15 Hungry Insects That Eat Plants

Insects That Eat Plants
Photo by Robert Thiemann on Unsplash

There are different kinds of insects that eat plants as food. Certain insects eat plants, while others, like ticks and common mosquitoes, feed on blood.

Still others, like common cockroaches, will even consume toothpaste and unopened human food. 

Yet most insects are herbivores, meaning they are solely insects that eat plants. Plants provide a food source for a wide variety of insects.

1. Caterpillars 

Eastern Tent Caterpillars - Insects That Start With E
by treegrow is licensed under CC BY 2.0

Caterpillar is starting our list of insects that eat plants. Caterpillars consume the leaves of nearby plants and trees. 

A butterfly begins as a caterpillar before it develops wings. In their natural habitat, caterpillars consume the leaves of flowering trees and plants.

Various species of caterpillars consume distinct kinds of plants, contingent on the kinds of flora present in their natural habitat. 

While some caterpillar species only consume a certain plant, others will consume any plant material.

Most insects that eat plants deposit their eggs on plants, and the newly hatched caterpillar starts feeding on these plants.

2. Japanese Beetles

Japanese Beetles
by watts_photos is licensed under CC BY 2.0

Japanese beetles are also one of the insects that eat plants. Being an invasive pest in the United States, the Japanese beetle is well-known for its ravenous eating habits due to its lack of natural habitat and propensity to consume a wide variety of vegetation. 

More than 300 distinct plant species’ fruits, leaves, and foliage are consumed by Japanese beetles.

The eating behavior of Japanese beetles is referred to as “skeletonizing,” as the insect feeds on the plant tissue in between its veins.

Japanese beetles may finish an entire fruit in minutes and frequently dine in groups of around 12 insects.

3. Sawflies

by jeans_Photos is licensed under CC BY 2.0

Sawflies, which eat plant leaves, stems, and roots, are sometimes seen in huge groups or clusters and are known by the nickname “plant ticks” because they suck the juices out of plants.

Because they eat crops, fruit trees, and vegetables, aphids are regarded as pests. While some animals only eat a single kind of plant, others consume all of the flora in their natural area.

Although sawflies are wasp larvae, people frequently confuse them for caterpillars. Sawflies may cause much harm fast since they usually eat in groups of plants.

When sawflies consume leaves, they may skeletonize the leaf by consuming all of the tissue in its veins or leaving holes in the leaf.

Sawflies can leave behind webs or galls, which are small larvae. Frequently misidentified as caterpillars, sawflies are wasp larvae.

Usually, sawflies congregate to feed on plants. Sawflies are wasp larvae, not caterpillars, as many people think. Usually, sawflies eat in groups of plants.

4. Leafcutter Ants

Leafcutter Ants
by gordon.milligan is licensed under CC BY 2.0

Although leaf-cutter ants will bite off portions of leaves and return them to their colony, they do not eat leaves. A fungus that the ants eat is given the leaves. 

If leaf-cutter ants are in your garden, you can notice ants taking bits of leaf debris away. These insects that eat plants can be active day and night and forage in groups.

To feed the leaves to a fungus, leaf cutter ants will bite off portions of leaves and take the pieces back to their colony.

5. Grasshoppers 

Grasshopper - Amazing Animals That Hop
by Judy Gallagher is licensed under CC BY 2.0

Grasshoppers consume crops in addition to leaves and grasses. Grasshoppers inhabit meadows and grassy regions with an abundance of flora.

Even though they are only 1 to 7 cm long, grasshoppers have a 16-fold feeding capacity in a single day. 

Although these insects that eat plants mostly consume leaves and grasses, farmers frequently view them as pests due to their consumption of grain crops.

Usually, ragged holes are left behind by grasshoppers if they have been nibbling on your plants. Grasshoppers enjoy eating fruits, vegetables, and stems and munching on leaves.

Even though they are active during the day, Grasshoppers consume during the night. You could see grasshopper eggs in the ground surrounding your garden. 

6. Thrips

by treegrow is licensed under CC BY 2.0

Apart from their habit of chewing on leaves, these insects that eat plants consume fruits, vegetables, and stems.

Like aphids, thrips, belonging to the Thysanoptera order, are minuscule insects with a length of less than 20 µm.

They gather in their hundreds on the undersides of plant leaves, draining the leaves’ fluids and leaving behind a varnish-like layer. 

Certain thrips species, such as the bean thrips (Caliothrips fasciatus), target particular plants, but other thrips species don’t care as much. Any plant in your yard could become infested with thrips.

7. Black Vine Weevils

Black Vine Weevils
by davidshort is licensed under CC BY 2.0

Black vine weevil is next on our list of insects that eat plants. Although the larvae of these 1/2-inch slate-colored black vine weevils (Otiorhynchus sulcatus) cause the most harm by attacking roots and bark, adult black vine weevils gnaw big portions from leaves, leaving crescent-shaped notches. 

The adults in the northern United States and some areas of Canada are warned to treat the soil to eliminate the larvae.

Rhododendrons (Rhododendron spp.) grow perennially in USDA plant hardiness zones 4 through 9, and yews (Taxus spp.) grow perennially in USDA zones 4 through 8. Black vine weevils prefer these plants.

8. Leafcutter Bees

Leafcutter Bees
by jeans_Photos is licensed under CC BY 2.0

The leafcutter bees do not consume leaves. Rather, they use the semicircular portions they cut out to construct their nests. 

These insects that eat plants, which resemble honeybees in size, play a vital role in pollination. They sting lightly and are not hostile.

9. Cutworms 

by Wildreturn is licensed under CC BY 2.0

The larvae of cutworms are segmented and weigh one inch. They are active at night. They can be found across most of North America’s early vegetable and flower seedlings and transplants.

Cutworms may eat small plants to death in May and June, chewing through stems at ground level.

10. Flea Beetles 

Flea Beetle 
by John Tann is licensed under CC BY 2.0

Flea beetles are tiny, dark insects that, when disturbed, leap like fleas.

They are widespread in North America and prefer to hang around on most vegetable crops.

Larvae eat plant roots, while adults chew many tiny, circular holes in leaves, which is particularly harmful to young plants.

11. Aphids Spotted Plants 

Aphids Spotted Plant 
by 1sock is licensed under CC BY-NC-ND 2.0

These are swiftly moving, mottled green or brown insects with yellow triangles with black tips on their forewings.

In North America, they are in various flowers, fruits, and vegetables. Plant juices are sucked by adults and nymphs, which results in fruit and leaf deformity, wilting, stunting, and tip dieback. 

12. Japanese Cicadas

Japanese Cicadas
by ORAZ Studio is licensed under CC BY-NC 2.0

The larvae are chubby white grubs with brown heads, while the adults are ½-inch, metallic blue-green beetles with bronze wing coverings.

Every state east of the Mississippi River has them, and they are in a wide variety of flowers, tiny fruits, and vegetables.

While larvae feed on the roots of lawn and garden plants, adults skeletonize leaves, devour blooms, and sometimes totally defoliate plants. 

13. Colorado Potato Beetles 

Colorado Potato Beetle 
by wuestenigel is licensed under CC BY 2.0

The Colorado potato beetle is a striped bug that consumes the leaves of potato plants. The stripes on the back of this striped beetle are black and orange.

The tiny, destructive pest resembles a beetle with clubbed antennae, orange legs, and an orange and black thorax.

Their spherical body and unique stripes easily recognize these insects that eat plants. The obscene beetle is between 0.24 and 0.43 inches (6 and 11 mm) long.

It frequently causes damage to the leaves of nightshade plants, most notably potatoes.

14. Squash Bugs

Squash Bugs
by treegrow is licensed under CC BY 2.0

Pumpkin and squash plants are the primary targets of squash bugs (Anasa tristis), who feed on the sap on their leaves.

Insects, known as squash bugs, consume plants by sucking the sap from their leaves. 

A brown-colored squash insect, about 0.6″ (15 mm) long, with a distinct flat back and a brown body with tan-colored speckles.

One of the traits of squash bugs is the putrid odor they release when broken. Plants suffer large amounts of damage from squash bugs. 

The brown bugs, shaped like shields, make plant leaves droop and eventually die. Because of the unpleasant smell they emit when you squash them, they are also known as stink bugs.

On the other hand, their common name is their tendency to infest squash plants.

15. Mexican Bean Beetles 

Mexican Bean Beetle
by Judy Gallagher is licensed under CC BY 2.0

Mexican bean beetle with black markings feeds on bean plants. The Mexican bean beetle leaves skeletonized blades behind after devouring plant foliage.

The little orange beetles’ oval, rounded wing coverings are marked with jet-black dots.

This orange beetle with black spots features two clubbed black antennae, an orange head, and an orange thorax. This ladybug-type beetle measures between 0.23″ and 0.27″ (6 – 7 mm).

Mexican bean beetles feed on the flowers and seed pods of Fabaceae plants, which belong to the pea family.

The leaves of plants are ruined by the plant-eating bugs, giving the appearance of withered lace. These insects that eat plants come in red, yellow, and orange colors.

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