What Eats Prickly Pear Cactus

Try to picture a world without cacti. Until explorers to the New World started returning with strange plant specimens unlike anything botanists of the period had seen, that was the world that many people lived in. Cactus were common in the Americas, however it is believed that Christopher Columbus gave a prickly pear specimen to Queen Isabella of Spain, who was the first European to witness a cactus. Numerous regions of the Americas, including the Galapagos Islands and many Caribbean islands, are home to diverse prickly pear cacti. These days, you might even find these prickly jewels in parts of the Old World because some species have gotten out of cultivation and naturalized.

Critical players in animal communities include prickly pears. Tortoises, iguanas, rabbits, deer, peccaries, and numerous species of birds all eat different sections of prickly pears. Numerous rodent species, reptiles, and birds, notably cactus wrens, find shelter there.

What creatures consume the prickly cactus?

Numerous animals consume cacti, particularly the prickly pear kind. These animals have physiological and anatomical characteristics that allow them to feed without experiencing any negative effects.

  • Camels
  • Jackrabbit
  • Cattle dogs
  • shrews in the ground
  • Jaguars and Collared Peccaries
  • Rodents ( packrats, mice, gophers, chipmunks, kangaroo rat, woodrat)
  • Birds (Gila woodpecker, gilded flicker birds)
  • Bats
  • Iguana
  • Oriental Cotton Tail
  • Antelope squirrels from Harris’s
  • Coyotes

Let’s delve deeper and see how these animals manage to survive by consuming the spiky vegetation.


Camels have adapted to consuming desert vegetation like cactus since they naturally flourish in arid and semi-arid climates. They have distinctive physical characteristics that enable this.

  • They have a hard palate in the upper region of their mouth, and they use it to grind the cacti with their teeth.
  • Any discomfort brought on by swallowing the spikes is mitigated by their leathery, thick lips.
  • They are also helped by their rotating chew. It makes it simple to vertically slip the cactus needles into the throat.

Is the prickly pear cactus eaten by anything?

Many little rodents rely on prickly pear cactus as part of their food, so to them, a clump of cacti is like a five-star restaurant. Prickly pear (Opuntia spp.) pads, fruits, and seeds are consumed by some species of rats, mice, gophers, and ground squirrels, who also seek refuge and safety among the spiny, densely growing plants. Some rats and mice use the water that is kept in the tissue of succulent plants as a supply of liquid. After consuming the fruits, rodents leave the seeds behind in their waste, which aids in the spread of prickly pear seeds. The U.S. Department of Agriculture’s plant hardiness zones 4 through 11 cover a wide range of prickly pear species, and the specific zones vary by species.

What creature is consuming my cactus?

Do mice consume cacti? They do, without a doubt, and they relish each and every meal. Many rodent species, including rats, gophers, and ground squirrels, like eating cactus. Although it would appear that spiky cactus would deter rodents, the hungry animals are willing to face the dangerous spines in order to reach the delicious nectar concealed beneath, especially during extended droughts. Rodents eating cactus can cause major issues for certain gardeners. One approach is to use poison, but you run the risk of endangering wildlife including birds. Continue reading for more tips on how to prevent rats from eating your cacti.

What kind of bug consumes prickly pear cacti?

The cactus moth, Cactoblastis cactorum (Lepidoptera: Pyralidae), is the most well-known insect adversary of pricklypear and is attributed with the successful biological control of the plant in Australia. In 1925, the cactus moth was imported to Australia from Argentina, where it had no need of its own native parasites or predators. After the pulpy tissues within the pads are consumed by cactus moth larvae, soft rot bacteria and fungi quickly infect the area. This causes the plant to quickly and almost completely collapse (Mann 1970). The moths stay away from pricklypear plants that lack adequate nourishment. On soils with poor fertility levels, fertilization was required to successfully eradicate prickly pear with cactus moths. Due to the conflict of interest between individuals who respect pricklypear for many reasons and those who primarily view it as a problem weed, this bug does not exist in North America and has not been introduced.

Other arachnids that were brought to Australia before 1925 that were partially suppressing pricklypear included the spider mite Tetranychus opuntiae (Acari: Tetranychidae), the cactus bugs Chelinidea tabulata and C. vittiger (Hemiptera: Coreidae), and the cochineals Dactylopius opuntiae, D. to (Dodd 1940). With variable degrees of effectiveness, the cactus moth and/or one of the cochineal insects have been used to biologically control a variety of pricklypear species in many different places.

The banded cactus borers Olycella junctolineela and Ol. subumbrella, as well as the blue cactus borers Melitara dentata, M. prodeniales, and M. fernaldialis, are insects that are known pricklypear pests in the United States and occupy niches that are comparable to those of Cactoblastis cactorum. American-native cochineal insects that attack pricklypear include Dactylopius confusus and D. opuntiae.

Numerous insects, such as a moth (Melitara dentata), the blue cactus borer (Olycella subumbrella), and the cactus beetle (Chelinidea vittiger), can harm plains prickly pear [80,102]. These insects thrive in moist environments and can be a useful natural control during wet seasons [17]. In comparison to unburned pads, both the cactus insect and the blue cactus borer prefer burned cactus pads (stems) [58,80]. This predilection could contribute to a rise in prickly-pear mortality following controlled burns.

The liquids from pricklypear pads are sucked by cochineals, which are tiny, red-bodied insects that resemble mealybugs in appearance. A floculent mass of white, waxy plates that resemble cotton covers the female cochineal nymph’s body when she settles and inserts her proboscis into a pricklypear pad. This immobile state lasts for the whole of the creature’s existence. Chlorosis, pad abscission, necrosis, and plant death are the effects of severe and protracted infestations.

Cactus bugs (Chelinidea spp.) have an appearance similar to squash bugs. Additionally, they consume fruit and prickly pear pad juices. Although their feeding punctures result in yellowing of the pads and circular chlorotic lesions, they typically have little effect. Narnia-specific coreids generally consume fruit juices, but they infrequently have a significant impact on seed formation.

Moneilema long-horned beetle adults sometimes cause pad abscission by chewing on the edges of fresh pricklypear pads. Their larvae create extensive galleries that grow blackened and are accompanied by the exudation of a highly conspicuous black sap from the older pads and basal stems. Additionally, some weevils and insects prey on prickly pear. Attacks on Lindheimer pricklypear are caused by Tetranychus opuntiae, a red spider mite. When infestations are severe, it’s feeding results in a thick coating of corky, greyish epidermis that initially forms around the areoles and then covers the pad surfaces entirely.

Because of their own complex of parasites and predators, Texas’ native insect enemies of the pricklypear rarely have a significant impact on pricklypear populations, save in isolated cases and for brief durations. Following grassland fires, several native insects become more numerous for a year or two, and they seem to support the direct effects of fire in reducing or killing pricklypear. But the length and scope of the fire-insect interaction are rarely enough to completely suppress prickly pear. During warm, humid spells when there are more standing grasses near pricklypear plants, some insect enemies of pricklypear, such as the blue cactus borer, cactus bugs, and cochineal insects, are observed to become more prevalent (Cook 1942, Bugbee and Reigel 1945).

Black-tailed prairie dogs depend heavily on plains prickly pears in the winter, making up up to 58 percent of their diet. Plains prickly-pear is important to pronghorn, especially after a fire. Plants’ spines are removed by fire, creating a supply of preferred feed. The northern pocket gopher, bushy-tailed woodrat, Nuttall cottontail, black-tailed jackrabbit, white-tailed jackrabbit, desert cottontail, least chipmunk, white-tailed deer, collared peccary, and northern bobwhite are among other animals that have been observed to consume plains prickly-pear.

Since at least one hundred years ago, prickly pears from the genus Opuntia have been used in Texas and Mexico as an alternative to feed for grazing livestock. Its nutrient content varies greatly according on the species or variation, age, and plant section. According to the majority of studies, Opuntia prickly pears are high in energy, water, fiber, and ash but low in protein and phosphorus.

Humans consume a variety of Opuntia species as food. Native Americans consumed the fruit of the plains prickly pear raw, dried, or cooked. To remove the spines, fruit was put on the ground and agitated with branches before being split and dried in the sun. When manufacturing clothing and weapons, the flesh of the plains prickly-pear was employed as a binding agent. To make dye, ripe fruits were used.

Pigs consume prickly pear cacti, right?

If you’ve ever wondered what feral hogs eat, prickly pear cactus is undoubtedly on the list. However, it’s difficult to envision anything eating that.

Large, flat lobes and red fruit with many spines are features of the prickly pear cactus. Although the fruit’s spines are smaller than its lobes, the fruit has less of them. The ones on the lobes are longer and thicker, or they may be. If you get one in your skin, they all ache and make you curse.

In Texas and Oklahoma, prickly pears are a problem whether you’re hunting hogs or anything else. They can be found pretty much anywhere, whether they’re standing, sitting, kneeling, or dragging out a hog or deer. When hogs are hungry enough to eat the prickly pears, they don’t mind the spines because the lobes and fruits have an inside wet content. I have no idea how they ingest and process it. In Texas and Okahoma, nobody I’ve ever gone hunting with did either. The usual refrain is “I dunno, but they do.”

When they are starving, wild hogs are about as opportunistic as it gets. For approximately 30 years, I pursued them in seven or eight states. The first place I ever visited was in east Tennessee on a parcel of land that was enclosed but had sizable holes cut into it. Deer, pigs, and other animals came and departed. They dined and lounged to escape the heat on the kudzu-covered portions of the property. Although thick kudzu provided some shade, I imagine, it didn’t stop them from running.

An investigation of the diet of feral hogs is being conducted by the Louisiana Department of Wildlife and Fisheries. A small hog army may survive in Louisiana on the available food. It comes as no surprise that the pigs’ stomachs included a variety of organisms, including plants, mast (acorns, fruit), turkey eggs and poults, rabbits, shorebirds, alligator eggs, worms, lizards and salamanders, snakes, nutria, turtles, and more.

According to Jim LaCour, a state wildlife veterinarian and expert on feral hogs, “We’re finding everything in their stomachs.” They will consume anything that moves or stays still. They consume anything as long as it contains some calories. They directly compete with species that are valuable to us.

About 190 donated or otherwise acquired stomachs are in the possession of the department scientists. They are currently in the freezer due to a change in project financing, but an early investigation of the contents provided more context.

According to the Times Picayune, hog damage to sugar cane, rice, and sorghum crops costs the agricultural sector roughly $80 million yearly. Annual crop loss in the Southeast and Southwest, where feral hog populations are highest, is at least $1.5 billion.

Because of the swine migration, many deer hunters who plant food plots each year frequently observe hog damage. timer-controlled corn and protein feeders? The clever hogs rapidly pick up on how to eat the nuggets (if you’re a hunter, this is when you obviously want to be there with a gun). Whether it’s gator eggs, worms, and nutria in Louisiana, a farmer’s newly planted field in Texas, or delicate pine saplings on land in Alabama, pigs will move to find the finest food sources.

The quick response is “anything they can get their teeth into,” but more research may provide additional information about what feral hogs eat.

Who or what is consuming my succulents?

Examine the soil and the area around the pot to see whether birds are consuming your succulents. Do you notice any feces? Birds will produce little, rounded droppings. Additionally, you might notice tiny white faeces; those are urates, pee that has solidified. Small holes rather than large bitten portions are more likely to be found since birds like to eat succulent foliage.

It might have been a larger animal if there are more portions removed or if you observe chew marks. The larger rodents like voles, possums, mice, squirrels, and others can consume succulents. Even cats and dogs will occasionally eat succulents, but they frequently quit after only one bite. Make sure your succulents are not hazardous to dogs or cats if you have pets, and keep them out of their reach if you do. Succulents can also be harmed and eaten by smaller insects like snails and slugs.

But don’t assume that your succulents will only be damaged by birds and other animals. Small vermin can consume your succulents or at the very least sap their juices. These include, for instance, aphids. Aphids are tiny insects that are frequently colored green, black, or yellow. Spider mites are tiny and come in a variety of hues. Additionally, they absorb plant liquids. Succulents might suffer unfavorable effects from scale bugs as well. Succulents can also be harmed by slugs and snails.

Always be sure to inspect your succulents’ roots for damage, pests, and discolouration. You can use natural remedies to get rid of pests if your succulents are afflicted. Neem oil, horticultural mineral oils, and insecticidal soaps are a few examples.

Can rabbits consume cacti?

Me: Prior to yesterday, I had never heard of the venomous rabbit saliva theory. This makes me wonder where Science Neighbor Lady got the idea. Having never spoken to the research topic directly, I have the following unscientific theory, which I suppose makes me the Pot calling the Kettle Black.

She noticed that, during the hot desert summers, rabbits and a variety of other gnawing rodent-type pests will eat cacti in her yard, occasionally even highly prickly ones. She was probably shocked when she saw it because she probably thought cacti were virtually unkillable (I was shocked when I first came to Arizona and began experiencing attacks within a few days of setting my newly-relocated-from-Colorado plant collection outside!). That claim, which I frequently hear, is untrue. In actuality, the general category of succulents, which includes cacti, is not very difficult to exterminate. Here is why.

Anatomically, most cacti only have one growth point at the tip of each stem, and they have relatively few stems compared to trees, which have tens of thousands of apical stems at the end of each tiny branch. For these reasons, it is quite easy to permanently damage a cactus’ growth. The cactus’ future growth is immediately stunted when the apical cells where the plant grows are removed, and it only needs to happen once to set the plant back for years. Additionally, cacti lack underground buds at a ground-level crown or along the roots that might sprout, in contrast to many herbaceous or woody plants. As a result, when all top growth is removed, they are fatally killed with no chance of survival. As long as you physically attack a cactus, it doesn’t take much to destroy it for good.

Cacti and succulents are often slow-growing plants physiologically because they have internal water-saving mechanisms for arid climates. As a result, they are incredibly effective at conserving water, but at the expense of growing much more slowly than plants that need more water. Due to their ability to store water, they are also attracted to rabbits and other animals during dry spells when there is frequently no free water available and animals must eat cactus flesh in order to survive. Until the slow-growing, one-apex-per-stem plant is severely damaged, a hungry and thirsty rabbit overwhelmed by the summer heat will return to the cactus they find time and time again and nibble more off of it every day. Cacti and succulents are killed by rabbit activity, which works in conjunction with innate plant physiology to prevent speedy recovery from such injury. not poisonous spit.