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10 Animals That Eat Rose Bushes (with Pictures)

Rose bushes are a preferred late-spring and summer food source for many types of backyard wildlife. Oftentimes, it can be difficult to tell what is snacking on your rose bush. There are some signs that can help identify what animal is taking advantage of your precious flowers as certain animals feed on vegetation differently. In this article, we’ll discuss some of the most common animals known to eat rose bushes and how to deter them.

10 Animals That Eat Rose Bushes

1. Rabbits

Rabbits are notorious for munching on vegetation around yards and in gardens. During the summer, one of their favorite food sources is rose bushes. The most common rabbit species in North America is the Cottontail.

They are generally grayish brown with white on the underside of their tail and bellies. Rabbits typically feed at dawn and dusk when they are most active. If you witness a few rabbits hopping around your yard during these times and your missing bunches of roses and leaves from the bush, they are likely the culprit.

2. Deer

fawn whitetail

Rose bushes are a common summer food source for various types of deer. They are herbivores and will seek out food in gardens and near homes when vegetation away from human developments are scarce. A common sign that deer are eating rose bushes is the jagged tears they cause when ripping the roses and leaves from the bush.

There are various plants and flowers that deers tend to avoid, such as rosemary or marigolds. Planting flowers that deer avoid eating can help deter them from eating your rose bush. There are also various deer-repellent products available at lawn and garden stores that you can spray on your rose bush.

3. Squirrels

California ground squirrel

Squirrels are opportunistic feeders that will steal bird seed from hanging feeders and munch on stems, roots, and other vegetation in yards and gardens. Rose bushes can be destroyed by squirrels as they will dig around the base of the bush to eat the roots and break off the stems.

The easiest way to tell if you have a squirrel eating your rose bush is finding holes around the bush and noticing stems that have been nibbled off. Planting daffodils around rose bushes can help deter squirrels away as they do not like the taste.

4. Gophers

pocket gopher | image by sfbaywalk via Flickr | CC BY 2.0

Living much of their life underground, gophers love to feed on roots and other vegetation. Gophers are larger than moles and voles and leave gopher mounds near tunnel entrances. Gopher tunnels and mounds are the easiest way to tell if a gopher is residing in your yard. Unfortunately, gophers love to snack on rose bush roots.

Due to their tunnel-digging abilities, putting a barrier around the plant may not fully deter them. In order to prevent gophers from ravaging your rose bush roots, place natural deterrents such as peppermint oil or coffee grounds near their tunnel entrances. These products have strong smells that may cause them to vacate.

5. Japanese Beetles

A Japanese beetle on a leaf

Japanese beetles are native to Japan and made their way to the U.S. in the early 20th century. They are an invasive species that cause a substantial amount of damage to a wide variety of vegetation. They are known to eat over 300 plant species. Japanese beetles have green heads and rears with bronze wings and prickly legs.

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They can often be found in large clusters on various trees and leaves of plants. A clear sign that your rose bush or other plants are being destroyed by Japanese beetles is an abundance of holes carved around the veins of the leaves, causing some parts of the plant to look very skeletal.

6. Aphids

bean aphids

Aphids are tiny, green bugs that appear in clusters on various leaves and stems of plants. These insects do not eat plant matter, but they suck plant sap from leaves and stems. Plant sap and juices contain vital nutrients for a plant to survive. Rose bushes that are overtaken by aphids will look dried and wrinkled.

Depending on the specific species, rose bushes can survive fairly high temperatures so it is more likely that aphids are drying out your rose bush than heat waves.

Applying natural sprays such as water with peppermint oil will repel aphids. Ladybugs are also known for eating many insect pests in gardens and can help reduce aphid populations.

7. Goats

Mother goat with babies

The only wild goats you may find in North America are mountain goats that live in the high elevations of the northwestern regions of the continent. All goats love eating rose bushes as they are packed full of nutrients.

Whether you live in the northwestern regions of the U.S. or Canada with mountain goats or have domestic goats, they will munch on almost anything including your rose bush.

Similar to other rose bush eaters, goats do not like the smell of peppermint oil, which can be mixed with water to create a spray for rose bushes to deter goats.

8. Voles

image: Pixabay.com

Similar to gophers, voles like to eat rose bush roots and can potentially kill the bush altogether. Voles are fossorial and create burrows where they store food sources.

If a rose bush doesn’t display any external issues on the leaves, stems, or flowers but is deteriorating, a vole may be the culprit. Voles create interconnecting runways, rather than ridge-like hills, in yards when present.

If you notice these runways and small, scattered holes around the yard, you may have a vole problem. Castor oil is a natural repellent for voles and spreading some around the base of a rose bush can prevent them from gnawing on the roots.

9. Thrips

thrips on injured rose
credit: Scot Nelson

Thrips are common rose bush pests that like to suck the nutrients out of the petals. These tiny insects are typically yellow-orange or brown in color and like to hide in rose petals. They can cause a lot of damage to buds and create browning areas along the edges of the petals. If you peel back the petals of a rose, you will find them within the flower.

Thrips can be difficult to get rid of once they arrive, so taking precautions by spraying natural repellents or insecticides on rose bushes beforehand can help prevent them from appearing. Keeping your rose bush free of damaged buds and removing high grasses and weeds from the area will also help keep them away.

10. Raccoons

Raccoons are omnivores and opportunistic feeders, meaning they will eat pretty much anything they find slightly appealing. These backyard critters like to seek out meals in gardens and will snack on rose bush buds.

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Raccoons will return to residences where they are finding an abundance of food. You can deter raccoons from eating rose buds by spraying natural repellants on your rose bush, such as peppermint oil or garlic spray because they don’t like the smell.

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