What’s Eating Your Sweet Pea Flowers?

Sweet pea flowers, scientifically known as the Lathyrus odoratus, are gorgeous flowering plants that come in various shades. Not surprisingly, they are constantly under attack by hungry bugs because of their beauty and sweet smell. If you’ve gotten some bite marks on your sweet peas, you may be wondering who the suspects are.

Sweet peas are a common snack for aphids, leafminers, nematodes, snails, slugs, caterpillars, and spiders. You might also find that rabbits, squirrels, and birds are interested in eating your sweet peas. Looking for the culprit or checking for other clues will tell you exactly who it is. 

Below, I’ll provide you with a profile of the animals and insects likely to eat your sweet pea flowers. I’ll also talk about easy ways to protect your plants from predators. We’ll close this gardening lesson with some general tips on detecting and getting rid of bugs in your garden.

Insects That like To Eat Sweet Pea Flowers

If you have tiny little bites in your flowers, it’s safe to rule out the bunnies and birds that hang out in your garden (or your pet!). Of course, your first suspect should be bugs. Some of the bugs that might be eating your sweet pea flowers include: 

  • Aphids
  • Nematodes
  • Snails or slugs
  • Caterpillars

All these are common garden pests. Depending on what your sweet pea flowers are intended for (aesthetics, harvesting, or pairing with other crops), you can decide whether or not to get rid of most of them. However, some bugs might kill your plants from the root up if you don’t take action. 

So, which one of these bugs is responsible? Let’s go through each of the bugs and explore other signs. 


Aphids are common garden pests, and even if you don’t know them by name, you’ve most likely seen them. They are known for sucking sap, eating plants, and hanging out on your flowers. Thankfully, though common, they aren’t dangerous. It’s unlikely that your plants will suffer from a few red or green bugs crawling on them and taking a bite here or there. However, heavier infestations might become apparent if your plant’s leaves curl. 

There are different types of aphids, but the ones that are most likely to be troubling your sweet peas are: 

  • Black bean aphid
  • Foxglove aphid
  • Green peach aphid (also commonly referred to as a potato aphid)

The black bean aphid will be obvious (if this is your problem) because, true to their name, they look like a little black bean. On the other hand, a foxglove aphid looks green and translucent like its skin is made of glass. It’s also easily confused with the green peach aphid (which is a little bit lighter than green). 

To find out if you have aphids, grab a magnifying glass or something that can help you view your plant more closely. These are teeny tiny bugs, but they’re usually pretty bold in color and easy to distinguish. Also, if the aphids become too many, your plant may start to yellow. 

It’s not your fault if you have aphids – they usually just fly onto plants and may have even been present in the soil before you got your sweet pea flowers. Fortunately, most aphids are an easy fix. You can spray them directly with some water (during your watering routine, so you don’t overwater your plants), and they’ll fall off. 

Still, some can be trickier to get rid of than others. You could try going with a natural method like soap and water or neem oil. Of course, pesticides will work, but they might harm your plant. 


Nematodes look nothing like toads. They look a lot more like worms. These little insects are long, sometimes translucent, and can actually be good for your garden! 

Through moving microbes and feeding on bacteria and fungi, nematodes are insects that gardeners at times rely on to add some life to their soil. However, they can also eat away at your plant causing harm. Nematodes are usually most dangerous to root crops, like carrots or potatoes, but could also be detrimental to your sweet peas.

You’ll know you have nematodes if your roots are suffering, plants are curling, and things don’t seem right in general. However, they’re usually way too small for you to see. A soil sample will tell you for sure if you’ve got them. If the tests come back positive, there are a few ways to get rid of them. 

To get rid of nematodes, you can heat portions of the soil (referred to as sterilization). However, they’re probably the most difficult pests to get rid of completely. At times, you may have to sacrifice your plant to save the rest of your soil from exposure. 

Snails and Slugs

Snails and slugs are other common garden pests, especially when you have sweet peas! When your sweet peas are not yet fully mature, you’re likely to find snails and slugs lurking around. They are both notoriously slow, so just look around if you suspect these to be your culprits.  

To eliminate snails or slugs, you can utilize any of your common pest treatments or use slug-specific methods. Some people swear by cutting down a citrus fruit or melon and placing it face down in the soil. Slugs and snails, who love sweets, will crawl in so you can grab them. 

The acidic fruits might kill them, so melon is a more friendly way to do this. You can then place them in your front yard or a different part of your garden without killing them.

However, if you don’t care much for slugs or snails, you could also pour a little salt on the garden. Just remember that snails and slugs are tremendous garden helpers, even if you don’t like the way they’re treating your sweet peas. If possible, try and move them to a different, more desirable part of your garden. 


Do you remember that children’s book, The Hungry Hungry Caterpillar? Well, it’s based on some truth. If you have big bites taken out of your sweet peas (though not big enough to be from an animal), it’s probably a caterpillar! Caterpillars get pretty hungry before they put themselves in their cocoons, and your flowers may be their all-you-can-eat buffet.

I wouldn’t suggest getting rid of caterpillars in your garden. Eventually, they’ll turn into butterflies and help pollinate your garden (and the world!). Instead, I recommend just letting them get their fill. Afterall, they won’t be a problem for long!

Animals That Like To Eat Sweet Pea Flowers

Your basic suspects may be eating your sweet pea flowers if you discover that it’s not merely tiny bites have been taken, but entire flowers, petals, or plants. Therefore, you might want to check around for:

  • Rabbits
  • Squirrels
  • Birds
  • Raccoons
  • Skunks

Thankfully, these animals are a little easier to find than insects. Keep your eyes out for rabbit holes, birds that like to hang around, or other small vermin. You can use reflecting surfaces (such as CDs hanging from your tree), scarecrows, or fences to get rid of these pests. 

How Can I Get Rid of Insects in My Garden?

There are many ways to get rid of insects in your garden, but some are better than others. Organic gardeners know the importance of using methods that won’t harm plants or the soil while still respecting the insects that support soil health. It can be a tightrope to walk, but it’s possible.

To get rid of insects in your garden, you can use neem oil or a soap and water solution. Additionally, you might prevent the harm caused by garden insects altogether by ensuring the soil is healthy and your plants are getting what they need. 

You could also use pesticides, but this will harm all the insects in your garden, not just those you want to get rid of. You might see some of them, but there are millions of little microorganisms at any given moment inside of your soil helping your plant thrive. So, if you use a pesticide, you may harm these insects, the pollinators helping spread seeds, and other bugs in your garden. 

Instead of using something harsh and full of chemicals, use neem oil or a combination of soapy water sprayed directly on your plant leaves. This is especially so if the main concern is bites on your flower petals. Going directly to the petals is what will work best. 

Combining soap and water makes the plant leaves hard to stick on, which will make the insects slip off. Also, neem oil has a strong scent that puts off bugs plus it’ll also kill any bugs currently living on/eating your sweet peas. 

Final Thoughts 

Sweet peas are gorgeous, and they smell wonderful. Therefore, bugs and tiny animals are going to be attracted to them. For this reason, everyone is a suspect. However, there are a few common suspects; look out for aphids, test your soil for nematodes, or check for slugs. Snails and caterpillars are also known sweet pea eaters.

Little animals like rabbits or birds might also think your sweet peas look and smell great. Keep an eye out for these as well and check for other signs – such as footprints or rabbit holes. 

Alexander Picot

Alexander Picot is the principal creator of TheGrowingLeaf.com, a website dedicated to gardening tips. Inspired by his mother’s love of gardening, Alex has a passion for taking care of plants and turning backyards into feel-good places and loves to share his experience with the rest of the world.

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