I have a small fuerte just six feet from the Hass and the leaves on the fuerte are almost completely untouched.
Thanks in advance for any advice.
Wait!! After doing a bit of research, I believe they might be earwigs. How do I get these nasty little fellows to leave my Hass alone?!
I’ve got a couple small trees getting munched right now too. It’s that time of year. The good news to keep in mind is that as the weather warms these critters become less numerous.
I deal with earwigs at night just like with June bugs. You can also rustle around the mulch and dirt near the base of the tree, which is where the earwigs hide all day. They often live in large groups so if you discover one you’ll usually discover many. I scoop them into a bucket and then feed them to my chickens, but you could also just smash them or trash them.
Had small beetles on my new apple tree that were consuming all the young leaves, then they moved to young growth on peach and even macadamia tree. Spent 3 hours on the internets trying to figure out what they were with absolutely nothing definitive.
Then went to YardPosts and found this article and looked at the first picture. Thanks Greg, you saved me again.
Yes, we did it!