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The Strawberry Thief

 
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Something eats our strawberries - every single fruit gets a nice little bite taken out of it before we get a chance to enjoy it. There are slugs and woodlice aplenty but my gut feeling here is a mammal (or whole family thereof, more likely!) is starting the feast and the invertebrates are moving in later. I suspect rats/mice/both. I DO NOT want to trap or poison (yes, I know about the diseases, I still don’t want to kill them) so has anyone had any success with deterrents, please? Living in soggy south east wales, semi rural next to a stream - rats and mice are inevitable!
 
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Hmm, around here chipmunks would be the most likely culprit.  Do you have a fence around them that would at least slow down a medium sized rodent?  

Maybe you could plant a lot of catnip around to attract feline predators to repel small furry critters?
 
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Mice and shrews are terrible for strawberry wrecking.

The only places I see getting an actual harvest in my area are either:

1) Growing at scale in a big open monoculture field so that hawks and owls can really get good access..

2) Physical barrier; netting or wire secured to ground.

3) Cats and chickens all over the place, no mice. But usually chickens get into the strawberries!
 
Arwen Hutchings
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Mike Haasl wrote:Hmm, around here chipmunks would be the most likely culprit.  Do you have a fence around them that would at least slow down a medium sized rodent?  

Maybe you could plant a lot of catnip around to attract feline predators to repel small furry critters?



Actually there’s no fence at the moment - we net against birds but I’ve been thinking some sort of rigid wire frame - more like a fruit cage - would be more durable and might offer a little rodent protection. The cats around us are too pampered to be decent mousers. Our terrier has boundless enthusiasm but no ability in the pest control department!
 
Arwen Hutchings
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D Nikolls wrote:Mice and shrews are terrible for strawberry wrecking.

The only places I see getting an actual harvest in my area are either:

1) Growing at scale in a big open monoculture field so that hawks and owls can really get good access..

2) Physical barrier; netting or wire secured to ground.

3) Cats and chickens all over the place, no mice. But usually chickens get into the strawberries!



I’d love chickens but husband says it’s a step too far for him! I think the physical barrier is the answer. Actually this may work to my advantage because I might find a way to make it modifiable into a rigid covering which might also give some protection to extend the growing season... hmmm...
 
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Are you 100% sure it's not birds? Blackbirds especially love strawberries if the holes are on the top I would suspect birds rather than rodents, but if the holes are on the bottom then voles most likely  followed by mice.

Simply put you cannot deter them, you can hope to add predators, foxes, weasels, stoats, cats, raptors... etc etc.  but that won't stop them totally it may bring it down to a level you are comfortable with.

if the holes are very small and on the underneath then it could be slugs from start to finish. I have a lot of strawberry plants (over 1000) and I found losses got worse as the season went on, mainly birds but some insect damage as well. The number of voles in my garden has exploded, so I will probably have to trap this year. You can use live traps and then move the offending rodents several miles away, but personally I find that highly irresponsible as you're just passing your pests on to someone else.
 
Arwen Hutchings
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Thanks Skandi, actually, we do have a lot of blackbirds... though we do net the bed, though I admit I get fed up with the net sometimes and give up and remove it. The holes are mainly on the bottom but can be quite big... it COULD be all slugs... I’ve just taken possession of about 5 Christmas trees from friends and colleagues so I can collect the pine needles and mulch the beds, I thought these might help deter slugs if it’s them! I agree about trapping. All that will happen is more will move in. There is a boundless supply of voles! (And I’m cool with that, lots of things eat voles!)  I’d be delighted if a weasel moved in but I don’t think we’re quite rural enough. I’ve seen stoats deeper into the countryside but we’re kind of suburban/semi-rural here. We probably do get foxes...
 
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Small bites out of each seems to tally with slugs in my experience.  

For those guys, either leave a shallow tray of beer out for them to drown in and/or line the strawberry planters with copper.  Just like how antifouling paint for ships works, softbodied creatures can't touch copper or it will burn their gooey flesh.  You can get self-adhesive copper tape at most hardware stores.

I think you're right about birds.  They'd usually carry off the whole berry.  But I saw this idea and thought it was clever:


Basically paint up some rocks so the birds carry those off... and get a rude surprise!

Maybe worth a try anyway since you may have more than one kind of visitor. ;)
 
Skandi Rogers
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K Eilander wrote:Small bites out of each seems to tally with slugs in my experience.  

For those guys, either leave a shallow tray of beer out for them to drown in and/or line the strawberry planters with copper.  Just like how antifouling paint for ships works, softbodied creatures can't touch copper or it will burn their gooey flesh.  You can get self-adhesive copper tape at most hardware stores.

I think you're right about birds.  They'd usually carry off the whole berry.  But I saw this idea and thought it was clever:


Basically paint up some rocks so the birds carry those off... and get a rude surprise!

Maybe worth a try anyway since you may have more than one kind of visitor. ;)



Oh I'd forgotton about that idea, I'm going to try that this year got plenty of rocks and left over red paint, I doubt they have to be terribly realistic. I don't find the birds carry them off at all, they often just take one peck from each, but even if they eat the entire thing they leave the mangled remains on the plant, this may depend on the size of your troublesom birds though!
 
Arwen Hutchings
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I do put out beer traps but there are so many slugs! Wales is very wet! 😂 I had seen articles about the stones and I’d forgotten all about it, I like this idea a lot, I’ll try it, the painted stones are so cute anyways! I have had good success with copper tape to protect hostas, so it’s certainly worth a go, and I have leftover copper pipe somewhere so I guess I could just lay that in the bed! Thanks so much everyone for your suggestions and advice!
 
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If the holes are mostly pea-sized or smaller, I would focus on the slugs. Mice & voles tend to eat larger portions and often leave chew marks.
If you believe there is a rodent problem, snakes will be happy to assist you with that. Snakes also eat slugs!

You may consider creating some snake habitat to encourage them to hang around and patrol the area.
Judging by the skins I find, they tend to prefer large cordwood piles topped with black plastic. They also like stacked piles of bricks or boards.
If you like landscaping, dry-stacked retaining walls makes for great snake habitat.

For slug deterrent, you might try coffee grinds ...just sprinkle around the plants to create a barrier.

You may also try thinning out the plants and/or removing dead leaves to get rid of slug habitat.
Side benefit: mice will have fewer places to hide and you can see the snakes!






 
D Nikolls
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In my case you can see the tooth marks from little rodent teeth, if you look closely.

Not easily confused with jagged/triangular beak damage, or round/shapeless slug damage.. at least, not if you have a good sample size, and it's not a mix of multiple assailants..
 
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Sometimes rodents are mostly looking for something to quench thirst.
Maybe set some water nearby.
 
Arwen Hutchings
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Lots of great tips here, thanks everyone! We definitely HAVE rodents - I’ve seen them! - but from your descriptions  I’m starting to think the damage might actually be more slug than rodent! I love the idea of having snakes. The snakes native to Wales are less commonly found in gardens but we do have slow worms which are actually a lovely type of snake or lizard I think, and they’ll eat slugs. I’ve seen one, once, in the garden and can easily create more habitat for them so I’ll try that. Coffee grounds are also easy as the cafe at my place of work gives them away for free. Thanks so much everyone, I’m really grateful to you all for taking the time to respond.
 
K Eilander
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Pete Podurgiel wrote:
For slug deterrent, you might try coffee grinds ...just sprinkle around the plants to create a barrier.



Could work well in conjunction with the beer trap.  You know, if the slugs are a little hung over the next morning...
 
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