What’s eating your hostas?

Credit: Flickr / Roberto Verzo

Q: I have a fairly large garden in West Vancouver. In it we have about 20 hostas in various parts of the garden. We have had most of these for at least five or more years. During early March something has been shredding the new shoots as they emerge. It is not caused by slugs as the shoots are torn by something with sharp teeth. In some cases it leaves shredded bits around. The damage has occurred in all parts of the garden, to almost every hosta, even those in pots overwintering under the deck. Would skunks do this? We had a skunk in the garden in the autumn.

Slug and snail damage is very common on new emerging shoots even before the leaves completely open up. Damage may appear inside the leaves as holes with jagged or clean edges. Slimy trails may or may not be present. Some hosta cvs. are more susceptible to damage than others; generally speaking, thicker-leaved and blue hostas may demonstrate better resistance. Other possibilities could be deer (look for cleanly-chewed-off, newly-emerging shoots usually in the early morning with track marks), rabbit (usually visible during the day, possibly evident holes in the ground), rats, mice, squirrels or voles (the latter usually feed on underground parts with surface holes and tunnels).