ID little green worms dessicating rose foliage, please

ginger_nh(z4 NH)June 23, 2002

Anyone know about little green worms here in Zone 4 that eat rose leaves, practically skeletonizing them? All the leaves on small yellow shrub roses in one of my gardening client's gardens are completely tannish in color, dry, and paper thin--no green left at all. Blooms are not bothered. Looks more like a disease than insect damage, but I did find little light green worms, about 1/4-1/2" long. No mention of this worm in my organic rose gardening book.


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jean001(z8aPortland, OR)

Possibly rose sawfly. Looks like a caterpillar but, instead, is the totally unrelated sawfly.

Because sawflies are in the same general group as bees and wasps, Bt (Bacillus thuringiensis) won't work. You'll have to check with your County's Cooperative Extension office or a large independent garden center.

    Bookmark   June 23, 2002 at 11:34PM
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Might also be the Bristly Rose Slug. Both the Sawflie larva and the Rose Slug can be controlled by insecticidal soap sprays

    Bookmark   June 25, 2002 at 7:23AM
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I vote for rose slugs (sawfly larvae). I've had several infestations. The best thing to do is squish them the moment you see them and not let them chomp one more bite, but if you're queasy about doing that, squirt them with insecticidal soap like Safer. Penny

    Bookmark   June 25, 2002 at 3:48PM
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Violetrose(Sunset 24)

I've seen little birds eat them. I keep an eye out for them and try to squish them before they do a lot of damage, but it's nice to know the birds help out too.

    Bookmark   June 28, 2002 at 12:26AM
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gata(z5a NH)

I've been growing roses for only about 4 years, choosing the relatively carefree old rose varieties hardy here in NH. This is the first year the sawfly larvae have been really bad. I read in "Hardy Roses" that their infestations fluctuate from year to year. I wish I had noticed them sooner, but I have been squishing them. Also, they seem to prefer some varieties more than others.

    Bookmark   July 14, 2002 at 9:39AM
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koimiss(z5 MI)

I had little green worms all over my Hibiscus and Hollyhocks this year. Totally ate the leaves. Just leaving the skeleton. Would that be the same thing? I killed them as soon as I found them. But it was a while before I figured out what was wrong with them. They were so small and blended right in! Londa

    Bookmark   August 27, 2002 at 11:00AM
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I hope that if y'all see a Wasp, you don't kill it.
Wasps have kept patrol and plucked every larvae off my Roses all year so far.
It's wonderfull to see a Wasp hover under each leaf group in succession every time I'm out there.
I'll have the occasional hole in a leaf, but no hint who did it, other than the steady parade of Wasps loking for more.

    Bookmark   August 28, 2002 at 1:38AM
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I had these rose slugs last year and tried several things that didn't seem to work. Then, I asked this forum and someone suggested sprinkling flour on the rose bushes and rinsing it off 24 hours later. That did the trick!!!!!

    Bookmark   February 20, 2003 at 7:52PM
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teri2(7B TN)

RoseWest - I'm always looking for a sawfly remedy. Did you sprinkle the flour over the top of the plant? I ask because they live on the underside of the leaf.


    Bookmark   April 17, 2003 at 9:48AM
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luvaduck(z5 Toronto)

I have been coping with sawfly larvae almost since my first rose. I hate them. If you dislike squishing, you can shake or flick them off onto the ground. They can't get up again onto the rose (they hatched there) and they won't hurt other plants. My neighbour has raspberry and currant bushes which I believe are major hosts for the sawfly.
Cheers Carol

    Bookmark   May 20, 2003 at 4:14PM
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alysa(z5 IL)

You know, I wonder if it's sawfly larvae I/we have. The reason I say that is that if sawfly larvae hatch on the ground, my gut feeling about my tiny green guys is that they hatched in the leaves. They are so itty bitty when they first start, it's hard to believe they're crawling up the bush so early in their youth. It seems as if the leaves get little irregularities in them, and before you know it, they've hatched and are consuming voraciously. There's no way I could pick them off by hand; they seem to come in the hundreds. And I'm surprised the flour would help, since they start at the underside of the leaves when they are small. But other than them coming from the ground, the description of their destruction and look does seem to match the sawfly larvae/rose slug. I used the Safer insecticidal soap, and it worked, but they did a huge amount of damage in just a few days of life.

    Bookmark   May 20, 2003 at 4:35PM
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luvaduck(z5 Toronto)

Sorry, guess I wasn't clear. The larvae I have definitely hatch on the rose foliage which is why they die on the ground--they can't live any time without eating and there is no food source for them on the ground. I have seen them right after hatching. Great numbers of really minute larvae to begin with. They are canibals and soon just one or two well-fed, much larger ones remain.
Cheers Carol

    Bookmark   May 21, 2003 at 12:09AM
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gregorio(z8 Austin, Tx.)

Try a habanero, onion, garlic and mineral oil pepper spray. I made one and it seems to work.

    Bookmark   May 26, 2003 at 12:16AM
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grwleye(z9/Sunset 22/CA)

Our local nursey recommended clove oil; I think the maker is Bioganics. Sprayed yesterday. Will report on results. The salsa remedy sounds good too!

    Bookmark   June 26, 2003 at 1:25PM
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mprats(z6NJ Plainfield)

Sounds to me like cabbage worms. One of my roses was completely defoliated one year by them and it took it another year to recover. Now I am always on the lookout and I hand pick the worms and kill them. I also spray with Hot Pepper Wax and that seems to control them.

    Bookmark   June 27, 2003 at 5:30PM
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andrearose(10 SoCal)

I came over here to see if anyone had tried Bioganic on these very same little green larvae. I used it once about 3 weeks ago, and I thought they were gone, but I saw some again, and sprayed again yesterday. I think it works, but I will just spray every 2 weeks ...hopefully not for long? Sure makes the garden smell nice - my son said "mom! I smell root beer!"


    Bookmark   June 28, 2003 at 10:26PM
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I just saw your messages after I had posted mine. Seems like we have the same problem. Hope the local garden centre here has the same products you have in the US. Will ordinary washing-up liquid help? I generally use that mixed with water in a spray bottle against aphids.

    Bookmark   July 8, 2003 at 5:19PM
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wormfood(CA z9)

I'm wondering if what I thought were caterpillers are these sawfly. On the roses here I find little "cocoons' at the base of the petiole that are about .25" and transparent brown. The worms are very small and green and skeletonize the leaves. Anyone know what exactly they are?

    Bookmark   July 19, 2003 at 1:54AM
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I am having the same problem,but I can't see any worms. I looked closely, but did not see any--unless they are chewing at night. The leaves turn sort of tannish, particularly on my container roses. I got so disgusted yesterday that I sprayed them good with the hose and cut off all of the diseased leaves--doesn't leave many leaves. The whole plant looks sick. I have a polyantha--Marge Koster, and it just looks horrible. I am really disgusted. Thanks for letting me complain. - Barb

    Bookmark   July 20, 2003 at 10:15PM
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The Bristly Rose Slug is a small, green, thingy that pretty much stays on the leaves underside (I do sometimes, but rarely) find them on the upper surface. They have a slightly enlarged head. BTK has helped control them when there was a very large population, but squashing between the fingers works very well when numbers are small. They seem to be more prevelant lately on the Hibiscus than on the roses and appear mostly in June and early July and are no longer to be found, here.

    Bookmark   August 1, 2003 at 8:37AM
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I am 5 months pregnant and was looking for something organic to use on my roses for the "little green worms" I found yesterdy. Last night, I sprayed with Neem. This morning the little buggers were chewing just as vigourously though. So...I took somebody's advice about the flour. I now have 5 roses covered in flour which I plan to leave on until tomorrow evening. I'll re-inspect tomorrow night and if there is still evidence of them there, I plan on having my husband spray with Bayer advanced garden insect killer.

    Bookmark   May 12, 2004 at 2:52PM
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Thank you all for the info. I logged on to find out what these green bugs were. They completely defoliated my William Baffin in one week and are working on Zepherine Drouhin nearby. My rugosa seems undisturbed. I have been shaking the bushes to knock them off. Some of them can really hang on. I can't stand to squish them! I have also tried a hard stream of hot soapy water directly on the bugs that I see. Again, some of them really hold on. I hope it's true that they cannot climb back up to the bush. There are hundreds of them. I may try the flour. That sounds messy though. And does it work from the top side of the leaves? Otherwise I'll go get some insecticidal spray. I've never seen them before. They really do some damage!

    Bookmark   May 12, 2004 at 9:19PM
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pinkcarnation(z6 MI)

I am sooooo glad I checked this forum. You guys have just answered my question! Earlier I posted in another forum about this problem, but now I don't have to wait for an answer. The little green worms on my roses are on the top of the leaves at the buds, sort of cocooned in the leaves. I purchased some Safer Insecticidal Soap to use on them...sure hope it works! Thanks for all the wonderful information.

    Bookmark   May 23, 2004 at 12:39AM
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Erinsmom1(z6 OK)

Had these on roses first, then hollyhock, and then hibiscus. I squished at first....then reverted to a pyrethrin spray..they are gone. Mine were all on the tops of the leaves btw. Still dont' know what they were for sure. They looked like caterpillars to me.

    Bookmark   May 25, 2004 at 8:48PM
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I, too, have these critters chewing holes through my Angel Face rose leaves. They don't seem to be interested in the Queen Elizabeth's, or the Blue Moon. I have tried Safer Soap( which eliminated the aphids by the way) but now this.It seems that these suffer one malady after another.The leaves or whats left look so unsightly and I am wondering if I should remove them. There are no blooms on this bush yet. Help!

    Bookmark   June 12, 2005 at 8:59AM
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whitejade(z5 MI)

About that flour sprinkling and then rinsing off 24 hours later.....what exactly does that do? Sounds interesting, especially if it worked!

    Bookmark   June 14, 2005 at 7:24PM
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pinkcarnation(z6 MI)

I tried Safer insecticidal soap a couple years ago on these little critters, and it worked! Hand picking works if you only have a mild infestation.

    Bookmark   May 23, 2006 at 12:12PM
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I have these little green worms as well. I read here that some use flour to kill them. I use corn starch on my tomatoes to kill tomato worms (highly successful) and I am wondering if it would kill the rose worms too. I am going to try it and will post results in a few days.

    Bookmark   June 13, 2006 at 5:42PM
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silver_wlf(6 Ontario)

I too have these ... and the roses at one of our nurseries are covered in them. Ewww!!

I tried using soap & water but they didn't seem bothered by it at all.

    Bookmark   June 14, 2006 at 1:20PM
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I just found a green wormy thing on one of my Rose trees. It had destroyed the remaining leaves on the poor Rose. I had just pruned it this week, to get rid of Blackspot, and now this happened. =/

I will try flour, or maybe corn meal? I had read that sprinkling corn meal around Roses helps keep down fungi. So.. maybe?

As far as why flour works - my guess would be that it dries the worm out, dehydrates it....maybe?

    Bookmark   May 21, 2008 at 2:11PM
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After having a good deal of my roses practically skeletonized within a week in early June for years, I too ID'd this little green worm as the rose slug. They come out to feed from under the leaves when the sun sets and are easily hand-picked if you can spot them at dusk or holding a flashlight. This year I tried the Neem approach, but they did not realize that this oil is supposed to slow their voracity, so it happened again this year: skeletonized leaves. Thanks to the endearing robustness of roses the leaves will grow back by October and happily make you forget the June disaster.

    Bookmark   June 16, 2008 at 2:28PM
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Hi..we just discovered these little green worms on our rose bushes a couple of days ago and I read somewhere that you can use diluted Dawn. So I sprayed the leaves on the bushes with a mixture of Dawn yesterday and there were barely any of them today, must of missed them yesterday. In fact, when I sprayed again today some of them just fell off because they were dead.
What looks like the larvae also comes off with a few squirts.
I'll spray again tomorrow to be sure I got them all...

    Bookmark   July 30, 2008 at 4:47PM
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rhizo_1 (North AL) zone 7

Please be careful with the Dawn. It is high on the list of dish soaps that can cause severe injury to plants. Best to use a castille soap or better...a commercial insecticidal soap.

    Bookmark   August 1, 2008 at 12:37PM
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I have seen wasps pluck up those curled rose slugs and actually sit and eat it so I am convinced of letting nature work as it does without the help of pesticides. I also enjoy seeing and hearing the various birds that visit us and am hesitant to use pesticides for that reason as well. Out of curiosity, I might try the flour/corn meal idea and see how that works...

    Bookmark   June 23, 2009 at 6:43AM
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I just picked mine off.

    Bookmark   June 23, 2009 at 10:19AM
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Just to clarify, Dawn is not a soap it is a detergent.

    Bookmark   June 25, 2009 at 8:08AM
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I read in an earlier blog that putting your bird feeders near your affected plants will attract the birds that eat the sawfly larvae. Since this is my very first year gardening, I am very insulted by what they are doing to my 12 new rose bushes. I don't have the time or patience to pick them all off the leaves so I will try the insecticidal soap, bird feeder trick and if that doesn't work, go for the hot pepper oil. Thanks for the tips! p.s. I will try the corn starch on my tomatoes too!

    Bookmark   June 26, 2009 at 12:32PM
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Don't kill the wasps..they eat Sawfly larva

    Bookmark   June 29, 2009 at 10:10PM
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Success! EcoSense Insecticidal Soap worked!! My plants can finally keep their leaves!

    Bookmark   June 30, 2009 at 11:22PM
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I am growing climbing roses up my trellis this year for the first time, they are growing beautiful except something is eating the buds, and I believe they are the little green worms as we have many this year and haven't seen them in the past three years of living here. I need to know what to do to stop them from eating these climbers as this was put there for my daughter's wedding and if I don't nip them in the butt, we will have no roses to bloom. Please help. I was thinking of the neem oil?

    Bookmark   April 23, 2011 at 2:07PM
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All of your comments were very helpful. However, how do you see answers to all those questions? It seems the little green buggers start at the bottom of my roses and lace their way up. I squished so many today, but can't get them all. I'll go the way of insecticidal soap and will read the bottle to make sure it's harmless to the birds, as I feed them and love to watch them.

    Bookmark   June 3, 2011 at 9:40PM
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Whatever the little pests are, I've had success getting rid of them by mixing up Dawn dish soap in my hand sprayer and applying the underside of the leaves. Put it on liberally and check in about a week to see if another round needs to be applied.

    Bookmark   June 4, 2011 at 7:09PM
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I found these little green tiny catapillar like worms on my rose trees...they are eating the older leaves but don't seem to be causing any damage to the bud or the new growth....i'm not big on chemical sprays because of animals around but the idea of the flour seems safe enough...will try that and keep you posted...

    Bookmark   June 9, 2011 at 12:05PM
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I hate these things!! They're only going after some of the roses in my garden, but man have they done a job on the Iceberg. Tried the flour today and studied the results -- any worm hit by the flour immediately curled up and fell off, so I think this is good. Get near the ground and throw the flour up for best results. Will report back tomorrow.

    Bookmark   June 11, 2011 at 12:01PM
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I found them last night on my "Knock Out" roses. We planted the rose bushes last year. No worm problem. Picked them off last night and again today. I put them in a flat dish hoping the blue bird would eat them?

Thanks for all the suggestions!

    Bookmark   June 15, 2011 at 2:56PM
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gardenbug(Canada zone 5)

From the web:(Canada)
The worms are probably sawfly larvae. Most insecticides have negative side effects; Floritect contains highly toxic carbaryl, which may kill the worms but also beneficial insects, earthworms and all other soil life. The active ingredient in EcoSense is pyrethrins, which are plant-based but still toxic to bees and aquatic life. Friendlier solutions include neem oil, insecticidal soap and the beneficial predators, trichogramma wasps (all available at Natural Insect Control). BT (*Bacillus thuringiensis*) is often recommended but is effective only on caterpillars not sawfly larvae. Encouraging birds (nature�s best pest control) to your garden will help and of course, there�s always hand-picking. Healthy roses are more pest- and disease-resistant. Amend the soil with lots of compost or well-rotted manure and use a woody mulch to encourage beneficial mycorrhizae in the soil. Regular spraying with compost tea for a foliar feed will also keep your plants in topnotch shape. Hope that helps! *�Karen York, GL Botanical Editor*

    Bookmark   October 13, 2011 at 12:07AM
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I think I too have Sawfly on my English Climbing Roses. It is full of buds almost ready to open and yesterday I noticed something that looked like saw dust all over the buds. Then I noticed the holes in the leaves which I had last year for the first time. I have found that my rose is full of lots of creatures!!! It seems to have Aphids or Spider Mites,Sawfly (looks like a small caterpillar?), and a worm that eats buds. But I also found little tiny green worms under some leaves near the Sawfly. Are these the same things just hatched? I found a different looking green worm on a bud that I squished. I noticed other buds nibbled on near the bottom of the plant. So I ran in and looked up what to do organically. I read that you can use a garden hose to rinse off Aphids and I tried that last night. This morning they were almost all gone. I was able to squish the few left that I could see. I also tried squishing each Sawfly I could find. They look like small Caterpillars as mentioned if it is the same thing. I got about 10-15 of them. I found that where ever the holes are you can find them quickly. Still wondering if I should get Nematodes and Lady Bugs to eat the rest? I had a Gardner tell me Nematodes eat the Sawfly Larvae in the ground and Lady Bugs eat the Aphids. Or I could try the flour or Dawn. I love these roses and want to get rid of this problem for future seasons:(

    Bookmark   April 4, 2012 at 2:08PM
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They are a mess and I have a Tonic just for them little buggers. 1/2 lb of wormwood leaves, 2 tbsp of Murphys oil soap, and warm water. Simmer the wormwood leaves in 2 cups of water for 30 minutes or so. Strain, then add the liquid and Murphys oil soap to 2 more cups of warm water. Apply with a 6 gallon hose- end sprayer to the point of runoff. Repeat as necessary until the caterpillars are gone. try to use rain water, there is no chemicals in the water like water from the faucet in the house. Good luck....To all.....

    Bookmark   April 11, 2012 at 1:53AM
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Just to add to this, my rose bushes are potted and I found the little green worms actually living IN THE SOIL in my pots. So make sure, when you go to kill these little guys, check the soil all around the base of the plant!!

    Bookmark   July 6, 2013 at 12:16PM
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strawchicago 5a IL(zone 5a)

Thank you, clkeeler, for that great tip. I dusted my 3 affected roses (bought recently from a nursery end of July) .... with corn meal. They eat corn meal, can't digest, and get sick, I was able to kill most. Will check for them IN THE SOIL.

    Bookmark   August 28, 2013 at 9:13AM
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I had these green worms on my Knockout Rose and English Rose.

1. Just pick them off. Don't use chemicals/pesticides/soaps/salsa/cereal/hamburgers/skittles to get them to go away--you're just messing up nature. Pick them off with your hands. You can do this.

2. Check every few days until they're all gone. My Knockout rose is a decent size and the worms had eaten EVERY leaf but about 8-10. I went by every few days and picked off the worms and ALL OF THE LEAVES GREW BACK. It's almost winter here (GA) and the rose looks great. I check it now every weekend, but things are going well.

    Bookmark   November 26, 2013 at 9:18AM
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strawchicago 5a IL(zone 5a)

Hi Crambone: I agree with you 100%, using chemicals would upset nature's balance. I picked those green worms & crushed them. Took a few days, 5 minutes each day ... that solved the problem for good.

    Bookmark   November 26, 2013 at 9:37AM
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You know, I just thought about this some more, and while I only have one rose, I realize some people have TONS of them. For those people, picking off worms for two hours may not be doable. I can understand wanting to spray jello or whatever on those plants. But if you possibly can do it, use your hands!

    Bookmark   November 26, 2013 at 11:01AM
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