Lemon trees, Citrus limon, make attractive ornamentals in home landscapes, and commercial gardeners grow them for their edible fruits. Lemon trees are prized by even casual gardeners because of their brightly coloured fruits and citrus scent, but those same characteristics draw pests of all sizes. Pests and animals that eat lemons and lemon tree leaves may destroy your crop before you ever have the chance to enjoy it.
Small Animals and Rodents
The tart taste of lemon tree fruits draws many small animals and rodents. Rabbits and small pocket gophers will eat the fruits that fall from the tree to the ground. Squirrels, rats and voles will seek out the fruits that are still attached to the branches, eating them right off the tree. Despite their size, rodents and other small animals are capable of creating a lot of damage to lemon tree fruits. Any fruits that these animals have nibbled on cannot be eaten by a human.
Lemon trees are attractive to many larger animals as well. Possums and raccoons are a common threat to lemon trees, even in suburban landscapes. In more rural areas, larger animals, such as deer, coyotes and wild hogs will eat lemon fruits. Fencing helps to keep these big animals away.
Grasshoppers, caterpillars and snails also feed on lemon tree leaves. Large infestations can decimate the foliage entirely. Leaf damage can adversely affect the tree's health, because trees use leaves to collect sunlight and moisture that is necessary for the tree to form fruits. Snails, cutworms and earwigs all feed on lemons, creating holes, tunnels and other damage that makes the fruits inedible. Small fruit pests can cause the fruits to rot and fall off the tree prematurely.
Keep the lawn and garden around the tree well-groomed and debris-free. Many pests and small animals hide in tall weeds and other yard rubbish.
Use pesticides if necessary, following the manufacturer's directions to ensure that the fruit remains safe for consumption. Pick up fruits from the ground immediately, and harvest fruits as soon as they are ripe. Removing an animal's food source will discourage it from returning.