Catching the frit eater

Adam Fikso
Thu, 22 Apr 2010 10:35:13 PDT
Rabbits ate off nearly all the azalea buds I had (nearly 200 flowers by 
estimate).  No other animal is likely as a  possibiity in our area---nor 
birds, except, possibly a pair of cardinals.No woodchucks any more, and the 
buds were too high.  No deer close by.

----- Original Message ----- 
From: "Jane McGary" <>
To: "Pacific Bulb Society" <>
Sent: Thursday, April 22, 2010 11:20 AM
Subject: [pbs] Catching the frit eater

> For the past two years my bulb collection has been ravaged by an
> animal that crops off the flowering stems of Fritillaria,
> Ornithogalum, Calochortus, and a few other genera, resulting in a
> loss of seed crops, not to mention extreme anger and frustration on
> the part of the gardener. I didn't know what was doing it. I
> suspected rabbits, which have invaded the frames and eaten the
> foliage of Crocus; but it seemed to me that rabbits would also eat
> the frit foliage, and this animal was ignoring nonflowering plants. I
> knew it wasn't mice, because the stems were bitten off higher than a
> mouse could reach when the stems extended above the netting with
> which I was trying to protect them. It wasn't deer, because it was
> happening when the frame lights were lowered. Gophers are rare here,
> and there was no sign of their excavations, nor were bulbs being dug
> up. I considered the mountain beaver (Oplodonta), a genus and indeed
> family endemic to the Pacific Northwest and present in my woods, but
> it's a big animal (about the size of a groundhog) that would have
> trampled plants as well as eating them.
> Finally, yesterday evening, I spotted it: a chipmunk. I immediately
> baited and placed a live trap near where I had seen it exit the
> frame, and this morning it was there in the cage. Today it's going on
> a very long ride, and it won't have fun doing it, because I'm
> combining the chipmunk relocation with my collie's vet appointment,
> and Winnie the collie gets to stare at the little devil for a few miles.
> I had begin to suspect chipmunks after noticing one biting the
> emerging foliage off a potted Japanese maple near the house. Possibly
> they are attracted to plant material that's unusually sweet in
> spring, and the nectar-rich liliaceous flowers and their succulent
> stems would qualify. Interestingly, they did not take some of the
> California Fritillaria species (section Liliorrhiza) or species in
> the Imperiales section (F. imperialis, F. eduardii, etc.); perhaps
> these contain some compound that is offensive to predators. Nor have
> they taken many tulips in the frame, though deer bite off the stems
> of those in the garden.
> I'm told that chipmunks are not common in urban areas, but if you're
> seeing this kind of damage to flowering stems, watch for them. They
> are easy to trap in squirrel-size Havahart live traps baited with
> sunflower seeds (I stick the seeds to the trigger platform with
> honey). Because they're a native mammal I hesitate to kill them; I
> will have no such reservations once I move nearer the city and have
> to protect my bulbs from the introduced eastern gray squirrel, or
> worse yet from rats.
> Jane McGary
> Northwestern Oregon, USA
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