What type of critter is munching on my sunflower plants?

I have a bunch of sunflowers growing which I planted earlier this year. They had been doing well but I recently noticed a bunch of ragged holes in many of the leaves. They are on many of the plants and at all different levels, meaning not all clustered near the ground or whatever.

I don’t see any obvious culprits. There are no beetles or caterpillars on the plants, no slime trails from slugs. I suspect it is invertebrates, though, not something like deer or rabbits (of which we have an abundance in the neighborhood this year). The plants are in a fenced-in area and some of the holes are way too high for rabbits to reach.

So what could be making largish, ragged holes in the leaves of sunflower plants, and how can I stop them? I live in Southern New England, USDA zone 5b as far as I can tell, if it makes a difference.

I don’t know, but I have leaves disappearing on mine too, same zone, different region. Mine have ants on them, and the leaves are almost completely munched with just the bigger veins remaining, but the ants are not near the damaged leaves, they are at the flower heads. The good news is that all but one have enough leaves that they are still thriving, the last is holding on, but not growing much. One started blooming yesterday, so I am not too worried.

My dad likes to plant sunflowers. The neighborhood squirrels love him for it, and happily chew his sunflowers to bits. This couldn’t possibly be squirrel damage, could it?

I dunno, I thought squirrels were more into nuts and seeds than the leaves. We certainly have enough squirrels around here though, both grey and red.

Also some of the eaten leaves are 4-5 feet off the ground. I don’t think the fat squirrels we have around here could take bites out that high up without tearing down the whole plant.

Sounds like grasshoppers are munching on your sunflowers,LL. They are about mid-size here now in the South. It would explain the fact that higher leaves are eaten, and they don’t hang around like caterpillars, cause, um, they hop away.

A relatively benign solution would be to spray your plants leaves with Neem. It’s derived from the leaves of an Indian tree; tastes bad and is toxic to insects, yet not as bad for the environment as some heavy duty chemicals. It’s available at most garden centers.

I was beginning to come around to it being grasshoppers pretty much by elimination. I figured it had to be something that was pretty mobile. I will try the Neem, thanks for the suggestion.