I usually know some bug was hungry when I see holes in my plants. That’s the case with most greens in the garden, including Basil. That’s not the only sign of critters, and you may want to know what to look for when inspecting plants.
Related To: How to Bring a Dead Basil Plant
What are some signs that a bug has invaded my basil?
Concerning the holes, it’s their shapes and textures reveal that some little creature has enjoyed one of your most delectable crops. Usually, you’ll notice a ruggedness around the areas where bugs have bitten, and they also might have black near or around them. In some cases, the dark spots and discolorations are signs of bug feces.
Besides the holes that you can sometimes even see the ground from, you might notice slimy substance on the stems. Sometimes, this substance is mucus, and it shows up like the translucent overtones of some precious gems. This shiny presence could also indicate the presence of larvae, which are bugs not fully grown yet.
What parts of the basil plants do bugs eat?
Different bugs have different preferences. Some of them might feed on the plants that barely started sprouting. Others might wait until the stems grow a little taller and the leaves reach full size.
Certain species will even eat the entire plant, and worse yet, some of them literally “suck the life” (the sap) out of a basil plant. At least some bugs are more resourceful. Like a human who only believes in taking the life of an animal if the entire animal is used, some critters will use or consume an entire basil plant.
What bugs bother basil the most?
These tiny, pear-shaped insects are usually green or brown, but they sometimes have a yellow, black, gray or red shade. They have six legs and soft bodies that make them easy to squish. They usually don’t cause much damage, but they do feed on basil plant sap, like the way a mosquito sucks human blood.
Most people know what a caterpillar looks like. They’re often brown when they mature, and they look like a worm. Some young caterpillars are green, but others look even more like a worm than the adult ones do. They typically munch on basil leaves.
Flea beetles seem to do the most damage to basil plants. They attack younger plants and saplings. They are often black but not always. Any presence of a small, black bug, by the way might also be the reason your basil plants look darker in multiple spots where they didn’t before. Some creatures are so small that you can’t distinguish them up close, but flea beetles are usually a bit bigger than fleas on cats or dogs.
Japanese beetles sometimes make holes you would barely notice, but other times, they devour the entire leaf flesh. They typically eat leaves not fully formed yet, however; If they feed on larger leaves, they won’t eat the veins. Young (the larvae) Japanese beetles will usually feed on the roots.
Leaf Miners (ex: moths, flies, or beetles)
This term classifies a variety of different types of bugs, including some beetles, moths and flies. They dig their way into leaf tissue and oftentimes will not consume the veins, which reminds me of scraping chicken off bones as much as possible with my teeth. Grasshoppers, which only spring forward not sideways or backward like a leafhopper, eat like a leaf miner.
Unlike leaf miners, the leafhopper category of bugs does not eat leaves or stems. They just suck the sap out of a plant. The evidence that they may have intruded a basil plant is the presence of overly curly leaves and yellowing around the edges.
This bug is not quite like a caterpillar, but it does have some features of one. The way it moves sort of reminds me of other wormy creatures or maggots. It’s another sapsucker just like the leafhoppers.
Snails and Slugs
They can destroy entire basil plants if you let them. They typically start out with the leaves and stems though. You can put up a variety of barriers, such as crushed eggshells, coffee grounds or wood ashes, around your basil plants to deter them. Apparently, you can trap snails with stale beer too.
When I first read about this, I thought it was a misspelling and was supposed to be “bear traps,” but no. Its stale beer buried in an open bowl or saucer just beneath the earth’s surface. They literally drown in an open container because they can’t resist the yeast.
These animals feast on sap of leaves like other leafhoppers do. They take it one step further, being the arachnids that they are. They spin webs like traditional spiders do to protect themselves while eating. Leaves sometimes turn yellow and curl up because of the extraction of liquid from inside a plant.
Both young and adult trips will extract sap out of plants the same way that leafhoppers do. They will suck the sap out of any part of a plant they can, including leaves, stems, buds and flowers. Some trips remind me of a mosquito because they look like them and feed similarly.
One more sapsucker, it extracts all fluids from a plant until it turns yellow. If it takes enough of the sap from your basil, it could die. At the least, your leaves could become inedible if you let the problem progress too long, even if the plant does live.
They usually appear after sundown, and they feast on leaves and flowers. It’s one cricket that chirps at night. I personally like the sound of them and wouldn’t mind designating a spot for them if I could control that but wouldn’t want them to eat all my plants. It’s tough to tell them apart from grasshoppers, but here’s how you can.
How do you eliminate bugs attacking my Basil plants?
It may depend on the kind of critter attacking your plant if you identify it using the above descriptions, you shouldn’t have much problem. If you’re not sure what method to use for your infestation problem, use your best judgment based on these examples.
To Stop Minor Aphid Infestations
Minor pest infestations don’t usually cause too much plant damage. For container basil, rinse your plants under the hose or under a faucet, which will remove aphid colonies.
Otherwise, you can spray outdoor plants using mild pressure from a water sprayer. Keep in mind that this method works best if you remove aphids when they first appear. This gives you an example of why you should not neglect to inspect your plants for too long.
To Get Rid of Larger Bugs
You might find removing larger bugs, such as beetles, easier as long as they don’t bite. You can pull larger insects from your basil leaves with your fingers. Then, toss them in soapy water. You can perform the same against when removing caterpillars from your basil plants.
In fact, you could make use of any empty quirt bottle you have. Fill it with about a quarter-inch-high amount of dish soap, which should equal at least four to six large squirts. Then, add water to that.
When using the dish soap method, make sure you cover the entire plant from top to bottom – the leaves and stem all the way down to where the bottom of the plant meets the soil surface.
Don’t worry either. The detergent is non-toxic, and you can find a biodegradable detergent that doesn’t have any phosphates, dyes or other substances in it that would harm your plant’s soil.
Multi-Purpose Eco-Friendly Methods
To prevent these black spider mites from multiplying and killing your basil, combine neem oil and water in a bottle and spray on the leaves.
You might not find neem oil as readily available as cayenne pepper, however. So how effective is this hot, spicy food in the defense against critters attacking your basil?
“Its powerful scent prevents many kinds of bugs from entering your garden and destroying your herbs,” says Mo Plants, a supporter of using Cayenne on Basil.
Mix cayenne pepper and water in a spray bottle, and aim at your basil plant leaves, and you will find it stops these vile little creatures from eating your plants. It only takes about a ¼ cup of cayenne every few days and mixing it with water can prevent leaf burning.
It’s also possible to spray cayenne pepper throughout your garden dry without the water. For potted basil, you only need a pinch or two sprinkled on the soil’s surface.
You can also spray the stems and leaves with a Kaolin Clay solution, which is a powdery coating that both young and mature bush crickets find unpleasant. By the way, the Environmental Protection Agency has deemed Kaolin Clay “safe for humans and the environment.” It provides an alternative to chemical pesticides, which don’t usually get a favorable environmental safety review.
How do you prevent bugs from eating Basil plants?
Prevention always starts with early detection. I understand you might not have any more time than I do to keep tabs on your herbs. However, you must remember how much funds and time you invested into them already just by shopping for them or raising them from seeds.
Some insect pests can multiply by the hundreds before you know it, and that’s not something I knew. Concerning this, I found out it’s best to monitor your basil plants very early in the morning or very late in the evening, so you need to catch them in action.
If you catch them in time, you can prevent your plants from becoming either leafless or lifeless, or both. Now, you may want to consider methods of eradicating them now and learning how to prevent them from returning. I’m not sure if I’d have time to check them every single day, but I’d check them until I at least know I resolved the problem causing damage to my plants.
If You’re Growing Basil Indoors
I found out you can grow basil plants indoors, so that’s what I’d probably want to do to prevent animals from feasting on them.
I’ve been planning to try indoor growing because it eliminates having to use pesticides. However, I don’t have the only solution. Besides, it’s not a 100% foolproof action against all bugs because bugs find their way inside too.
Anthony Soon has other ideas. This BugWiz expert says, “If you are growing basil indoors, this will prevent you from having to take it outdoors to rinse it down using the previous method.”
There’s another method for getting rid of aphids on indoor plants that I found interesting too. See, one disadvantage of having the basil indoors is because the bugs that don’t normally feed on them won’t be there. However, there’s a solution I think is genius.
You can take the basil you grew indoors them outside in an area where other bugs can feed on them. For instance, ladybugs eat them, and you probably will see these in your yard throughout most seasons.
Caterpillars, blister and soldier beetles, hoverflies, damsel and assassin bugs, and hoverflies also eat aphids. Likewise, predatory wasps might much on them.
If You’re Growing Basil Outdoors
You will have the benefit of positioning your basil to grow near the bugs that will eat the aphids that normally feed on them. However, you also might want to just spray them down with moderate force using a hose and spray nozzle. Don’t use too much pressure or you might lose all your plant leaves.
Can I eat the basil that a bug has chewed?
If you inspected the leaves and know it doesn’t have any bugs, it’s probably safe to eat. You want to soak the leaves in vinegar for at least a few minutes before you use them.
This will provide a natural antibacterial step that will still make your basil safe for human consumption. Otherwise, you could let them soak in a sanitized bowl of dishwater for about a minute.
In other cases, you’ll need to rinse the basil off thoroughly to minimize vinegar or soap taste. It’s good to rinse for about 30 seconds.