Daffodils offer a bright splash of color to welcome the spring season. These plants are resilient and resist infestation and pests, but there are a few bugs that will still make a snack out of your daffodil’s leaves.
To know what’s eating your daffodil leaves, you should look for visible pests on the plant and examine the damage. Daffodil leaves are only attractive to insects such as aphids, thrips, and caterpillars, and these insects are easy to spot.
So, let’s look at some of the most common pests of daffodil plants and talk about how you can identify, eradicate and prevent them. I’ll tell you about the pests that eat daffodil leaves and bulbs and give tips on keeping your bulbs bug-free this season.
What Pests Eat Daffodil Leaves?
Pests that eat daffodil leaves include aphids, caterpillars, and thrips. Daffodil leaves are poisonous to most animals, so deer, squirrels, and many insects avoid eating them.
Since daffodils are only a primary target of a few pests, identifying the little bug that has damaged your plant should be a piece of cake.
Let’s look at how you can recognize these pests and discuss some easy ways to eliminate them once you spot them.
Aphids are tiny little insects that feed on the sap in certain plants. They come in many sizes but are usually no longer than 3 mm (0.11 in) long.
Aphids don’t eat the raw foliage of your daffodils or other plants. Instead, they suck out the juices from the leaves, creating patches of discoloration. If there are enough aphids on your plant, you will notice stunted growth, deformed leaves, and random dead patches or holes in the leaves where the aphids have harvested too much sap.
Aphids may also leave a sticky residue called “honeydew” on your plant’s leaves.
These insects multiply quickly. According to entomologists at the University of Florida, one female aphid can bear 75 offspring per year. Because of how quickly they reproduce, it’s rare to see just one aphid on your plants. In most cases, you’ll see 20 or more huddled together on a single leaf, making these pests particularly easy to spot.
There are numerous varieties of aphids, and only some specific varieties of aphids may eat daffodil leaves. These varieties include:
- The green peach aphid. Young green peach aphids are semi-transparent and are usually light green or yellow. Some adult female green peach aphids have wings, which helps them find new places to lay eggs and feed. These aphids primarily feed on peach trees, but they are not picky about what they eat and will take advantage of daffodils, where they suck sap from the foliage and eventually kill the leaves.
- The foxglove aphid. Foxglove aphids come in many colors, such as green, pink, yellow, or orange. Foxglove aphids are challenging to eliminate because they don’t colonize like most other aphids. Instead, they scatter and hide deep in the crevices of leaves, where they feed on sap.
- The potato aphid. Potato aphids are pink, red, or green, and they love plants such as tomatoes, potatoes, eggplant, and peppers. These aphids may be winged or wingless and are usually larger than the other aphids.
Caterpillars of any variety may attempt to turn your daffodil plants into a snack, but the most common caterpillar on daffodils is the Noctua pronuba or cutworm caterpillar.
Cutworms only come out at night and have gained their name because they cut large leaves off of plants. After they slice off these parts of a plant with their teeth, they eat closer to the soil, where they are safe from predators.
Thrips feed on daffodils much the same way that aphids do. They scrape the surface of your daffodil’s leaves and blooms and suck the sap from the plant, leaving behind discolored or dead spots on the foliage.
These pests have long, narrow brown bodies with wings in their adult stage. Young thrips have greenish to yellow bodies but have the same characteristics as their adult counterparts.
Daffodils that have fallen victim to a thrip infestation will have brown spots, silver or yellow patches, or holes in their leaves. They may also have stunted growth or loss of leaves if the infestation is severe.
What Pests Eat Daffodil Bulbs?
While some exclusively feed on the leaves of daffodils, the most problematic daffodil pests attack the bulb.
Pests that eat daffodil bulbs include bulb flies and bulb mites. These pests burrow into the bulbs as they mature, often introducing infections and other insects via the holes they make.
Bulb mites are tiny arachnids that look like miniature land-roving shrimp or little balls of clear wax. There are several varieties of mites that might infest a bulb plant, but the most common in daffodils is, naturally, the daffodil mite.
These pests burrow into a daffodil bulb, eating the plant from the inside out. Although the mites infest the bulb, the mites usually do not do enough damage to kill the plant.
Instead, the holes they create usually become infected with a fungal or bacterial disease. Eventually, the bulb will rot and die — and there’s little you can do about it once the mites and infection are inside.
Bulb flies are one of the most annoying and prevalent daffodil pests. These flies, which look much like bees, have a yellow thorax and rust-colored abdomen. Although these hoverflies look like stinging insects, they are harmless and have no sting.
Adult hoverflies pose no threat to daffodils. However, their larvae are often fatal to bulb plants.
Bulb flies lay their eggs — up to 100 at a time — close to the bulb’s top, right where the leaves protrude from it. Once the eggs hatch, the young fly maggots burrow deep inside the bulb and feed on it for an entire year.
The following spring, the larvae emerge from the bulb as adult flies.
Bulb fly infestations often result in bulb death, partially due to the presence of the larvae and partially due to the high chances of bacterial and fungal infections from the holes these maggots make.
How To Get Rid of Bugs on Daffodils
To get rid of bugs on daffodils, you can manually remove the pests, wash them off, use effective insecticides, use biological control methods, and cover your bulbs after the leaves wilt.
Let’s go through these steps to eliminate the insects from your daffodils and keep your bulbs healthy for next year.
Manually Remove Pests From the Leaves and Soil
Manual removal of pests is often an underrated practice in pest prevention. Removing the insects by hand allows you to choose whether to kill them or move them to another location.
This method works best for caterpillars and aphids since they are slow-moving and appear on the plant’s leaves.
To remove your pests manually:
- Prepare a container to place your insects in. To kill the insects, fill your container with warm soapy water. You may add some vinegar or peroxide to the water if you choose not to use soap. If you want to relocate the pests, only fill the container with around 1 inch (2.54 cm) of warm water.
- Investigate your plant, looking carefully at the underside of the leaves and around the bulb.
- When you find an insect, use tweezers, a damp paper towel, or a rag to pluck or wipe them off and place them in your container.
Once you have removed as many pests as possible, cover your container and take it somewhere you feel comfortable dumping it.
Wash Off As Many Pests As Possible
If you are dealing with thrips or aphids, you may be able to shoot them off of your plant using a high-pressure spray of water. However, it’s worth noting that the pests may eventually find their way back to your plant, so this method is not permanent.
It’s still a helpful tactic if you want to clear off the plant quickly and easily, especially if you plan to apply a pesticide to your daffodils.
Use an Effective Insecticide
Not all insecticides will work for all bugs, so it’s critical to pick something that will work if you want to stop the spread of pests in your garden.
Here are some of the best options:
- Neem oil. Neem oil is an effective pest deterrent and wards off fungal infections, so this treatment is best for bulb flies and mites.
- Bacillus thuringiensis. This bacterial strain is healthy for plants but kills insects such as caterpillars. However, it will not work on sucking insects such as aphids and thrips.
- Insecticidal soap. Insecticidal soap is one of the only effective control measures for aphids and thrips. I recommend the Harris Garden Insect Killer on Amazon, which kills a variety of pests, including aphids, thrips, and caterpillars. This spray is easy to apply and works incredibly well for all of the pests that infest daffodils.
Introduce Biological Controls for Your Pests
Ladybugs kill aphids and thrips, making them the ideal biological control method to eliminate those pests. Plus, ladybugs are pretty pleasant to have in your garden.
If you’ve never thought of getting live bugs to release in your garden, don’t worry. Ladybugs are inexpensive and widely available. You can even get them on Amazon.com. I usually use these affordable Buddy Bugs Pre-Fed Live Ladybugs from Amazon, and they are always healthy and happy when they arrive.
For the best results, place a few water dishes around your daffodils before releasing the ladybugs, then release them at night. Ladybugs are more sluggish at night and prefer areas with a water source, so taking these measures will encourage them to make a new home right around your daffodils.
Cover Your Bulbs After They Wilt
After your daffodil’s leaves and blooms wilt, prune the dead foliage off. Pruning will help you keep the leaf-eating pests away from your daffodils.
In addition, to protect your bulbs from bulb mites and flies, cover them with some fresh soil as soon as the plant stops blooming.
Very few pests will attack daffodils, but those that appreciate the taste of a narcissus plant might overtake the bulb or leaves and kill your flowers.
The primary pests of daffodils are aphids, thrips, caterpillars, bulb mites, and bulb flies. To eliminate them, you can use insecticides, manual removal, biological control methods, and practical methods, such as covering your bulbs after they bloom.