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What’s Eating My Sunflower Leaves?

Sunflowers are not only lovely annual plants, but they also have a variety of uses. Sunflowers are a vital source of edible oils, attract birds to the garden, help detox contaminated soil, and their seeds are edible.

However, people are not the only ones that benefit from this beautiful flower. Many birds, animals, and insects also love feeding on this plant.

What's Eating My Sunflower Leaves

So, if it’s your first time growing sunflowers, you shouldn’t be surprised if the leaves and other parts of the plant are eaten.

If you notice such a thing, the best way to deal with the culprit is to find out what’s eating your sunflower leaves. This will help you to deal with the problem amicably.

When it comes to dealing with these pesky creatures, avoid using hazardous methods. Not all insects are bad, such as spiders that feed on the lace bugs and beetles.

Here are some of the animals, birds, and insects that may be feeding on your sunflower leaves.


Grasshoppers are one of the first culprits when it comes to eating sunflower leaves. These creatures love feeding on the sunflower’s foliage.

Unlike lace bugs that suck the sap from the leaves, grasshoppers eat leaves. If there are a few grasshoppers in your garden, this may not be an issue.

But if there are in large numbers, then your plant may be in danger. They may feed on the leaves, stems, and even flowers.

The best way to eliminate grasshoppers in your garden and from your sunflower plant is by getting rid of weeds, apply garlic spray, raise chickens, or dust leaves with flour.

Alternatively, you can introduce grasshopper predators, such as praying mantis or toads.


Another common insect that loves feeding on sunflower leaves is the beetles. There are different types of beetles, and most of them love feeding on young foliage. If you detect these insects, you should deal with them immediately.

If the beetle attacks a mature sunflower, there will be no considerable damage. But if the sunflower is small, the insect may have a serious effect on the sunflower’s growth.

Most types of beetles, such as Mexican bean beetle and Colorado beetle, can be eliminated by handpicking them from the plant. Other methods of eliminating these pesky insects include spraying them with neem oil, attracting beetle predators, or spray them with insecticides.


Aside from beetles, clearwing moths are other borers that may feed on your sunflower leaves. These feed on the leaves and flowers of the sunflower.

In no time, they may weaken the plant and even kill. Moths are the worst as they feed and lay eggs on the sunflower. When the eggs hatch and turn into larvae, they will feed on the flower and leaves, leaving behind a weak plant.

If moths have become a burden in your garden and are destroying your sunflower plant, you can eliminate them in several ways.

The first is by introducing predators such as bats in your garden. Secondly, get rid of their larvae early before they grow into adulthood. Also, you can use insecticides to eliminate them from your garden if there’s a need to do so.


Cutworms are also a problem for your sunflower. However, these are not as troublesome as the insects that we’ve looked at above.

But this doesn’t mean that they are not harmful as they can be when they are in large numbers. Cutworms are easy to detect as they usually leave behind holes in the sunflower leaves.

Dealing with cutworms is easy as they usually feed at night and burrow into the soil during the day. These creatures usually are fat with grey or dull brown segmented larvae, while adult cutworms are generally brown or dark grey. Also, these worms are common in May and June.

Cutworms can be eliminated by handpicking them at night when they get out to feed. Remove the debris and weeds that might shelter and feed the larvae cutworms. Last but not least, you can delay planting by a few weeks.


Caterpillars not only destroy your sunflower plant but other plants in the garden as well. Caterpillars are the larvae of butterflies and moths.

There are various types of caterpillars, which makes it quite challenging to get rid of them in one way. For instance, some caterpillars can be touched while others can’t.

The best way to eliminate caterpillars is to find out which type of caterpillar you’re dealing with.

Note that most caterpillars appear in the fall. The best way to handle most caterpillars is by planting early. A healthy garden grows quickly and strongly.

Another way is by handpicking them. Since some caterpillars are dangerous, you should wear garden gloves when removing them from your sunflower plant. Also, you can attract predators such as birds on your landscape.


Aphids are a common problem in most gardens. These pesky insects are usually black or light green. They can also be found in grey, brown, yellow, and white colors.

Also known as plant lice or greenflies, aphids can be found on the underside of leaves, stem bases, and even on flower buds. These insects will suck and eat the leaves slowly by slowly. They love biting the edge of the leaves.

Eliminating these insects is easy and fast. You can remove them by using your hand. This method is quick and not harmful to other good insects on your sunflower. Secondly, you can introduce predators to your gardens, such as insect larvae, birds, and other insects.

Also, you can use insecticides, especially if they are in large numbers. Aphids multiply quickly; thus, you should deal with them as soon as possible.


Even though birds can be a plus in your garden, some may hurt your sunflower plant. Birds are common after the flower has developed, and seeds are almost ready for harvesting. However, some birds feed on the sunflower leaves, such as the lesser goldfinch.

Unlike insects, birds cannot be picked, and more thorough methods may have to be applied. The best method for protecting your sunflower is by building a barrier.

This will prevent birds from accessing your plants. You can also use bird scare tactics, such as loud noises or baits that resemble predators.


If you have tall sunflowers in your outdoor garden, there is a chance that animals like deer can also eat sunflower leaves. This is easy to notice as an animal bite is different from an insect bite.

However, catching the deer can be quite challenging as they are fast and may appear when you’re fast asleep. However, you can check out their footprints, feces, or even set up cameras to capture them.

Dealing with a deer may be challenging as they are very persistent once they get used to feeding in an area. Nonetheless, you can deal with them by building a barrier around your garden. Also, you can plant deer resistant, spray deer repellents, or regulated hunting.

Snugs And Snails

Snails and slugs can also feed on your sunflower foliage. These creatures usually come out at night to make their destruction.

Worst of all, snails can attack your sunflower indoors in pots or outdoors in the garden. They usually eat leaves and love tender foliage. Therefore, if your sunflower plant is young, you should protect them from these irritating creatures.

When it comes to removing snails and slugs from your garden, there are many ways that you can adopt. Some of these include removing by hand, attracting predators like birds in your garden, rear chickens, sprinkle coffee grounds on the garden, spray the sunflower with homemade snail repellant, or even sprinkle broken eggshells.

Leafcutter Bees

The Leafcutter bee is a useful pollinator for gardeners. Unlike other insects on this list, the leafcutter bees are not very destructive as they only cut a piece of sunflower leaf.

These bees are easy to detect as they leave behind half-moon-shaped cut on your leaves. They use cut leaves to create nest cells for their young ones.

What’s more, these bees are not very aggressive, like other types of honey bees. Also, they do not sting, and their sting is not as painful as a honey bee.

Even though these bees destroy part of your sunflowers leaves, they are not dangerous to your plants like caterpillars or moths. As a result, you should not use insecticides to remove them as they are good pollinators.

The best way to eliminate them is by planting bee repelling plants, such as mint, eucalyptus, and citronella. Also, you can use a vinegar spray solution and mothballs.

Overall, leafcutter bees are not harmful to your plants and should be left to thrive. After all, these bees have many enemies; hence, they cannot multiply quickly.


Now that you know what may be eating your sunflower leaves, you can deal with it right away. But first, you have to find out whether it is a goldfinch, caterpillar, cutworm, beetle, or snug.

Use the most appropriate method when getting rid of the pesky creature that’s destroying your sunflower leaves. We wish you all the best as you try to get rid of pests from your sunflower plant.