Having grown sunflowers for many years I have had many a plant captured by critters before its prime.
I am of course talking about bugs, beetles, birds and all manor of wild animals.
So, what animals and bugs are attracted to Sunflowers?
Sunflower bugs and beetles, Cutworms, ladybugs, spiders, bees, snails, butterflies, moths, aphids, seed Weevils, squirrels, rabbits, birds, deer, mice, rats, hedgehogs, chipmunks, Raccoons and the list goes on.
Not only are sunflower plants and seeds a tasty treat for me and my pets, I share them with the wild life that visits my garden too.
Here’s some important information on Are Sunflower Seeds Safe for Your Pets.
For all my decades growing sunflowers I have taken this for granted, so I thought I could share and explore what bugs and wild creatures can benefit from our glorious, bountiful blooms too.
So let us gaze, and graze, upon the life of a sunflower in the eyes of our fellow creatures.
Luckily you don’t need a garden to grow sunflowers.
You’ve planted your seeds (the ones you’ve saved before anything else can eat them) placed the pot in as sunnier place as you can, and your seedlings are starting to grow.
Please click here for my ultimate guide to growing Sunflowers
It won’t take long for your seedling to become recognisable as a sunflower plant.
Sunflowers are one of the fasted growing plants, so make sure it’s well watered and the pot doesn’t dry out.
If you have enough pots, or garden, try growing different varieties and more varieties of bees will visit them and love you for it too.
What Bugs Are Attracted to Sunflowers
Before our sunflower has fully grown, and whilst it is a young plant, there will be a number of beetles and bugs visiting.
Ladybirds, ladybugs and lightning bugs will feast on the crowds of aphids.
The List of Bugs That Visit Sunflowers
Depending on your location and region that you live in, here is a list of some of the bugs, beetles and invertebrates that may visit and enjoy our sunflowers as much as we do, for one reason or another.
As our sunflower Follows the Sun to maturity, a curious procedure called heliotropism, I wrote about what heliotropism is and how it happens.
It grows strong and comes into its glory as a huge, golden (well usually) inviting bloom, and this is when even more action from the wildlife world will occur.
Bees and butterflies fill up on tasty nectar from over a thousand filled florets, in return for this tasty drink they pollinate our sunflower so it can produce seeds.
Firstly, if your sunflower doesn’t appear to have any seeds, then click here to find out why
At the harvesting stage, the Larger variety of Sunflower can produce up and over of two thousand seeds and even at this stage the beetles and bugs are still foraging around, it is still a source of food and shelter to them.
But now bigger critters join the action and this is when you need to decide whether to protect all sunflower plants for your own pleasure and pets, ‘go halves’ with nature, by protecting some of them, or just let mother nature enjoy all of them till the end of the season.To decide Lets explore our choices further…
What Wild Animals Eats Sunflower Plants and Seeds?
An abundance of wildlife that will enjoy chomping on your plants.
A large variety of birds, Bats, Mice, Deer
Chipmunks, Voles, Raccoons, Rabbits
To leave your hard grown sunflowers for Mother nature to enjoy I feel is a credit to you.
Rabbits LOVE Sunflowers!
Now we have harvested our sunflower seeds or let nature have its way, our sunflower plant still has many uses and a lot to offer.For our gardens, The cast off shells can be used for mulch and so to the stems.
Or the stems can be dried out and used to build animal hides or winter homes for insects to shelter in.For our homes, the seeds are not the only part of the sunflower we can eat, fresh, roasted or dried.
The seedlings and leaves can be used in salads, the stalk is a crunchy celery like snack too.
The seeds can be compressed for oil or processed for spreads and dips.Some varieties of sunflowers shells can be used to make natural vibrant purple dyes for paints, soaps and their petals used as decoration.
Again If you leave sunflowers to give back to the environment I commend you.
I always plant more flowers than I need, even knowing that some of my seedlings might be a midnight snack for snails.
I love watching the bees and butterflies feeding and flitting.
I can’t get enough of the funny antics of the squirrels precariously dangling upside down trying to wrestle the seeds from their cases, I take great pleasure watching the early morning birds pecking and feasting on a fresh delight.
The smaller unwanted seeds fall to the ground and are picked up for a midnight supper for the stealthiest of mice.
So I only harvest enough seeds for myself and my pets to enjoy, mainly for the nutritional benefits, and a bag of carefully stored seeds for the following years planting.
As for the rest, I let the wild life enjoy my bountiful sunflowers to do with what they will.
How to Protect Sunflowers from Insects
Protecting Sunflower Seedlings.
Try using natural deterrents on your succulent seedlings.
These could include crushed up egg shells and rough gravel piled up around your young plants.
Using shop bought poisons and pellets will in turn poison birds and animals that eat the slugs and bugs that you’re using them for.
Protecting Mature Sunflowers
When your seedling has matured into fully grown sunflowers that attract our list of bigger critters, and you want to deter them from scaling your beautiful blooms, try contructing frames for fruit netting, use mesh or chicken wire.
While protecting from larger animals, it will still allow pollinators in to feast and get your sunflower to produce seeds.
To detract birds and wildlife further, try hanging feeders for them elsewhere in your garden.
The wild life will soon get used to and learn quickly where there is an easier food source to be munched on.
‘What wild animals and bugs are eating my Sunflowers?’ a lot of these people actually refer to all of these as ‘pests’, but some of these ‘pests’ are an essential part of our environment.
I realise a lot of my own thoughts and feelings have gone into this write up, and I hope I have given you a glimpse of the view on my side of the fence.
Our Sunflowers are a seasonally glorious plant that are many things to many beings.
Not only are they a tasty snack for us, and our pets, the sunflower and her seeds are an abundance of wealth to our environment and wildlife.
I love this in sunflowers, they are a complete package.
The anticipation of hoping my saved seeds will poke through the soil.
That the seedlings will survive being bug and slug food.
harvesting seeds for myself and my pets and then enjoying what I leave for mother natures and her own devices.
“The sunflower and her seeds are an all round mighty plant indeed”Pamela Anne
Are Hummingbirds Attracted to Sunflowers?
Sunflowers are one of the hummingbirds favorite flower.
The sun like outer petals attract the hummingbirds to the large brown center disc.
Each one of these disc florets contains a little cup of sweet nectar that hummingbirds love to feast on.
The mexican sunflower that can grow up to six feet tall, has striking, plush orange petals and is another favorite of hummingbirds too.
Watching sunflowers grow in the garden can add so much happiness to your garden.
Until you watch a squirrel run up the stalk of a sunflower and rip the entire head off and run away with it.
I knew that squirrels were a culprit eating some of my sunflowers, but were they the only ones?
I set out to learn what other animals eat sunflowers and how to help protect these majestic flowers from being eaten before they fully matured.
What Animals Eat Sunflowers?
The most common animals that eat sunflowers include birds, squirrels, mice, deer, voles, and chipmunks.
A lot of insects also enjoy eating the sunflower plant, like spittlebugs, beetles, and weevils.
Sparrows, finches, and cardinals are a few birds that absolutely love to eat the seeds of sunflowers.
These birds often visit gardens and bird feeders to get their fix of sunflower seeds.
In addition, many types of hawks and other prey birds feed on the birds that do eat sunflowers, so you might see them hanging around your garden or feeder.
Most birds won’t bother your sunflower seeds until they are dried and ready to be picked.
What Birds Eat Sunflower Seeds?
Not every type of bird is going to eat sunflower seeds, but there are quite a few that will.
If you’re growing black oil sunflowers, then you might expect more birds to hang around your garden as many types prefer this variety.
Chickadees – chickadees do eat sunflower seeds as well, whether they are in bird feeders or just on the plant.
NuthatchesGrosbeaksCardinalsAmerican Goldfinches – these have been raiding my sunflowers this year, but they’re so pretty I almost don’t mindMourning DovesHouse FinchStarlingsHouse SparrowsGracklesJuncosBlue JaysWoodpeckers – while not as common, woodpeckers will each sunflower seeds on occasion
Sunflower seeds will attract birds to your garden, so make sure to keep an eye on them.
How to Keep Birds Away From Sunflowers
If you’re growing sunflowers to save seeds or eat the seeds yourself, you’re not going to love seeing birds ravaging your plants.
There are a few ways you can keep birds off your plants.
The other option is to set up a fake owl or scarecrow in the garden.
Many birds will try to avoid anywhere a hawk is in plain sight as they don’t want to be attacked.
Fake owls are great for keeping many animals out of the garden, including squirrels, deer, birds, and more.
Birds are pretty smart though, so you will want to move it regularly so they don’t get used to it.
One of the most effective ways to keep birds out of the garden is to use garden or bird netting.
This might not be the most ideal method since sunflowers are so nice to look at, you probably don’t want to cover them at all.
You can also choose a part of your sunflower patch to protect and let nature take it’s course on the others.
Squirrels are also big fans of sunflower seeds.
This is probably quite obvious if you’ve ever watched a squirrel desperately trying to climb a bird feeder.
Since sunflower seeds are common in bird feed, this means that you’ll have birds AND squirrels hanging around.
We have tons of trees in our yard, and I use to love watching the tree squirrels run around and go into their homes in the tree branches.
But then the squirrels started eating my tomatoes, and I no longer loved seeing them around.
These rodents often bury nuts and seeds in the ground to save for later, and they will often dig up buried sunflower seeds to eat.
How to Keep Squirrels Away From Sunflowers
Protecting your sunflowers from squirrels can be a bit of a challenge since they’re very nimble, but there are a few good ways to do it.
Similar to the method above, this can help keep squirrels from getting to the seeds of your sunflowers.
You can also use some kind of aluminum screening bent over the flower of the plants to save them from birds eating sunflower blooms.
I got one of these to protect my garden this year.
It’s been working out pretty well, although I’ve found it’s not as ideal for birds since they come from above.
You might be able to get the motion sensor setup in just the right way for birds, but I find it works better with animals on the ground.
Chipmunks are another animal that loves sunflower seeds, so don’t be surprised to see them running around your garden.
Unlike squirrels, chipmunks don’t hibernate during the winter so they gather more than they need during the summer and fall and put them in burrows for storage.
How to Keep Chipmunks Off Sunflowers
Unfortunately, keeping chipmunks off of your sunflowers is as challenging as keeping squirrels off of them.
Chipmunks love sunflower seeds, and they provide a lot of healthy fats for them.
Bird netting can do as well of a job for chipmunks as it does for squirrels.
It lays on top of your plants and makes it much more difficult for rodents and other pests to reach the seeds or parts of the plant they’re trying to eat.
4. Garden Mice, Voles & Rats
Garden mice and voles are also culprits of eating sunflower seeds out of the garden.
While these pests can climb the plants, they also will dig the newly planted garden seeds out of the ground as well.
If you’re not seeing sunflower seedlings sprout up out of the ground a few weeks after planting, you might have been robbed of the seeds.
These rodents will eat corn and sunflower seeds, so that’s something to keep in mind as well.
How to Keep Mice From Eating Your Sunflowers
🙂 While that’s a great option, it’s not always doable.
Mice can be kept away with small barriers like a solid fence or
Companion planting is another great way to keep unwanted pests away.
This is when you grow plants nearby that help the plant they’re near and vice versa.
Since mice don’t love the smell of garlic or onions, you can plant your sunflowers near them.
Sage is another great option with a pungent smell that deters pests.
The scarecrow method can work with mice, voles, and rats as well, as they will want to avoid places that have predators lurking.
While raccoons won’t be the first to show up to eat your sunflowers, this is a definitely possibility.
If they get hungry enough, they will eat seeds, nuts and other plants in your garden.
How to Keep Raccoons From Eating Your Sunflowers
There are a few methods for keeping raccoons out of the garden.
Wind chimes, laser red eyes (that simulate a predator at night), and motion-activated sprinklers work great.
Raccoons get scared by loud noises and sudden movements, making this option a great one.
Motion-activated sprinklers are one of my favorite ways to keep all kinds of animals out of my garden.
Yes, deer do eat sunflowers.
Sunflowers are a good source of food for deer because they are high in nutrients like protein and fat.
Deer will also eat the leaves of the sunflower plant.
Deer will eat many types of flowers, and sunflowers is a big one for them.
How to Keep Deer from Eating Sunflowers
There are a few things you can do to keep deer from eating your sunflowers.
The sprinkler I mentioned above works great for keeping these pests out of the garden as well.
Planting sunflowers in a garden that is enclosed by a fence at least 8 feet tall is really the only foolproof way to keep them from eating your sunflowers seeds.
Another method for keeping deer out of the garden is Irish Spring soap.
Other than that, you can spray a chili pepper spray on the sunflowers to help protect them.
Once they get a small taste of the pepper, they’re likely going to move on to another food source.
Rabbits eat garden plants like tomatoes and carrots, but they have also been known to eat sunflowers, the flowers, stalks and seeds.
Of course, they won’t be able to reach the seeds, but they would eat the seeds a bird dropped seeds or the plant falls over.
How to Keep Rabbits From Eating Your Sunflowers
How to Keep Rabbits From Eating Your Sunflowers
Rabbits love to eat garden plants when they can’t find enough clover around their nests.
One great way to protect your sunflowers are to plant their favorites elsewhere.
I have a ton of clover in my yard and this does help a lot.
They are always over by the clover, and seem to leave my other plants alone (for the most part).
It’s not foolproof, but it helps quite a bit.
Fencing is the most effective for keeping rabbits out in my opinion.
Sunflowers are great for bringing bees and other beneficial insects around your garden, but they also attract some not-so-great insects as well.
Spittlebug nymphs leave behind this weird foamy substance that honestly looks like human spit.
Some other sunflower bugs include:
There are a variety of insects that love eating sunflowers, but how do you keep the ones that harm the plants away?
I have used neem oil this year to keep spittlebugs, aphids, and mites to a minimum.
I’ve used this one on other plants in the past and it works great, but I never got around to spraying my sunflowers with it before the spittlebugs arrived.
You can use this stuff on all kinds of insects in your garden, but this year I’ll be using this to keep spittlebugs off of my sunflowers for sure.
strong This is my favorite organic option for aphids, spider mites, and tomato worms as well.
Sunflowers Are Loved By Many Animals
Sunflowers produce seeds that are a valuable food source for many different types of wild animals, offering up the much-needed fats animals need to survive.
Not only will you help to feed the animals in your area (whether or not that is your goal!), but you also get to enjoy the beauty of these flowers.
You can plant sunflowers near other vegetables and plants that deter animals and pests, but at the end of the day you might need to use more reinforcements.