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May 14, 2012 11:32 AM

what's eating my green bean plants?

I like to plant Kentucky Wonder pole beans but every year, right after they come up and start getting leaves, something nibbles holes in the leaves until the little plant dies. I've never caught anything on the leaves, top or bottom, so I have no idea what's doing this. The only thing I've found that will keep the nibblers at bay and let the plants live until they have a few more leaves (at which time they seem to be left alone) is dusting them with diatomacious earth. But this has to be done every few days, especially after a rain. Does anyone know what might be eating my plants and what else might be effective at stopping it?

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  1. maybe garden slugs. Dusting with diatmacious earth is correct.

    1. The same problem affects my bean plantings, but sometimes slugs aren't the problem. Sow bugs seem to love to eat the sprouted seedlings and the leaves.

      Sluggo Plus, which contains both iron phosphate (kills the slugs) and spinosad (kills the sow bugs), is a good choice. Unlike diatamaceous earth, the granules will last longer and through rainy periods, but they will need to be re-applied up until your bean vines start to grow rapidly.

      It's hard to catch these pests at work, as both tend to work the graveyard shift.

      You could also sow your beans in peat pots and then transplant them out when they are big and hearty.

      8 Replies
      1. re: farrago

        Thanks! I'll have to go get some of that. I had never heard of it and am glad it lasts longer than the diatomaceous earth. The seed packet for my Kentucky Wonders says they don't like to be transferred, so I've never tried that. But maybe they wouldn't mind it in peat pots.

        1. re: farrago

          Got some Sluggo Plus! Not easy to get. Only a few stores in the entire state of NY sell it, but luckily a co-worker lives in a small town where a garden store happens to have it. I'm looking forward to trying it. The person at the store told me (via my co-worker) to put a small board over it after I sprinkle it because slugs like to crawl under things. I'll have to try that next to where my bean seeds were planted. That'll help with the rain issue, too. I'll let you know how it works.

          1. re: farrago

            The Sluggo Plus has worked great! My bean plants are coming up and growing leaves without any signs of chewing. The basil, lettuce and chard are also thriving unmolested. The Sluggo Plus pellets seem to break down very slowly, so I haven't had to reapply since the first application, and we have had some rain (plus I did some watering) in the interim. Thank you so much, farrago, for the recommendation!

            1. re: AmyH

              That's great news. Please send a spell of hot sunny weather to Oregon.

              In reply to Novelli, I don't use beer in the garden as I have racoons and other inquisitive critters that cause trouble. There's not much paper (no compelling reason to subscribe to The Boregonian) or cardboard around the house. And given our usually damp weather, it's best to stay out of the garden in those conditions.

              Thus Sluggo Plus has become a good choice for me.

              1. re: farrago

                Well, as long as you're in the postition to drop some coin on it, then be my guest!

                I was just trying to provide alternate methods for anyone with the same issues that didn't want to spent the money or didn't have access to such a product.

                I'm glad this has worked out for you!

                1. re: Novelli

                  I was able to get a 2 lb jug of it for less than $20. It'll probably last me at least 5 years. I recently bought a 6 pack of Bud (for my beer can chicken) for about $11. Since I'd have to keep putting the beer traps out, and opening a fresh can each time (I could be wrong about that. Maybe there's some way to keep it?) that 6 pack would only last one summer at most. So it's probably cheaper in the long run to buy the Sluggo Plus. Admittedly, it is hard to find. I had to have someone who lives near a very out-of-the-way garden center get it for me. But it is sold online.

                  1. re: AmyH

                    eXCELLENT! but...$11 for a 6er of Bud? EGADS! ...surely you mean a 12 pack?!?

                    For me personally, I just use the cheapest, skunkiest beer I can find - i.e. 99 cent 40oz. at the local ghetto liquor store.

                    Happy Gardening!

                    1. re: Novelli

                      I would never buy a 12 pack of Bud. I'll check the price when I go to the store again, but I recall thinking it was awfully expensive for what it was.

          2. If you think it's garden slugs or snails, then yes, Sluggo will work. But if you want to save a few bucks, I would suggest putting out small containers of beer. Just pour beer into an old margarine type plastic container and put it in level with the ground. Slugs and snails are attracted to the yeast smell and will drown themselves in it. Check every morning and pull the slugs out. You'll be surprised at how many you catch.

            As far as sow bugs, I've never known them to attack or eat living matter only dead organic matter.

            It may be an issue of earwigs which does feed on living plant matter. Just ask my potatoes, collards, and chard. To put a dent in their presence in your garden, you can do the same steps as used with the beer, except put vegetable oil in the containers. They go for it and drown themselves.

            What also works with earwigs is when the sun sets, fold up some newspaper, hose it down with water, and leave it on the ground for the night, wet (you can do this in multiple areas around your garden. Once the sun comes up, earwigs make a run for the cool moist shade and burrow into the newspaper. In the morning, grab the paper, roll it up, and toss it in the trash (or dump it's insect contents into a bucket of soapy water.

            I would try some of these methods to help identify exactly what kind of pest you are dealing with. If they work and reduce the population, then great! If not, at least you'll know what you need to go after and take the nessecary steps for prevention.

            Just my .02

            4 Replies
            1. re: Novelli

              That's great advice, Novelli. I was only speaking from my experience with regard to the few problems my bean plantings have suffered in the past. Imagine my reaction to seeing sow bugs nibbling happily on the newly sprouted beans. I suppose it is all part of a different topic, i.e., finding unexpected or unusual pests attacking crops they would normally avoid.

              1. re: Novelli

                Thanks for the good advice. But the Sluggo Plus is already bought and, to be honest, I don't really have the time for setting and emptying traps. Also, I've always felt that traps tend to attract more of the pests that you're trying to get rid of. At least the Sluggo Plus is organic and easily sprinkled. I'm going to try putting some out tomorrow (we had a lot of rain late this afternoon) since something's already eating my basil.

                1. re: AmyH

                  Great thread! I found my way here from the roly-poly complaint page, and I had a hard time believe for a while that they were the culprits--until I caught them in the act. I have issues with slugs and snails, pillbugs and earwigs--all of which seem to eat my seedlings, apparently depending on who gets there first. I've tried the beer trick, which my mom (who lives in OR) swears by, but I can't seem to keep up with it. I do have extremely limited time (two small kids, full time job). I have also tried Sluggo Plus, but here's the problem: the $#@! pigeons! They will eat every single pellet they find of the stuff within about two days of application. I keep thinking I need to construct some sort of netting, but I haven't managed to get me or my husband on that yet. Out of one cucumber, six squash plants and probably 30 bean seedlings, I have two bean plants remaining. So frustrating! Now I'm contemplating planting my fall garden and dreading all the pill bugs I see crawling around in my nicely composted beds. Someone recommended nematodes, but I'm not sure they would be effective against pillbugs--any comments? Thanks!

                  1. re: Ilikebugs

                    Wow! That's crazy with the pigeons eating the Sluggo Plus pellets. I wonder if it affected them? I suppose you would have noticed lots of dead pigeons around your yard, so it probably didn't.
                    I will say that I had a terrible green bean harvest this year. Yes, the Sluggo Plus saved my plants from being eaten before they could grow, but they seemed to grow very slowly and then wilted and died. I got maybe one good batch of green beans out of them and now they're dead. In previous years they would keep producing until a freeze. (that's why I like the Kentucky Wonders). I dont' know if it was something in the Sluggo Plus or some other issue. Very strange. I may have to experiment with the Sluggo Plus next year and only put it around half of the plants.

              2. I don't think the Sluggo Plus is the cause of your beans wilting and dying.


                1 Reply
                1. re: farrago

                  Interesting. Well, I've planted that variety of beans for many years and never had this problem before, and this was my first time using Sluggo Plus, so I thought they might be connected. But it also could have been the severe lack of rain that made the plants susceptible to the bacteria or whatever. i'll have to remember to put them in a different spot in my little garden plot next year.

                2. I've noticed a species of bug (and I use that term specifically for an insect with a mouth apparatus designed for sucking the fluids out of plants) on my green beans. They are reminiscent of the bugs that attacked my squash plants the first year I planted a garden, but smaller and more brightly colored. Hmmm....