What is Eating My Bougainvillea Leaves?: Every Possible Insect and Animal

Bougainvilleas are mainstays in landscape gardens because they’re tough, drought tolerant and produce prolific blooms year round. However, they won’t look good when they’re being attacked by insects and pests.

We’ll tackle the concern, ‘what is eating my bougainvillea leaves?’ by listing possible insects, pests and animals.

What is eating my bougainvillea leaves: Insects 

what is eating my bougainvillea leaves

The list of insects that feed on bougainvillea include the following:

  • Aphids
  • Bougainvillea Loopers
  • Leaftier Caterpillars
  • Leaf Cutter Bees


what is eating my bougainvillea leaves

Tiny insects that are usually pale green, aphids are sure to come if your bougainvillea is stressed out or neglected. One or two won’t be noticeable, but they soon grow in a cluster and can be found on new growth.

Bougainvillea Loopers

Bougainvillea loopers love to munch on bougainvillea foliage and leave telltale signs of damage on the edges. Although they leave your plant looking unsightly they typically won’t cause its death.

Leaftier Caterpillars

If you see rolled-up bougainvillea leaves that are webbed up then it’s likely that leaftier caterpillars have visited.

Leaf Cutter Bees

Leaf cutter bees leave behind small circular corner cuts that may seem unsightly at first, but generally speaking they won’t do any lasting damage to your bougainvillea plants.

How to Treat Bougainvillea For Insects


The good news is that all of the insects mentioned above (except aphids) won’t likely cause significant or permanent harm to your bougainvillea plant. Some of them only target the leaves, which means your flower will be undisturbed.

Aphids, mealybugs, scale and whiteflies can be addressed with an insecticidal soap and spray application.

Alternatively, you can use neem oil especially if your bougainvillea leaves have a white substance that comes from the whitefly.

As always, follow the instructions on the label and treat your plants in the early morning or evening for the best results.

Natural Remedies

Caterpillars and leaf cutter bees usually go away on their own after having their fill. One natural remedy is to leave them alone as some of them are beneficial and won’t hurt your bougainvillea anyway.

When you spot the bougainvillea loopers and leaf cutter bees you can remove them by hand or dislodge them from their perch with a jet of water.

The best remedy to keep insects away from your bougainvillea though, is to keep your plant happy. Too much stress tends to attract them, so follow basic bougainvillea care such as watering only when the soil is dry and fertilizing at half-strength during spring and mid-summer.

Prune away excess stems and leaves to encourage better airflow, and maintain your garden or yard constantly by removing debris such as dead stems and leaves.

Animals that Like to Eat Bougainvillea

The list of animals that like to eat bougainvillea leaves are the following:

  • Deer
  • Birds
  • Rabbits

What Animals are the most likely to Eat Bougainvillea


Deer will eat almost any plant that’s available to them or placed in their path, including the usually thorny bougainvillea. The good news is that they won’t eat enough to destroy them or leave them helplessly incapacitated.


Birds love the bougainvillea, but not the leaves. They usually feed on flower nectar which is perfectly fine. To this end they’re not considered pests at all.


Like deer, most rabbits will try to get a taste of the bougainvillea leaves but they’ll likely move on to something else. Light grazing won’t be enough to derail your bougainvillea’s growth.

How to Stop Animals from Eating Bougainvillea

Animals won’t pose a problem for the bougainvillea as it has a defense mechanism that will keep them at bay.

The thorns and the taste should be enough to have it survive deer and the occasional rabbit attacks but the damage will be minimal and your plant should spring back more vigorously than before.

To stop animals from eating bougainvillea leaves you can set up an artificial barrier such as a fence or wires so it would be more difficult to enter. Birds won’t harm the plant and are likely to get the nectar and fly somewhere else.

What is eating my bougainvillea leaves: Final thoughts

The best defense against bougainvillea’s natural enemies is to keep it happy. Do some light pruning every now and then and make sure to remove dead leaves and stems, as well as spent flowers regularly.

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