Garden Guides, How to Keep Bugs Off My Strawberries

How to Keep Bugs Off My Strawberries

21 September, 2017

Strawberries are a popular fruit to plant in home gardens because they take up very little space, are beautiful to look at, and if taken care of properly, can yield plump juicy strawberries. Strawberries are susceptible to damage from bugs. Keeping bugs off your strawberry plants can be done organically with the use of natural household items, or with chemical insecticides. It is also important to plant strawberries properly to attain a healthy strawberry plant that will be less susceptible to pests.

Plant your strawberries in tgood soil. Talk to your local garden shop to find out if the soil in your area is conducive to growing strawberries. Add soil amendments to achieve a soil pH between 5.5 and 6.5. Adding organic materials will achieve a rich soil for strawberries.

Choose a good location to plant your strawberries. Strawberries require good drainage and ample sunlight. Strawberries can be planted in pots, in flat ground or on a gentle slope. Strawberries resist pests better when they are not overcrowded. Avoid planting strawberries near tomato, potato or pepper plants. These plants attract fungus that can spread to strawberries.

Pull weeds as they appear in your strawberry garden. Weeds attract pests, which can damage your strawberry plants. Use mulch to prevent the growth of weeds.

Wash your strawberry plants once per week with soapy water or neem oil. Mix one teaspoon of dish detergent in a spray bottle and fill it to the top with water. Spray the leaves with the soap mixture to remove aphids. Follow the directions on the neem oil bottle for mixing and application.

Grow garlic or chives in your strawberry garden. Many bugs do not like the smell of these two plants, including aphids. Bugs will avoid your strawberry plants to stay away from the smell. You can also plant marigolds among your strawberries, as they repel bugs.

Spray strawberry plants with water. Use a hose end sprayer to knock spider mites off the plants. Spray the undersides of leaves as well.

Treat your strawberry plants with an insecticide labeled for use on strawberries. Follow instructions for the number of days between use and harvest. Mix and use according to manufacturer’s recommendations.

Eliminate slugs and snails from your garden with iron phosphate granules. Use approximately 1/2 lb. of iron phosphate for every 500 feet of garden space.

Entomology – Insect Biology and Management

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Time to Think About Sampling Spider Mites in Strawberries

While it is still cool outside, February is the time of year when North Carolina strawberry growers should begin preparing to monitor twospotted spider mites, the most frequent and often most damaging arthropod pest of southeastern strawberries.

When should I start monitoring twospotted spider mites?

Twospotted spider mite activity is affected by both temperature and day length. A portion of the population becomes reproductively inactive during winter when day length is shorter, and twospotted spider mites are inactive at temperatures lower than 50°F. Mite sampling should begin in February or March when daily high temperatures are consistantly above 50°F.

How often should I monitor twospotted spider mites?

Under ideal conditions (68°F and dry), twospotted spider mites can complete a generation in as little as week. Therefore, we recommend that growers monitor spider mites weekly in order to keep trap of potentially rapidly growing populations.

How should I montitor twospotted spider mites?

We recommend that growers collect 10 leaflets (one lobe of a leaf) per acre and observe the number of mobile mites on this sample. Mites can be observed on individual leaves with a 10x or 20x hand lens, or all the leaves in a sample can be combined onto a single glass plate using a mite brush and observed under a microsope, as described in our latest Specialty Crop IPM video:

How do I know when my mite populations are too high?

Twospotted spider mite feeding most significantly effects yield in strawberries when it occurs prefruiting, so the treatment threashold for mite populations early in the season is 5 mobile mites/leaflet. When plants are fruiting and growing rapidly, they can handle higher mite populations, so we recommend treating post fruiting only if mobile mites per leaflet exceed 15. Practically, what this means, is that for your 10 leaflet per acre sample, you have reached threshold prefruiting if you have observed 50 mobile mites, and you have reached threshold post fruiting if you have observed 150 mobile mites. Be careful not to confuse mobile pest mites (twospotted spider mites) with beneficial predatory mites.

What should I do if my mite populations exceed the treatment threshold?

If mite populations exceed the treatment threshold based on plant growth stage, management is justified. Both conventional and organic management recommendations are available from the Southern Region Small Fruit Consortium Strawberry IPM Guide and the NC Agricultural Chemicals Manual.

More information

Written By

Dr. Hannah Burrack Professor and Extension Specialist (Berry, Tobacco and Specialty Crops) (919) 513-4344 [email protected] Entomology & Plant Pathology
NC State Extension, NC State University

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