What’s eating my cilantro?

Mrs. Homegrown here:

While we’re inviting questions, we’ve also got a question for you guys. What sort of critter likes to eat cilantro? I think it’s a critter, not a bug. There’s no sign of leaf damage, just nibbling the stems down. There’s no digging or other disturbance.

Whatever this critter is, it has a defined taste for cilantro, because the cilantro is interplanted with parsley and it never so much as touches the parsley, or anything else in the garden, for that matter. It just comes out at night and decimates the poor cilantro.

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  1. Hmmm. Whatever the critter is, it has taste. I LOVE cilantro. Don’t know which I like better: cilantro or basil.

    If you think it’s a mammal, try a hot-pepper based spray and see if that deters it.

    Can you put a chicken wire cage over it to keep the critter off?

  2. Have to second Rick, but they also love parsley.. I want to say pillbugs/roly polys. I transplanted some seedlings that were mixed with tufts of grass, and the cilantro had vanished by the next day. I have a bit of a rolypoly population problem because my soil has a lot of wood detritus in it, and I oftentimes see them chewing down tender seedlings. Mayhaps you have a cilantro loving mouse? A farmer I met in Canada said he found a mouse that had developed a particular taste for broccoli.

  3. I say rabbits too, but I think they would be digging it up. It looks like caterpillars to me. I had some on my flat-leaf parsley this summer.

  4. Rabbits would be my guess as well based on the pattern of destruction. They like to start at the top of something “stemmy” and nibble their way down. They’re crepuscular (ha! -legitimate use of this word!) as well as nocturnal, so you might see them in late evening/early morning if you keep an eye out.

  5. Looks like rodent of some sort to me, too. I’ve had a very persistent mouse eat the heck out of my greens before (I know it was a mouse because the destruction desisted after the mouse was deceased!)

  6. I’d be rather charmed to have bunnies in our yard (I’m saying this as someone who does not have to fight their predations), but I am certain we have none. We have possums, skunks, raccoons and rats. It could be a rat or mouse with a particular yen for cilantro, suppose.

    I was wondering if it could be some sort of bird, because it looks like chicken damage to me, except the chickens have been under house arrest.

    It could be a bug, I suppose. It’s just that it eats so much, so fast, it seems like a bigger creature. I’ve never seen a leaf half-eaten, for instance.

    Pill bugs and the like can nibble on small seedlings, but this plant is too big for them to damage.

    I’ll go out and do a second inspection for some sort of voracious caterpillar, just to be sure, then I’ll put some chicken wire over it.

  7. Start with chicken wire and work your way down in size. This will get you to the size of the offender. This will tell you if caging your crop is enough or if you need something for bugs.

  8. I wonder also if it could be earwigs. I know for a fact earwigs can do a surprising amount of damage in one night. My bf had problems with them nibbling his chard down to almost nothing overnight. Maybe try putting out a few beer traps to see if you catch any?

  9. mjlai: don’t think it’s earwigs because I just replanted that bed and didn’t see a single one.


    thisideofgaudy: Squirrels! How could I forget about them? It could be. They are now first on my suspect list. Cilantro eating just doesn’t seem to be a rat’s style, but squirrels live to devour what you want to eat.

  10. I’d bet an entire summer’s worth of homegrown tomatoes on earwigs. We’ve been absolutely infested with them for years, as they are especially productive in our Southern California climate, and this is exactly their M.O. They completely disappear during the day though, so don’t expect to find them that easily. Good luck!

  11. Squirrels mow the cilantro in my garden, and the remains look just like your picture. They like parsley too, but seem to leave the basil and oregano alone.

  12. Squirrels. We are having this issue too. They don’t disturb the parsley but eat all the cilantro…and I don’t mind 🙂

  13. I just came home to the same situation on my patio. Every other plant, including lettuce and tomatoes, were left untouched. The plant is in a fenced patio. We have squirrels around and I am pretty sure one is the culprit.

  14. Just noticed that my cilantro looks just about the same, except mine is on my deck. I know I have a frog or two out there but that just doesn’t seem to fit with what I think their diet consts of! Didn’t touch the parsley that’s in the same box! I don’t want them to eat my cilantro! I LOVE fresh cilantro!!

  15. our cilantro looks just like that, except whatever is eating it started with the bottom leaves and worked its way up. I did see two mice a couple of nights ago. Whatever is eating the cilantro did not touch the basil, parsley, mint, oregano, or any other herb for that matter. Could it be a mouse? It seems to me that a bunny would eat everything else too.

  16. They look like baby caterpillars and do not eat anything ese in the herb garden. How do you get rid of them?

  17. I recently grew cilantro in a pot on my porch. It did really well and I let it mature into corriander. A squirrel has now found it. The squirrel digs a little hole in the pot everyday, I guess to eat the roots ?

  18. I planted culantro which is the same as cilantro except that it is long bladed. Already, I found leaves missing and new growth. This morning, there was only one thin stem left. I have 3 outside cats but then it could be rats. I have other plants and nothing touches them.

  19. I have the same problem with my newly planted cilantro and parsely plants on my kitchen deck. It’s elevated so I know it’s not rabbits/bunnies. By the way it seems “chomped” down to the ground I’m certain it’s not any kind of bug. So most likely rats/mice or squirrels. I have both since I also have a seed bird feeder on this deck. Because it seems to happen in the evening I think it’s most likely the rats/mice. Not sure chicken wire will keep these guys out, unless I use a really fine mesh type.

  20. I had Cilantro in pots on the patio, noticed something was eating it. Put out a game camera to see what it was……Neighborhood Cat jumping the fence. Decimated my plants in two days.

    • Interesting! We have feral cats passing through our yard all the time (to look at the chickens, I think). Maybe that was the culprit.

      And how fun to have a game camera!

  21. I was growing cilantro on our house terrace in 2 pots..the plants were growing really well with new leaves sprouting..and today morning I woke up to only the stems being left in the bigger pot!!! I am so heartbroken right now 🙁 The “thief” has actually left behind one leaf uneaten (cut off from its stem though) as though to mock me.. it’s so sad seeing my efforts go to waste 🙁

  22. We just went out and checked our cilantro. Caterpillars were on it. This is the 2nd time the leaves have disappeared. Thinking of growing it with the pot hanging to prevent this and/or other potential eaters.

    Here’s to healthy organic gardening,

  23. I just went to harvest my 2 week old cilantro and it was gone — eaten down from the top while the basil and weeds next to it are fine. Unfortunately, we have all the critters everybody mentioned: feral cats, bunnies, possums, squirrels, and earwigs. 🙁 Why did they wait until I was going to use it? Oh, I guess because it was so green and healthy.

  24. It’s snails. The rotten critters love cilantro (we call it coriander in australia). Put out some beer traps and put them under cover, the snails like that too and you will catch more under cover than out in the open. Good luck!

  25. I had my cilantro munged down to nothing. I discovered the culprit, it was rats, I saw one of the little bastards running away from the herb garden and into a nearby hole in the wall.

  26. Gross. Living next to a river, we get rats too, though none in the house (that I know of). Time for me to encourage the ospreys, cats, black snakes, and my terrier to patrol that part of the garden.

  27. Rats. I live in a suburb of Baltimore MD and there are known rats that frequent our back garden. i have laid traps but never been able to catch on. but i see them and hear them scuffling around under our decking in the back yard. I have been growing Cilantro successfully for a few weeks and its been raining hard for a couple of days and there must be very little food around for them so the cilantro has been quite happily growing and over the last few nights, the cilantro has been disappearing. i want to lay traps with some cilantro attached so I can eradicate the bastards!! although I’m not sure what is best to add to the traps to get them caught…. maybe more lovely cilantro…..

  28. We have had the same problem…there is a feral cat and a bunny (ies) who have been seen on the property, but during the most recent attacks we have seen a very content looking chipmunk running around. I wonder if it is a prejudice built in from childhood that everyone has excluded “cute” chipmunks from the list of likely suspects.

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