In many ways, mint is a plant form of a pest. It can thrive in many conditions that regular plants cannot, and it can grow and spread quickly. If not monitored, mint can quickly take over a garden and make it difficult for other plants to grow. But what happens if you find little holes in your mint leaves? What is eating your mint plants?
In this article, we provide you with a guide about pests that like to eat mint plants and what you can do about them. We also provide you with some techniques for keeping pests away from your plants. Let’s get started.
What Is Eating Your Mint Plants?
Before diving into how to get rid of pests that are eating your mint, let’s take a look at the most common pests that like to eat mint plants. Here are the most common potential mint pests and common signs of their presence:
- Spider Mites: Will leave speckled yellow spots and thin webbing.
- Loopers: Will leave missing and large holes within the leaves.
- Flea Beetles: Will create clusters of small holes in the leaves.
- Aphids: Small insects that stick on the leaves.
- Cutworms: Set at the stem and kill the plant.
- Thrips: Leaves the leaves curled and distorted.
What Is Eating Holes In Your Mint Leaves?
As you can see, a number of pests could be eating your mint plant. You can determine exactly what pest is invading your mint by looking at the leaves, plant, and any other identifying features. If holes are left in your mint leaves, loopers or flea beetles are most likely to blame.
Although spider mites, aphids, cutworms, and thrips are other common pests that like to hang out around your mint plant, they typically do not leave holes in the leaves. They may affect the leaves in other ways, though.
What Can You Spray On Mint For Bugs?
Because mint is typically grown for consumption, you don’t want to add pesticides to your mint to prevent bugs from eating them. This includes natural pesticides. Using pesticides on your mint can lead to the chemicals getting into your body.
Instead, you can spray a mint plant with forceful water if you need to get rid of any bugs you see on them. With the strong jet of water, make sure to spray underneath the leaves and around the stem to ensure that no pests hideout.
To prevent bugs from coming back, you can make a neem oil spray. Simply mix one teaspoon of neem oil in one quart of water. Spray the solution on the leaf surfaces. You should do this every day or so because the neem oil spray will eventually rub off the mint.
The reason why we recommend using this spray is that neem oil is safe to consume in small quantities. Even though there are neem oil sprays on the market, we recommend making your own to ensure no other chemicals are within the spray.
Even though neem oil is safe to consume at this level, still wash your mint leaves thoroughly before eating them. You should do this anyway, but we thought we would mention this tip as a helpful reminder.
How To Stop Bugs From Eating Your Mint Plants
In order to stop bugs from eating your mint plants, you need to know what type of bug is to blame for the damage. As we already mentioned, loopers and flea beetles are most likely to blame for small holes in your mint leaves. Here are tips for getting both bugs away from your mint plants.
Loopers will often attack the mint plant. The cabbage looper will most commonly eat mint within a household, but alfalfa looper may also find your mint plant delicious. Loopers are a type of caterpillar that consume foliage and can reach lengths between one and two inches. Most will have a shade of green body.
The reason why loopers are not called “caterpillars” or “worms” is because of their body movement. They don’t inch along like inchworms or crawl like caterpillars. Instead, they curl or loop to move, which is where they get their name.
Because loopers can be pretty large, they can cause substantial damage to your mint plant, leaves and stems alike. This includes chunks of leaves and stems being eaten. If there are large portions of your mint plant mysteriously disappearing, a looper may be to blame.
Getting rid of loopers is relatively easy. If you can only find one or two worms, you should just be able to pick them off by hand. Then, rinse off your mint plant to ensure that no bacteria or germs were spread to the leaves during the process.
If you have found too many loopers to remove by hand, you can use an organic compound called bacillus thuringiensis. This organic compound will kill the looper worms, but it is not harmful to any other animals, including humans.
The downside of this bacillus thuringiensis option is that you will need to trim the entire mint plant to the ground spraying spring the concoction over the plant.
Another common pest that may be eating away at your mint plant is flea beetles. Flea beetles are actually one of the most common pests for a variety of crops, including broccoli, eggplant, spinach, melons, potatoes, and more. If you are struggling with these pests, you certainly aren’t alone.
The adult flea beetle is incredibly small. At most, it will be 1/8 inch long. Its body will have a black, blue, bronze, or brown metallic color. Some flea beetle species also have stripes. One thing that is unique about flea beetles is that they have large back legs so that they can easily jump whenever they are disturbed or scared.
Because of the incredibly small body of flea beetles, they are relatively easy to diagnose as the problem. Simply look at the mint leaves. If there are clusters of small holes throughout the center and sides of the leaves, flea beetles are likely to blame.
Unfortunately, getting rid of flea beetles is a little bit more difficult than loopers since there will likely be more than one. You can try to get rid of flea beetles by using the neem oil spray method that we described above. This method will not be the most effective since the neem oil spray won’t stick to the mint well without dish soap.
A more effective method would be applying diatomaceous earth around the mint plants. This earth will kill the flea beetles whenever they crawl to it. Don’t worry. This sort of earth is not harmful to humans or other animals.
Is It Safe To Eat Mint Leaves With Holes?
The cause for the holes will determine whether or not you can eat mint leaves with holes. If the holes are caused by insects eating away at the leaves, the leaves will be safe to eat. Just make sure to rinse the mint leaves off thoroughly to ensure that no insect residue is left on them.
If the mint is damaged because of an animal, however, you should not eat the mint. Humans can contract diseases from animals. If a diseased animal caused the holes in the mint, you might be able to contract the disease as well. Throw away any mint leaves that have been damaged by an animal to prevent disease transmission.
Additionally, do not eat mint plants that are diseased with mint rust. Mint rust may cause holes in the leaves, and it will render the plant dangerous for consumption.
Is Mint Good For Pest Control?
Even though some insects like munching on your yummy mint, mint is actually considered a natural repellent for many insect varieties. Most notably, it repels many types of mosquitoes, ants, fleas, moths, and flies. As a result, many people like to use mint within their gardens to naturally repel insects from their other plants.
You can also create a mint spray to keep insects away if you don’t want to plant new mint plants. You can mix 1 medium-sized onion, 2 cups of mint leaves, 4 cloves of garlic, and 2 tablespoons of Cayenne pepper in a blender. Blend them into incredibly fine particles.
Then, strain the mixture and add it into a large jug (large enough to hold 1 gallon). Add 2 tablespoons of castile soap and enough water so that you have a 1 gallon mixture. You can spray this mixture on plants affected by pests two times a day.
In addition to insects, mint is also known to repel rodents. Rodents do not like the minty aroma, and they will stay away from areas that typically have that minty smell associated with the plant.
If you find little holes in your mint leaves, loopers or flea beetles are likely to blame. Luckily, both of these insects are relatively easy to diagnose and get rid of. Just remember not to use chemicals or pesticides on your mint plant so that you can eat the mint later on.