What’s Wrong With My Roses?!

Do your rose leaves look like this?  It’s been a bad year for this pest in my corner of the world–and I had such a busy, complicated spring that I did not take time to notice until they really got out of hand!

This is where my neighbors realize that yes, I truly am an organic gardener because no one else would put up with such ugly plants!  What I’ll do is hose the little buggers off on a hot sunny day so the foliage has time to dry and I won’t be causing disease.  Then a week or so later I’ll feed my plants with some Rose Buddy–a nice organic rose food that I get from Washington State.

But even if I ignored everything completely, in another week to 10 days, all of this would be over because this pest has a specific life cycle and then it’s done.

The roses will make new leaves.  It will take them some time, and yes, it will be a while before they reflower because of it.  Had I not been so pre-occupied earlier this spring, I could have realized what was happening and caught it sooner.

What is happening?  A caterpillar look-a-like known as the rose sawfly, or rose slug, is feasting its little heart out.  There are two of them on the lowest set of leaves in the next photo.

It’s most important not to confuse these guys with caterpillars though because they are not.  BT won’t work.  They are the larvae of a non-stinging wasp.

Many non-organic folks just use systemic insecticides on their roses to avoid such an ugly mess  But the chemicals in some rose systemics have been implicated in colony collapse disorder in honeybees–so please try to find another way to manage these little guys.  Washing them off with a hose is a really easy–and effective– way to manage them.

When I’ve needed something stronger than a hose and water, I’ve had great results with the Pharm Solution Rose Pharm spray–but I suspect insecticidal soap would also work because they are soft-bodied.  The tricky thing is getting under the leaves.

The real lesson here is just to pay attention–as I had little time to do early during my growing season.  My roses will be fine–it’s just my eyes that will be offended for a while!

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