do birds eat basil plants

(Last summer) something was eating my basil. I live on a third floor, and the plants were in pots in my patio, so I don’t think it was rabbits at night. I tried spraying soap with water, eggshells and coffee grounds … any other ideas?

It is important to identify the culprit to determine an appropriate course of action to take — in this case, to protect your basil crops in the future.

Since the basil was on a third-floor patio, we can likely rule out most animals that might feed on it. And though there are many squirrels in my home garden, they have never bothered basil plants.

There was a case of damaged bean leaves at the Botanic Garden that puzzled the staff until birds were seen at the plants. Watch for bird activity, and net the basil if needed. (Bird damage would look like v-shaped rips with irregular edges.)

A windy site also might lead to tattered leaves, but this would look different than damage done by an animal.

Slugs are another possibility. They feed at night and leave fairly large but smooth-edged holes. Go out at night with a flashlight to inspect your plants and look underneath the leaves too. If slugs are present, manually remove and dispose of them. The basil will be fine to eat after a good rinsing in cool water. Slugs prefer cool, moist conditions, so water pots early in the day so plants are dry by evening.

Whiteflies and aphids damage plants by sucking the juices from the leaves. They don’t make holes, though, and are relatively easy to spot. Caterpillars and Japanese beetles will eat the leaves and leave holes that tend to be more irregular and jagged than those caused by slug feeding.

The best way to solve your problem is to monitor the plants more closely to discover exactly what is feeding on your basil. If insects are the culprit, manually remove them. Insecticidal soap can be used to control some insects. Carefully follow label directions when applying it.

). Send questions to: Gardening Q&A, Sunday, Chicago Tribune, 435 N. Michigan Ave., Chicago, IL 60611-4041; e-mail to

Finding the offender is crucial to choosing the right course of action, in this case, safeguarding your basil crops going forward.

Since the basil was located on a patio on the third floor, most animals that could eat it are probably out of the picture. Additionally, even though my backyard garden is full of squirrels, the basil plants are not bothered by them.

By draining the fluids from the leaves, whiteflies and aphids harm plants. However, they don’t form holes, and they are rather simple to identify. When leaves are eaten by caterpillars or Japanese beetles, the holes they leave behind are typically more asymmetrical and jagged than when slugs feed on them.

Slugs are another possibility. They leave fairly large, smooth-edged holes after feeding at night. Examine your plants at night with a flashlight, making sure to look under the leaves as well. If slugs are present, manually remove and dispose of them. After giving the basil a thorough washing in cool water, it is safe to consume. Water pots early in the day to ensure that plants are dry by evening, as slugs prefer cool, moist environments.

The best way to address your issue is to keep a closer eye on the plants to identify exactly what is eating your basil. If insects are the culprit, manually remove them. Insecticidal soap can be used to control some insects. Carefully follow label directions when applying it.

You can tell when they arrive because they talk nonstop while working the basil. Not even for a moment. Thankfully, it sounds like a cute little “chee-yee” tweet rather than the screech of a scrub jay or the laugh of a woodpecker. But it does make me wonder what they’re talking about. Is it something more profound, like avian world peace, or is it something more basic, like repeatedly saying, “I’m eating a seed”?

In August, not much new happens in the garden. Finding some shade and biding your time until the summer’s scorching sun and intense heat give way to fall’s more comfortable temperatures are the main strategies.

A whole feathered army is working to ensure that not a single one of the early summer’s leftover herbs and vegetables goes to seed while I sit under an umbrella and watch what’s left. In the sunflower field, woodpeckers, mockingbirds, and jays engage in combat. The house finches and titmouses (titmice?) are busy harvesting the broccoli and bolting lettuce. I sometimes notice more wings than leaves when I glance down the slope to the vegetable garden in the morning.

My favorite feathered visitors, however, are the lesser goldfinches. They’re little birds, only a few inches long, with dusty olive-yellow bodies and a love for basil that no other bird seems to have. They show up in the late morning (no need to be early, I guess — they’re here for seeds, not worms), settle into the flowering basil plants on the southeast side of the garden, and get to work picking out the tiny black basil seeds from the spent basil flowers.


Can birds eat basil?

Some of the herbs that you can offer your parrot to enrich their daily routine and diet include oregano, basil, parsley, peppermint, thyme, rosemary, dill, coriander, among others. They are the same herbs we normally use in our cooking.

What animal is eating my basil at night?

What is Eating My Basil Plant? Before you can do anything about holes in your basil leaves, you need to know who the culprit is. The most common nibblers are snails and slugs, Japanese beetles, earwigs, aphids and other soft-bodied insects.

What eats basil plants?

The most common pests of basil are Japanese beetles, slugs and aphids. Japanese beetles are usually present for about a month in the summer. They skeletonize the foliage (i.e., eat the leaf blades, but do not consume the larger veins of the leaves).

Do birds eat herb plants?

If you’re gardening with vegetables, birds will love lettuce, peppers, tomatoes, and sweet corn. Parsley and dill are examples of good herbs to plant for birds. You can allow a few of your plants to go to seed, which is the stage where it flowers at the top, and the birds will nibble at that.