Having a vegetable garden, whether that’s in your small back garden or a large chunk of land, takes a lot of patience. So it can be devastating after so much sweat, effort, and time to find your produce destroyed by various animals.
Zucchini is one of those vegetables that can get the biggest hit, and the worst thing is not knowing what critter was responsible for your loss.
So, what animals are most likely to eat zucchini?
Animals that eat zucchini include deer, rabbits, and rodents like squirrels, chipmunks, woodchucks, rats, and mice. Raccoons, and skunks, can also eat zucchini, as well as dogs. Additionally, insects like aphids, cucumber beetles, owlet moths, squash bugs, squash vine borers, and spider mites might be responsible for eating your zucchini.
Let’s explore the animals that may be responsible for your eaten zucchini, and how to prevent them from eating these vegetables!
Animals That Eat Zucchini
So, what animals are more likely to creep into your garden and eat your zucchini?
You might not have to worry about deer if they are not native to your country, state, or the area you live in. But if you share your land with deer then you should know that these beautiful animals are known for their love of a number of garden plants.
While zucchini might not be at the top of their list because they don’t like thorny vegetables, they will still eat this vegetable if need be. Deer are capable of eating the leaves and munching on zucchini plants, thus destroying the whole plan.
In fact, there’s a higher likelihood that a deer will end up in your garden munching on your zucchini plants if you grow their favorite vegetables, like beets, broccoli, cauliflower, various leafy greens like cabbage, and lettuce, and fruits like apples and various berries.
If a deer is responsible for the destruction of your garden, including your zucchini, then you should look for deer hoof prints on the surrounding soil and deer droppings.
To prevent a similar disaster in the future you can plant prickly vegetables with hairy leaves, like cucumbers, and squashes alongside your zucchini. Rhubarb is also a good option because it’s toxic to deer.
While deer might not go for your zucchini plant the first time they end up invading your garden, rabbits however are not as picky.
Rabbits are more likely to concentrate their munching energy on the zucchini leaves, but that doesn’t mean they won’t have a taste of the blossoms and the vegetable itself.
It’s easy to spot a rabbit invasion, by checking for rabbit droppings, but also at the marks they usually leave on the plant itself. Rabbits will more often than not eat the lower parts, that’s the roots and stems of the zucchini plant or any plant for that matter.
An animal-friendly way to deter rabbits from eating your zucchini is planting plants they don’t like eating or smelling.
Onions and peppers are one example, but you can also spray your zucchini with unpleasant smells, for example by mixing garlic with water, some Irish soap, and/or chili, hot pepper flakes.
Squirrels and Chipmunks
While rabbits usually go for the roots and stems of zucchini plants, squirrels and chipmunks will more often than not go for the vegetable itself, the leaves, and the zucchini blooms.
That’s where you are more likely to see gnawing marks from their small teeth.
One reason chipmunks and squirrels may go for the vegetable itself is thirst. Especially during hot weather, they will much on the fruit and vegetables because they need water. Juicy fruits like blueberries are also popular for this reason.
Keeping some water out for these small critters on a hot day is a good first step, along with natural repellents around the zucchini. Spicy sprays, with garlic, peppermint oil, and even animal urine should also do the trick.
Among the many animals that can enter your garden and raise havoc, don’t be surprised to find a woodchuck or groundhog being the one responsible for your eaten zucchini.
In fact, if you could catch them in the act you would probably see a woodchuck sitting on its haunches and pulling plants with its front paws to feed on.
If you find mounds of soil on your property and your garden area then that can be a telltale sign of a woodchuck invasion. Along with digging tunnels 12 inches wide and mounds of dirt, you might even hear the whistling sound they make when they feel they are in danger.
Since woodchucks can be quite persistent and successful at entering your garden you should make sure to add a tall and deep fence that they can’t climb or make a tunnel beneath it.
Otherwise, consider making a call to your local wildlife rescue and control center. Professionals will have a better idea of how to humanely remove these outdoor pets.
Rats and Mice
The last animals belonging to the rodent family on our list that also enjoy eating zucchini plants are rats and mice.
Both of these critters can often cause serious problems in your garden as a whole, not just zucchini.
Chew marks are definitely a sign that something is eating at your zucchini, but it’s not easy to identify the culprit since their bitemarks can be similar to other rodents.
You need to check for rat and mouse droppings, burrows, as well as scratching noises.
The droppings can be quite dangerous because the feces can spread illness to humans and their saliva can also potentially carry pathogens that can make humans sick.
To avoid a rat or mice infestation you need to keep your garden clean, and any bins sealed. You should also call animal control and ask for their advice or intervention.
Living in an area where seeing a raccoon is a common enough occurrence means that you are also likely to see them in your back garden.
If one of the plants you grow are zucchini plants then you can expect raccoons to indulge in this hydrating delicacy.
In fact, being omnivores and nocturnal you are also likely to wake up and find raccoon bite marks on most of your growing fruits and vegetables.
If you suspect raccoons then check for five-toed paw tracks, and fecal droppings next to the plants.
You might want to investigate your trees and fencing for scratches and check your trashcans since these animals love to go through human rubbish and loot what they can eat.
Using the smell of ammonia, or pepper spray, around your garden can help keep these critters away.
Some believe that supersonic sound can help keep raccoons away, but studies have shown that these devices aren’t as effective in the long term.
You need to make sure that raccoons won’t feel at home on your property, so keep your garden and yard clean and free of food smells and consider installing netting and/or a fence.
Skunks also love gardens and while the fact that they love eating insects can come in handy, they also love munching on fruits, vegetables, leaves, roots, and bulbs.
So, they are overall quite destructive to most things growing in your garden including the juicy zucchini!
While most of the animals above leave visual signs when they are done terrorizing your garden, a skunk will also leave a characteristic and persistent musky smell.
To make sure that the smell you’re smelling is a skunk and not a fox, you need to check for bite marks on the lower leaves and shallow holes a sign that a skunk was looking for insects to eat.
Removing attractants around your property can help you get rid of skunks. Secure your trash, close off any openings, and move your pet’s food inside. Adding a fence or nets and keeping a clean garden can also help.
While you might think a wild hairy stranger is responsible for the eaten zucchini in your garden, the culprit might be hiding under your nose.
If you have a dog then perhaps it’s time to put your sweet pooch under investigation!
Thankfully zucchini aren’t toxic to dogs and if you’ve regularly used this vegetable as a healthy treat then your dog might have gotten the idea that all these zucchini vegetables growing in your garden are for him to eat.
While eating zucchini is safe it’s still important to keep the garden off-limits, not only because you want to protect your produce, but also for your dog’s safety. Your garden might be full of other toxic plants that can cause an upset stomach or even food poisoning.
If you think that a stray dog is eating your zucchini then a tall enough fence should do the job of keeping them away from your property and precious zucchini!
Insects That Eat Zucchini
While all of the above animals can eat the zucchini growing in your garden, you are also very likely to find tiny pests doing the exact same thing to your poor plants and vegetables.
It’s worth noting that there is a large number of garden insects that can get attracted to your zucchini, but we’re going to take a look at some of the most common zucchini enemies from the insect kingdom.
Aphids are small winged insects that “use their piercing sucking mouthparts to feed on plant sap.”
Because of their size and pale green color as well as the textured leaves of a zucchini plant, it can be easy to miss these little insects.
Unfortunately, aphids can be quite devastating to most plants. From mottled and yellowed leaves your may notice decreased growth rates, browning, and wilting.
If you’re faced with an aphid infestation and you don’t take action be prepared to lose your zucchini.
To keep aphids from spreading you can start by spraying your zucchini plant with a soap-water mix every two days. This process can take more than two weeks.
Your zucchini plant can attract various types of spider mites, but you are more likely to find red spider mites or two-spotted spider mites as they are also called.
Because these little insects are tiny you may need a magnifying glass in order to properly examine the leaves of your zucchini.
The first sign that your zucchini plants are suffering at the legs of spider mites are yellowing mottled leaves. The plants will look wilted and if the infestation is serious then these insects will have covered the leaves and stems with fine webbing.
You can spray the plant with a mixture of water and rubbing alcohol that will dehydrate and kill the spider mites. However, if the infestation is too severe you might have to remove the zucchini plants in order to protect the rest of your garden.
Cucumber beetles might be small but they’re easy to spot thanks to the three black vertical stripes over their yellow body.
While you will find adult cucumber beetles eating the leaves, fruit, and blooms of the zucchini, their larvae feed on the stems, and roots of these plants.
These insects won’t just affect your zucchini because they feed on it, but because they also carry and spread plant diseases like Erwinia tracheiphila and cucumber mosaic virus that will end up killing the plant.
According to the University of Minnesota, you can protect your zucchini with a physical barrier, but if you find two or more cucumber beetles on 25% of your plants in the cotyledon stage, then you will have to apply pesticide.
Owlet moths can seem innocent but they can destroy your garden, specifically when they are still caterpillars, known as cutworms or armyworms.
Cutworms can destroy your zucchini by curling their bodies around the stem and feeding on it, eventually cutting it off.
Cutworms are easily controlled by insecticides, but before you go down that path, you can first try organic sprays, or removing these insects, cleaning out your garden including debris, and weeds, and till your garden before planting and in the fall.
You can also use tin foil to create a barrier between the cutworms and the zucchini stem.
Squash bugs might have a preference for squash but zucchini plants are also their favorite!
In early June, these dark gray-brown bugs will lay small clusters of eggs that are red in color and you’ll be able to spot them under zucchini leaves.
These bugs will suck the sap out of the leaves and you will notice yellow spots on the leaves that will start turning brown.
If the zucchini plants are young they are likely to wilt and die, compared to older plants.
It’s important to keep an eye out for the squash bugs and get rid of them when they are still in their nymph stage by spraying them with soapy water.
Make sure to scrape the red eggs from the leaves and remove any debris adult squash bugs can use as a hiding place.
It’s also worth mentioning that pesticides don’t work on adult squash bugs, so if you’re determined to use pesticides you need to catch them when the eggs are hatching.
Squash Vine Borers
Last but not least is another squash bug called the squash vine borer and at its creamy-colored larvae stage it will feed inside the vines of various squash plants including zucchini.
If left to their own devices these insects can destroy your crops, because by feeding within the vines the squash vine borer will prevent water movement and nutrient transfer, which will lead to wilting.
You can use a physical barrier when you first detect a squash vine borer adult or trap them using a yellow container filled with water and a drop of soap.
If that doesn’t work then you might have to consider an appropriate pesticide.
What Animals Eat Zucchini Plant Leaves?
Most animals on this list will eat zucchini plant leaves. Rabbits and rodents like squirrels, chipmunks, woodchucks, rats, and mice will eat the vegetables and fruits in a garden, but they will also munch on the fresh leaves and stems.
Insects like aphids, spider mites, owlet moths, squash bugs, squash vine borers, and cucumber beetles also eat the leaves of zucchini plants and that’s why leaves are the first place you need to look for an insect infestation.
Raccoons and skunks will also indulge in some zucchini leaves and even deer can end up munching on them. Dogs on the other hand are less likely to eat the leaves on your zucchini plant, especially if they are well-fed and taken care of.
What Animals Eat Zucchini Flowers?
While deer are less likely to go for the leaves of a zucchini plant, especially if they have other options, they love zucchini blooms. But deer are not the only animal that is attracted to zucchini flowers.
If you don’t have deer living in your area then it’s most likely that skunks, raccoons, rabbits, and rodents like woodchucks and rats, as well as squirrels, are eating your zucchini blossoms.
It’s not surprising that animals and some insects eat and even have a preference for zucchini flowers, after all, they are high in fiber, and they are a good source of calcium, iron, potassium, beta carotene as well as vitamins A and C.
What Is Eating My Zucchini at Night?
If every morning you wake up only to find that someone has gnawed, or munched on your zucchini plants, whether that’s the fruit, the leaves, or the blossoms then you’re probably dealing with a nocturnal animal.
If you share your land with deer, then you might be aware that these animals are crepuscular and they are usually active during twilight, so they could be eating your zucchini plants while you’re still in bed sleeping.
Then again, raccoons and skunks as I already mentioned are also nocturnal, as well as, rats, and mice. Rabbits are like deer, crepuscular so they might also creep into your garden before sunset to eat your zucchini.
It’s also worth noting that cutworms also feed at night and they hide plant debris during the day.
Why Do Animals Eat Zucchini Plants?
While most of us see zucchini as vegetables, they are technically a fruit, and this fruit is quite nutritious. According to WebMD, “Zucchini is packed with many important vitamins, minerals, and antioxidants.” It also has a high fiber content.
While most animals on our list can’t survive only on zucchini fruit, leaves, stems, and blossoms, they are still of great value. Additionally, the fruit itself can be a great source of hydration for small animals like squirrels and chipmunks.
So, nutrition, hydration and the simple fact that a garden is a great opportunity to get fed are good enough reasons for animals to eat your zucchini.
Do Squirrels Eat Zucchini?
Squirrels can be found basically in every corner of the world, so don’t be surprised to find these little critters chomping on the zucchini you are growing on your land.
While squirrels are known to eat nuts and seeds, they also love eating various vegetables and zucchini is no exception.
Since its peak season is from June all the way to late August, squirrels will also eat zucchini fruit for hydration.
Do Deer Eat Zucchini?
For those of you who live in areas where deer also live, then it’s possible to find them eating from your garden, especially if it’s not properly fenced.
Deer are more likely to go for their favorite fruit, like apples and pears, but they will also enjoy plums and berries.
They also prefer vegetables and plants with leafy greens. While zucchini do have large and green leaves they are covered in tiny thorns that can deter a deer from eating them.
That being said, if the deer has no other choice, they can still munch on the leaves or eat the zucchini itself, and let’s not forget that they are likely to go for the blossoms instead.
Do Rabbits Eat Zucchini?
Rabbits will eat both the flowers, leaves, stems and fruit of a zucchini plant and if they find any exposed roods then they will also eat them.
Do Insects Eat Zucchini?
Having a garden means that you have to deal with different types of critters and insects are a formidable foe, to say the least.
Certain insects will not only eat the leaves or the stems of a zucchini plant, but insects like aphids and spider mites will drink the plant’s sap which will ultimately lead to its death.
Certain bugs like the squash bug, cucumber beetle, and squash vine borer will eat both leaves and the fruit itself.
If your zucchini has grown flowers then these will also be eaten in time by insects, if left to their own devices.
How To Keep Animals From Eating My Zucchini?
While you can’t easily predict which animal will enter your garden, you can always take the right precautions.
If you do notice that someone has been eating your zucchini then you need to look for the right signs to identify the culprit and then take action.
Here are some of the things you can do to keep your zucchini safe!
Once you know who is eating your zucchini, you can choose to plant herbs like mint, basil, garlic, and thyme or other plants that can deter the said animal by smell or texture.
Making your own spray solutions can also help with insects. But if the insect infestation is too strong you might have to go for stronger bug sprays.
Make sure the repellent is not toxic to bees, or to the plant itself, and won’t make the zucchini bad for human consumption.
Additionally, keep an eye on your zucchini, and inspect the leaves, stems, fruit, and the soil around the plant periodically. Whether that’s to spot insects, or paw marks and droppings.
Let’s look at the different types.
If you notice that your zucchini is always attacked by various critters, then consider using a wire cloche or making your own wire cloche from chicken wire.
A cloche is a bell-shaped covering that gives your plant plenty of room to grow, but it keeps it well protected from big animals like deer and smaller critters like raccoons. or even squirrels that can use trees to jump over a fence.
That being said chicken wire might not work against animals like woodchucks because they could make a tunnel right under the wire.
Instead of chicken wire, you can also consider covering your zucchini with garden fabric.
You can create a secure enclosure and make sure the animals have little to no chance of entering the covering. However, some animals might try to gnaw their way through the cover.
If individual coverings don’t seem to work and you have to deal with persistent and smart animals then a full fence could be the only answer.
A fence that’s at least 5ft high can be effective for keeping larger animals like deer and raccoons away from your zucchini.
To keep the borrowing animals from entering underneath you need to make sure that the fence is deep, 6 to 12 inches deep.
Keeping your zucchini safe from a number of critters can feel overwhelming especially when you don’t know what animals actually enjoy eating zucchini.
Hopefully, this list can help you take the right measures to protect your garden from zucchini lovers like rabbits, squirrels, chipmunks, woodchucks, rats, and mice as well as deer. You might even have to investigate your own dog to see if they have been munching on the crunchy fruit.
Don’t forget to check your zucchini for insects, like aphids, spider mites, owlet moths cucumber beetles, squash bugs, and squash vine borers among many others.
Looking for the right signs and symptoms can help you greatly, just remember to be compassionate with all the animals that come into your garden to gnaw on your zucchini and choose humane ways to keep them out of your garden!