Hollies losing branches #418057 - Ask Extension


Hollies losing branches #418057

Asked July 31, 2017, 8:50 AM EDT

We have been having a problem of shrub hollies having their branches clipped off. (Castle Spire Blue Holly) The twigs are healthy and the ends look like they were snipped. We do have cicada killer bees around. What insect made be doing this and how can we control it? We did not mind it at first but it is becoming a real problem and I am concern for the health of the hollies and misshapen plants.

Howard County Maryland

Expert Response

There is no insect that would do that.  We suspect it is squirrels.  Squirrels can be very 'squirrelly' at times and they will nip off tips or take bites of food for no apparent reason.  Possibly for moisture sometimes.  Possibly to test a new food source.  Nipping hollies is not normal behavior.  Deer will also nip off the tips of hollies, but they will eat the tips and would not leave them strewn around. 

To discourage your 'pruner', you can lightly sprinkle fine powdered agricultural lime on the leaves.  Animals do not want the lime in their mouths or on their paws.  You will need to refresh it after a rain. After a few applications, the behavior should stop. 

Instead of lime, could we use pepper or garlic spray?  Would deer repellent work if squirrels are the problem?  It is not a deer problem.  The whiteness of the lime would distract from the garden.
The Question Asker Replied August 01, 2017, 7:44 AM EDT
Pepper is a squirrel deterrent, but you would have to read the labels on whatever sprays you have to see if they are formulated for squirrel control. Also be sure to follow any directions about application temperatures.
We don't know if deer repellent would work. Again, we refer you to the label which also may list a contact for the manufacturer, so check with them.

Don't worry too much about the clipping effect. Hollies react well to pruning.


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