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Gardening Answers Knowledgebase

Plant Answer Line Question

Keywords: Sawflies, Ribes, Disease-resistant plants, Master gardeners, Fruit--Diseases and pests

We moved into a new house which has a large currant or gooseberry bush. Now that it has leafed out there are numerous caterpillars eating the leaves. I know they are not tent caterpillars, but I cannot identify them. They are whitish-green with yellow bands across the top and bottom, with many black dots or bumps. The head and first six legs are black. It would be nice to learn more about them.


I cannot make a conclusive pest identification remotely, but there is a possibility these caterpillars are currant sawfly, or imported currantworm. Here is some information about this pest from Colorado State University Extension.

If this pest is the culprit, the book, The Organic Gardener's Handbook of Natural Insect and Disease Control edited by Barbara Ellis (Rodale Press, 1996) recommends using Pyrethrin spray, spraying into the center of the bush. Bees are severely affected by this pesticide, so follow the guidelines shown on this University of California, Davis >a href="http://ipm.ucanr.edu/TOOLS/PNAI/pnaishow.php?id=62">Integrated Pest Management page. Also see this guide to reducing bee poisoning from pesticides.

For a definitive pest identification, you may want to bring a sample of the pest and its damage to a Master Gardener Clinic. Using the following link, you can locate a Master Gardener Clinic in your part of Washington State.

Date 2017-05-26
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Plant Answer Line Question

Keywords: Sawflies, Azadirachta indica, Rosa, Insect pests--Control

I think my rose leaves are being devoured by rose sawfly, and I was wondering if spraying 'Rose Defense' on them would help.


Rose Defense is a Scott's product that contains Neem (as well as other ingredients). There is some evidence that Neem is effective against sawfly larvae. As with any pesticide, you should follow the directions on the package carefully (and note that this product may be harmful to humans, domestic animals, bees, and the environment, depending on the route of exposure).

You might want to start out with the least toxic approach first, that is, handpicking and spraying with water. Once larvae are knocked off the roses, they will not climb up again. If this doesn't seem to be helping, then you could choose a Neem-based spray or insecticidal soap, keeping in mind that the Neem product is toxic to bees, and should not be applied when bees are active.

According to University of Minnesota Extension, sawflies are best controlled when young. You can simply pick them off by hand or dislodge them with a stick or a stream of water. If using water be sure to spray early enough in the day for the foliage to dry by sunset. This will prevent favorable conditions for fungal development. Horticultural oil, insecticidal soap and azadirachtin (sometimes called neem), are among the less toxic insecticides to treat young sawflies. Azadirachtin is slower acting. Bacillus thuringiensis (Bt) is effective on young lepidoptera caterpillars but NOT on larval sawflies.

Cornell University's Resource Guide for Organic Insect and Disease Management (formerly available on the Cornell website) also discusses the uses of Neem. Here is an excerpt:
"Neem products are generally sold as emulsifiable concentrates. Neem oil soap is sold as a water-soluble liquid concentrate. While Copping (2001) reports no known incompatibilities with other crop protection agents, phytotoxicity may be a problem when combining neem oil or soap products. Read labels for specific application guidelines including determination of re-entry interval and pre-harvest interval. Range of efficacy will depend on the susceptibility of species in question and environmental conditions at time of application. However these are points to follow:
Make multiple applications. Frequent applications are more effective than single sprays because neem does not persist well on plant surfaces. Like most other botanically derived materials, it can be rapidly broken down by sunlight and washed away by rain (Thacker 2002).
Use against immature insects. Azadirachtin-based insecticides act on immature stages of insects more effectively than on eggs or adults. To reduce a build up of populations it is important to make treatments to crops targeting insects in an early stage of their life cycle. For instance, neem would likely have little effect on an infestation of striped cucumber beetle adults; however if applied to potato plants early in the season, it has been shown to greatly reduce larval activity of Colorado potato beetle.
Begin applications before pest levels are high. Antifeedant and egg-laying repellant effects show best results in low to moderate pest populations.
Neem is reported to work best under warm temperature conditions (Schmutterer 1990)."

There are quite a few different species of sawfly, and I would guess that the rose sawfly is so named because rose bushes are its primary feeding ground. If you aren't sure what is eating your roses, you may want to take samples of the affected leaves to your local county extension agent before you begin to treat the problem. You may find the images on the self-described Buggiest Rose Website helpful in comparing with the leaf damage you are seeing.

Date 2017-08-15
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May 23 2018 14:32:42