Of Pests and Pathogens: The Rose Slug


I found this cool little critter last week while pruning a customer’s heirloom rose bush. This is a sawfly larvae, otherwise known as a ‘rose slug’. And they’re one of the cooler ‘pests’ as pests go. Check out that glorious apple green color, and those pretty stripes.

Although their larvae are sometimes mistaken for caterpillars, sawflies are in a family of insects related to wasps and bees. Individual species often prefer a specific plant or group of plants. How do their larvae end up on your rose? Well, female sawflies have a nifty saw-like appendage that allows them to cut into leaves and deposit their eggs.

If you see them in your yard know that yes, they are eating your roses. But please keep in mind that they are not a disease, just an herbivore. Don’t break out the big guns just yet!

When unchecked, they CAN do some serious defoliation. BUT you’re not going to let them get that far…

Signs of Sawfly Larvae

  • Holes in your leaves?
  • Soft-tissue of leaves eaten away, leaving translucent, blotched brown parts behind?
  • Little green caterpillar-like larvae marching along the canes or tucked inside curled up leaves?

A few sawfly larvae are no threat to the long term health of your rose. And luckily, they don’t often occur in large numbers. If you find them on your roses, prune off any leaves you find them nesting in. Grab a pair of sharp pruners and a bucket. Clip off curled leaves that might be harboring larvae. I also go cane by cane, and check for any escaped convicts. I usually find a few there as well. Generally, I spend about 10 minutes per rose.

On a sunny day larvae-hunting can be rather pleasant. Give it a few days, and then check again. If you see more, add them to your bucket. As long as the sawfly larvae population is going down, your rose will be a happy camper. And your neighbors will be impressed by your entomological know-how.

Problem Solved…

Okay, now that you’re one with nature and you’ve dealt with those pesky rose slugs in an environmentally responsible and sustainable manner (Yay you!) pat yourself on the back and head over to Holly and Flora (awesome garden/foodie blog) for a frothy spring cocktail recipe.

Happy Spring folks!

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