Appalachia Gardening

Help a Blind Pig Reader Solve a Mystery


bean flowers brightens the dark

A few days ago I received the following email from Blind Pig and The Acorn reader Sue Simmons:

Tipper maybe you can solve this mystery for me we had  beautiful green beans in bloom, staked, and they were six feet tall. We went out to look at the garden and all the leaves were off, looked like they had been cut off very clean. The blooms were still there pretty as could be no leaves. A week or so later beans were beautiful with lots of green leaves, next day all leaves perfectly clipped off. We have two green beans, one for my husband and one for me. We looked for deer tracks but didn’t see any and no bugs of any kind. What has happened here?? Maybe you or your readers can solve this mystery. Your comments will be appreciated.

My first thought was that rabbits ate Sue’s bean leaves, but then I realized she said they were six feet tall so I hope there’s no rabbit that tall walking around! Could it be a bird of some sort?

If you have any guesses at what could be eating Sue’s bean leaves please leave a comment and tell us about it.


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  • Reply
    Sue Simmons Ritchie
    May 26, 2020 at 4:15 pm

    Tipper, I had some bugle plants and I was losing leaves on , got to looking and there was green worms like packsaddle or horned which ever you call them,maybe those varments were the ones that ate my green bean leaves .I sprayed all I could see and killed them. We do have deer that comes through the yard,but there was no foot prints to indicate deer. Thanks to all for their comments.

  • Reply
    Gaye Blaine
    May 1, 2020 at 5:06 pm

    I’m interested in finding out.

  • Reply
    Sue Simmons
    June 17, 2017 at 10:28 am

    I have a long row of beans but only had two green beans on a plant strange .Thanks everyone for all your comments and advise, i’m sure its one of those critters. I never had a problem like this with my beans before. When I want green beans I will open a can or go to the farmers market and buy some. LOL Thanks again all I appreciate your help. Thanks to the Blind Pig also. Sue Simmons

  • Reply
    Linda Lane
    June 17, 2017 at 6:44 am

    This is really interesting
    Hope the culprit is found
    I will be checking in for updates
    Hope everyone has a great day
    A wet morning here for sure

  • Reply
    Ed Ammons
    June 16, 2017 at 7:35 pm

    I saw two hen turkeys up on the road bank over at Flat Gap today. They just stood there and watched me drive by. They must know I am no threat to them. I don’t even know when turkey season is. I usually see some chicks this time of year but not today.
    As to Sue’s bean problem, I don’t know of anything that can strip the leaves off of beans overnight without leaving sign. I do know that beans can shed their leaves if they are overwatered, underwatered or over fertilized. Usually the leaves turn yellow before they fall off.
    From Sue’s comment I deduce that she has only two bean plants. Is it possible that they are plagued by a condition in the human population called “helicopter parents?” Could she be over tending her “haricot verts?”

  • Reply
    Lee Riffle
    June 16, 2017 at 6:43 pm

    Here is an idea gets some peppermint and put it out around the area, if its deer they will leave the beans alone, don’t have peppermint get some peppermint candy liquid from wall Mart in the birthday party supplies mix it with a little water and spray the beans,

  • Reply
    Lee Riffle
    June 16, 2017 at 6:38 pm

    How about deer in your area, they love green beans and they will only eat the leaves.

  • Reply
    June 16, 2017 at 6:10 pm

    I hope you all have a nice time at Unicoi State Park tomorrow. …Ken

  • Reply
    H Lee Mears
    June 16, 2017 at 2:48 pm

    From looks of my flowers, I’d say snails. But, there would be the tail-tale slime left behind.
    I have to go out at night with flashlight and salt box. ?

  • Reply
    B. Ruth
    June 16, 2017 at 10:58 am

    If you read my comment I emailed about the time Jim was writing his too….
    I think Jim and I were in the same ballpark….checking for the deposit of residue drops and the different culprits…never heard of or seen a cutworm climbing the whole plant…
    Deer ate all our bean leaves one year….not leaving any track indication as the soil was dry loose and knotty…the beans came back…the deer came back…this time we caught the varmits…until the ground got damp were we able to see hoof prints but then only a few…as I say we have what they call
    The Light Foot….species this time of year!
    Thanks Tipper,

  • Reply
    June 16, 2017 at 10:54 am

    I feel for Sue, cause there’s a lot of work to green beans. When I had a garden, I sprayed Sevin Dust on the plants as they broke thru the ground to keep the Rabbits at bay. Then just before they bloomed, I’d spray them again and no more. I’ve never had much experience with Horn worms, except Cabbage. One time I had 33 of 36 that came up and had such big, pretty leaves. A couple days later those boogers were all over the garden, just cut-off and mostly uneaten. I buy my Cabbage now. I’ll show ’em! …Ken

  • Reply
    B. Ruth
    June 16, 2017 at 10:51 am

    To be a good detective one needs more pictures of the crime scene! That picture you show here, looks purty darn tasty and any two-legged varmint might just strip those green leaves, blooms and not leave nary a bean or stem either!
    More information is also needed!
    Were there brown, black or dark green pellets in the garden? Where the pellets single drops or small piles stretching out into a line? Loose soil or holey hard soil? What were the weather conditions, rain, foggy, cloudy, wet ground or extremely dry? Time of day or night, dusk or dawn, broad daylight or moonless night? I know this is macabre but were there “bits of the “deceased (green leaves) bodies” lying around near the crime scene, etc.?
    “Just the facts, ma’am!” Did anyone in the neighborhood hear anything or see anything? Such as a “alarm feeding call”? Maybe someone heard crunching, chewing, chucking or snorting sounds? Did anyone see two glazed small lights seeming to move back and forth thru the foliage, occasionally jumping straight up into the air? Was there waist high stark floating-like iridescent glows, seeming to stare right at you then slowly turning and coming right back in your direction? Was there seen any quick shadow-like large motions or a dark scurrying movement along the garden border? What about a “flutter” sound above the head? Could there have been a glimpse of something that looked like a flash of white as the shadow quickly moved? Of course the round puffy white, bouncing movements could indicate a couple of suspects depending on how close they were!
    I guess that is all the we need right now, ma’am! We will be checking in with you later if we need anymore information. However just from what we read of the area, it is a four legged varmint or critter! They are very sneaky and light on their feet and during this time of year may or may not leave tracks. We have ruled out cutworms…so no worry here as they cut the newly erupted seed or transplant and don’t like to climb up the pole and strip…they cut down the plant and chew one leaf and go to the next, cutting off the whole row and disappear…A word of advice though, put little sticks or collars around your stems of new plants and the little “boogers” can’t wrap their body around them and cut them off!
    Our surmise is deer! The ones they call in these parts this time of year when you have done all the work and all is growing tasty green, the one they call “The Light-Foot” they waits on the edge of the woodland and waits to kill in the dawn, dusk and night!
    Thanks Tipper,

  • Reply
    June 16, 2017 at 10:40 am

    I donʻt know, but I donʻt want ʻem !!!’

  • Reply
    June 16, 2017 at 10:17 am

    I like Miss Cindy’s idea of catching the culprit in the act!

  • Reply
    Eva Nell Mull Wike, PhD
    June 16, 2017 at 9:48 am

    I would say CUTWORMS are the guilty eaters! BUT folks have already said so! Just get you some dust and put on a branch just to see if those EATERS leave the dusted branch alone!

  • Reply
    June 16, 2017 at 9:41 am

    I guess I am not eco friendly, because I keep Sevin Dust, and beans are always the vegetable that seem to get the culprits. I start with first tiny bites, and it works well. I will follow through the day as I am curious.

  • Reply
    June 16, 2017 at 9:25 am

    That is a mystery! Most animals that have enjoyed my garden don’t stop with the leaves, they eat the stems and blooms as well. From my experience with cut worms, they usually take the plant down at ground level. Hmmm… Something similar happened with my kiwi plants. Every year they bloomed their hearts out and pea size fruit appeared by the thousands. I have checked them during the evening only to find every single fruit gone the next morning. I called the extension office. The gentleman there told me it was likely a bird doing the damage. I never believed that. It would have to be hundreds of birds. Whatever it was never left any sign of being there. I never got the first fruit from those invasive plants, so after about 20 years of dealing with the mystery, we cut them down.
    Those Pressley girls sure have had a busy schedule so far this year.

  • Reply
    Lori L
    June 16, 2017 at 9:00 am

    When I read the blog, I didn’t pick up that the leaves were eaten. I just understood they were cut off at the stem. If the leaves were eaten, I agree with JustAnOldGuy that it is Hornworms. Hornworms eat the leaves. (Please excuse me for being gross here!) That’s how all that manure they leave behind gets made. If the leaves were just cut off and not eaten, I say cutworms.

  • Reply
    Sherry Case
    June 16, 2017 at 8:50 am
    I hope this link will open. My first thought was cut worms. I have had hornworms attack my tomato plants last year and they can do a lot of damage.
    The link showed a picture of bean plants that were completely void of leaves. The culprit was thought to be slugs. Now I’m not saying that this couldn’t happen, but I have never known of it happening.
    But anything is possible.

  • Reply
    Sheryl Paul
    June 16, 2017 at 8:48 am

    Cut worms is my thought

  • Reply
    Jim Casada
    June 16, 2017 at 8:45 am

    Tipper–It wouldn’t be cutworms–they operate only at ground level and don’t climb (they can be terrible on newly planted tomatoes), JustAnOldGuy’s suggestion of hornworms is a distinct possibility, although they normally attack tomatoes and in fact are sometimes called tomato hornworms. I’ve never known of an infestation this bad, but you can find them if you look carefully on uneaten leaves and check for the droppings he mentions (they will be green if really fresh and turn black after a few hours).
    I have some in the late summer every year on tomatoes, but I can almost always find them. I just squeeze the blooming things until all the vegetation they’ve consumed squirts out in a big mess. Often they will carry a parasite in the form of a lot of little white critters sucking the life from them. They are easier to spot then.
    Jim Casada

  • Reply
    Ron Stephens
    June 16, 2017 at 8:16 am

    Gee, I have my garden problems but never that one yet. I’m sorry you do. Seems like new troubles just keep showing up as fast as (or faster than) we figure out the old ones. Seems no consecutive years are alike.
    Maybe there is a positive side if you get better pollination because the pollinators visit all the blooms.

  • Reply
    Lori L
    June 16, 2017 at 7:39 am

    Sounds like cutworms to me. Cutworms hide in the soil during the day and only come out at night. So, most times people don’t see them. They cut leaves off at the stem on bigger plants and, sometimes, cut the whole plant down for smaller seedlings.

  • Reply
    June 16, 2017 at 6:56 am

    It sounds like a hornworm attack. They’re caterpillars and will disappear when they change into moths. They’re perfectly colored to blend in with the plant’s foliage and they’re tremendously destructive. Look for some, for want of a better term, worm manure on the ground. It’ll look like miniature mouse droppings. There is a product that uses bacteria to kill them. It is called Thuricide and won’t harm humans. It works by ruining their digestion and they stop eating and starve. That’s my guess and it’s worth every penny you paid for it.

  • Reply
    Miss Cindy
    June 16, 2017 at 6:52 am

    Cut worms, maybe? Sue may have to go out with a flash light in the dark of night to catch her culprit!

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