Over the last few weeks I have lost dozens of tomatoes to fruit rats. I would estimate that I had to throw out about half of this Spring's tomato harvest due to caterpillars and rats.
|The rats went after the tomatoes closest to the ground.|
|Even green tomatoes were eaten.|
|When I saw this type of bite I thought at first that I was dealing with rabbits.|
At first I suspected rabbits because we do regularly see rabbits around the garden and it looked like little rabbit teeth marks on some of the green tomatoes. So I put up a new garden fence around the whole garden. I had taken down the garden fence I had last year because it did seem to be accomplishing much, and it just made it more difficult to work around the garden. However, I never actually saw a rabbit eating a single tomato, and I continued to lose tomatoes even with the fence up.
|The rats seemed to like to chew on both the red and green tomatoes.|
|The rabbit guard obviously did not slow down the rats.|
In fact I think the rats were laughing at me when they saw me put up all the wide gauge fencing.
|Between the caterpillars and rats I was not having a very good month!|
|Fortunately, I was able to return this for a refund because it did absolutely nothing for my rat problem.|
I was now losing about five or six tomatoes a day at the height of my tomato season, so I was desperate for a solution. I ended up getting some chicken wire and wrapping it around the raised beds that had the greatest tomato damage. This really slowed down the damage and at first I thought I had the problem fixed. But then a couple of days later I started losing tomatoes again. I had left the top of the chicken wire loose to discourage rodents from crawling over the top, and the bottom I had folded over and brought tightly all the way down to the ground. I saw no signs of digging under the the wire.
|A quick job of trying to protect my tomatoes from rodents.|
|Tomatoes still being eaten, even inside of chicken wire enclosure.|
Still not sure what was causing the damage, I placed a plastic owl in the garden and I also strung some "scare tape" around thinking the damage could still be caused by birds.
But finally. . . I spotted a rat. I hid behind a tree and was very still for several minutes late one evening, and I was able to watch a rat squeeze itself under the chicken wire, scale the raised beds, climb up a tomato vine, and start munching away.
At least I finally knew exactly what the problem was!
The night after finally spying the rat, I placed a $5 reusable rat trap at the base of one of the rat's favorite tomato plants. The next morning I had trapped my first rat. The tomato damage really slowed down at that point, but I have caught
Warning: dead fruit rat photos below - not for the squeamish or for for those who love rats.
|The garden fence that I left up at the back of the garden actually proved useful.|
It prevented this rat from running into the wood with my trap.
I have no idea how many rats are still in the woods behind my garden. My tomato plants are now approaching the end of their season for this Spring, and I will just keep the one trap I have ready for more rats. The ants tend to eat the bait pretty quickly. But most of the rats I have caught because they step on the trap on their way up the tomato vines--not because they have tried to eat the bait. Next season I am not sure what I will do yet. I may try to just have a few rat traps around the tomato plants at all times. I could build a better chicken wire enclosure for next Fall; however, that is a lot of trouble, so I am hoping several rat traps will do the job. At least at this point I know there are three less tomato-eating fruit rats in my garden.