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Gardening Answers Knowledgebase


Knowledgebase record #481


PAL Question 

My small patch of strawberry plants has this year suffered from green fruit dropping off, forming neat piles under each plant. Each fallen fruit has a short bit of stem still attached. A few fruit are still attached. No sign of slug or squirrel damage, no signs of fungus of insect attack. The weather has been colder and wetter than average. Owing to natural layering, the plants are closer together than when first planted. This happened a couple of years ago, but we had a good crop last year. Any idea what's going wrong?

Answer 

I wonder if this might be the work of cutworms. You can take a close look just under the soil surface, along the stems, and inside curled or folded leaves during the day, or take a flashlight at night, which is when they feed, and see if that may be why your strawberries are being cut away from the plant. If you find them, cut them with garden pruners.

Washington State University's pest and disease site does list the cutworm as a known pest of strawberries. Excerpt:

"Cutworms and armyworms are the larvae of noctuid moths. These common moths are medium-sized with fairly dull coloration. The greenish, grayish, or tan caterpillars are hairless, nocturnal, and generally spotted, striped, or otherwise marked. They may be 1/4" to 1" in length and tend to curl up when disturbed. They may climb into the plant and feed on foliage, buds, flowers, or fruit. Armyworm behavior is similar to that of cutworms, but armyworms feed in large groups instead of individually. They tend to be voracious feeders. The caterpillars typically spend the day just beneath the soil surface or under debris near the host. Weeds are a primary food source for both cutworms and armyworms."

I looked at Pests of the Garden and Small Farm by Mary Louise Flint (University of California, 1990), but could not find any strawberry disease resembling what you have observed in your garden, which leads me to believe it is a pest problem. Here is a link to U.C. Davis's Integrated Pest Management page on strawberries.

Keywords Fragaria, Cutworms, Fruit--Diseases and pests
Season All Season
Date 2007-06-28


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