How to Treat Sunflower Pests. Sunflowers offer the gardener both beautiful yellow flowers and seeds that have many uses. However, people are not the only ones enjoying this plant. The gardener oftentimes must deal with a variety of pests from insects to animals and birds. Knowing what to look for is crucial in determining your course of action.
Know which harmful insects dine on sunflowers. The major culprits are sunflower beetles, cutworms, bud moths, maggots, thistle caterpillars and midges. Several mid-west universities, such as Kansa State University of Agriculture have extensive material online with photos of the insects that enjoy sunflowers.
Watch for changes in your plants appearance. This is a good indication that a pest is lurking. Some will chew away at the leaves others at the flower. Bore marks in the seeds are another tell-tale sign.
Carry a jar with soapy water. You can easily knock off pests into the solution. This is a good method if the number of sunflowers you're dealing with is low.
Remember, not all insects are harmful. Wasps, praying mantises, spiders and lady bugs are good in the garden. Keep these out of the water!
Take a dead or live insect to your local nursery for verification. At this point you might choose to buy an organic spray or insecticide to deal with the problem. If you choose to go this route in dealing with the problem make sure to follow directions closely.
Monitor your sunflower throughout the growing season. Pests have a life cycle of their own. For example the cutworm will arrive in early spring while the midge in mid to late summer.
Animal and Bird Pests
Notice if the newly planted sunflower seeds have been dug up. Mice can dig them out for food.
Build a barrier around the planting area to keep these critters out.
Watch for rabbits when the sunflower plant begins to grow. They might chew the stalk.
Build a garden fence around the vulnerable plants if you are dealing with rabbits in your area.
Scare the birds away if they are perched on the sunflower head. Not much else can be done. Blackbirds, red-winged blackbirds and grackles enjoy the seeds. Harassment techniques such as a loud noise or your presence have limited results.
Keep the ground free of weeds that could attract birds to the sunflowers.