What Is Eating My Basil Leaves & How To Avoid It?

What Causes Holes In Basil Leaves & How To Avoid It

One of the most popular herbs that are easy to grow in your garden has to be basil. Ocimum basilicum or basil is popularly known, an essential herb that contains a plethora of medicinal properties. Originating from India, it has applications in the kitchen as well. Basil’s leaves are very aromatic, and you can find cultivars in an excellent range of flavors, from lemony mint to licorice.

But have you ever felt that something is feeding on your basil leaves? Or have you ever encountered holes in your basil leaves? This is because there is an array of pests that appreciate basils as much as you do. Unfortunately, these bugs/insects/pests love eating your basil leaves. With that being said, let us find out what is eating your basil outdoors and how we can prevent them from chewing away your basil leaves.

What Animals And Bugs Eat Basil?

What Animals And Bugs Eat Basil

There are a wide variety of bugs that might be happily chewing away at your basil leaves both inside and out. One of the biggest challenges of gardening is keeping the bugs at bay.

With regards to the hole in basil leaves, there are not only bugs to be blamed. Other than several basil insects, there are a few more giant creatures as well that you will find nibbling on your basil leaves. Basil is an aromatic plant whose leaves consist of linalool and estragole in high concentrations. Linalool and estragole are generally utilized in the synthesis of fragrances.

Basil leaves are also known to produce eugenol that keeps away some of the bugs as it appears unpalatable to them. On the other hand, due to an aromatic blend, eugenol makes basil leaves tasty for many other insects. Basil oil is regularly utilized in a lot of places as an insect repellent.

Numerous gardeners grow basil as their companion crop just for the sake of protecting their primary crops from pests. Ideally, basil should not attract many pests/bugs/insects, but this does not rule out the chances of basil leaves being attacked by one of these species. Here is a list of insects that may be eating your basil plants:

1. Japanese Beetles

The Japanese beetles are the main culprits when it comes to the devouring of the leaf tissue completely. They are found around a month during the summer and are pretty easy to identify because of their metallic, brown, and green colors. These pretty small (around 0.6 inches long) creatures are considered to be very destructive.

They are known to eat away all of the leaf tissues, and it is just the veins that get left behind. Not a single part of your basil can be shielded from these beetles. However, if you find your basil leaves have been devoured of, but the large veins have been left intact, you know who to blame now.

2. Caterpillars

There are many caterpillars that can infest your basil leaves. The caterpillars come in several shapes, sizes, and colors. Some caterpillars like to feed on the basil plant closer to the ground, while some of them feed on a basil plant’s leaves. You can identify them by recognizing their green or brown, or yellow color body decorated with white stripes and the best time to get hold of them is the nighttime.

Few species you might come across are cabbage looper, cabbage butterfly, large yellow underwing (cutworm), and beet armyworm. However, one thing they all have in common is that they love munching on your basil leaves. You will know the culprit is a caterpillar when you find holes in basil leaves, or chewed edges, or leaves that are rolled up and fastened with silk.

3. Slugs / Snails

If you encounter small, round, ragged holes or edges or a silvery trail of mucus on stems and leaves in the basil plant, there is a possibility that slugs or snails have attacked your basils. They are a common problem with basil grown in the garden and can devour an entire basil plant in no time. The activity of slugs and snails becomes more prevalent during the rainy season.

They usually feed on the basil leaves at night and hide under mulch, plant leaves, and rocks during the day. You can prevent them by sprinkling diatomaceous earth over the mulch, which will scrape the slug’s skin and cause it to dehydrate, subsequently killing them. You could also set up a beer trap around the perimeter of the basil plants.

4. Aphids

Not all the insects that munch on your basil leaves are large and easy to spot. If your basil has aphids, you’ll have to look hard to spot them. Although aphids are one of the most common species found on basil plants, you’ll have to take a close glance at the leaves to find them. These are however still larger than spider mites that tend to invade your plants during flowering.

They are found in large numbers on their stems and under the leaves, close to the veins. You can identify them by their black or green-colored body. They tend to suck the sap from the leaves, which in turn wilt the leaves and turn them into yellow in color. In this process, the aphids leave behind a clear, sticky substance, which ants immensely enjoy.

5. Leafhoppers

Another bug that enjoys eating the basil plants is the leafhopper. These are tiny insects that puncture and suck the plant sap from basil leaves. Leafhoppers are about ¼ of an inch and reside underneath the leaves, clustered around the veins. These bugs can damage if left unchecked, but it can give you a hard time spotting them.

If you happen to find out that your leaves have turned into yellow color around the edges and have a curled scorched look, there’s no doubt that leafhoppers have caused the infestation. The leafhoppers also secrete watery saliva that causes further damage to the garden plants.

How Do I Get Rid Of Basil Plant Bugs?

How Do I Get Rid Of Basil Plant Bugs

Growing your own plant in your lawn is testing on it’s own. Add to it the nuisance created by unfavorable soil pH, birds eating away grass seeds or such bugs eating away your healthy plants and it could get infuriating. Anyway, you can only learn and implement appropriate fixes.

You can remove larger insects like beetles, caterpillars, and slugs with your hands. You can simply pluck them off your basil leaves with your fingers and drop them into soapy water to dispose of. Whereas for insects that are smaller in size, you have a wide range of options. After spotting them, you can spray them off with a water hose. Since these little masterminds live underneath your leaves, point your water hose in that direction and spray with minimal pressure, ensuring that no harm is done to the plant.

In case you have any difficulty in noticing the insects, you can use sprays that kill the pests on contact as well as protect your plant from future problems. While utilizing a chemical insecticide, make sure to note the instructions and directions written on the bottle. Because if you apply chemicals incorrectly to your plant, it will leave your plant damaged.

An environmentally friendly solution to this can be Neem. Neem oil doesn’t only prevent these pests but also harms them if they eat it. Since neem oil is derived from neem trees or Indian lilac, it is natural and has less impact on the environment in general.

Also read: Small Holes in Lawn Overnight Causes & fixes

Final Words

Basil is such a flavourful and aromatic herb that it has a wide range of health benefits as well. No wonder several insects/pests love and enjoy eating basil leaves just as much we do. However, identifying these critters and preventing them from eating your basils is very important.

Act quickly at the first sign of pests and start removing them and the damaged leaves as soon as you encounter holes in them. With the information provided in this article, you can identify, remove, and prevent all the major type of pests and insects that has been enjoying your home-grown basil plant leaves. 

Frequently Asked Questions

If you find out holes in your basil plant leaves, it directs you to the fact that something is feeding on them. Even if small in size, remove these damaged leaves first. This is because sometimes the pests nibbling on your leaves tend to lay eggs near the area where they have eaten, and others are small enough to hide on the leaf or in the hole. Moreover, remove the leaves that are brown, abnormally moist, limp, or smell off.

Yes, you can eat basil leaves with holes in them. If the hole is due to insects, the leaves are safe to eat. However, if they are damaged by an animal, you should avoid them and throw them away. This is because it poses a threat to the transmission of diseases.

Of course, you can. In fact, bringing your basil plants indoors will indeed protect them from pests. However, a basil plant requires around 6 hours of sun. But if your house is much colder or warmer than the outdoors, you need to first make your basil acclimatized and then shift it permanently indoors. This is because plants typically don’t like sudden shifts in climate and subsequently die.

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  1. I can’t find the culprit eating my basil leaves. My plants are now indoors.

    There are not holes or ragged edges, but smooth edges cut out and partial leaves left in the morning. Seems to like the baby baby shoots as well.

    I try at night to find them with a flashlight, but I don’t see any critter. I do find a tiny oval black poop on the leaf below where they had dinner.


  2. may be rabbits if eaten to the ground at 45 degree angle i also have something at my basil not sure what to do tried diatematous earth. and a soap water spray

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