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Common gooseberry sawfly

Nematus ribesii

Common gooseberry sawfly, Gooseberry sawfly

A close up of a Nematus ribesii common gooseberry sawfly on the underside of a leaf


by Notafly. CC BY-SA 3.0

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Sawflies fall within the biological group holding bees, wasps and ants. Many sawfly species will only use one or a few kinds of plants to lay eggs and feed young. The eggs hatch into tiny insects that look like caterpillars! These have large appetites, stripping a plant of its foliage in a few weeks. They can be annoying pests when larvae, but other garden predators will eat them, such as birds and wasps!
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Caterpillar-like larvae can quickly defoliate plants!
Mature adults are pollinators.


Adults: Adults possess a yellow abdomen and thorax with a blackhead. Black markings can be evident on the thorax. They are nearly an inch in size. Larvae: Larvae start as tiny green worms, but after some growth looks like caterpillars. They're pale green with a slight shine, covered in black dots. If disturbed during feeding, they will cling to the leaf with their mouthparts forming an 'S' shape. Eggs: These are laid late April underneath leaves, specifically along the veins. They are tiny and transparent.


Leaves may acquire numerous holes. Larvae/ caterpillars may be evident on leaves. Plants can lose some vigour.












Biological treatment

By regularly checking plants, any caterpillars can be picked off and fed to the birds. Pathogenic nematode solutions can be watered onto plants, which are readily available online or in garden centres. Parasitic or social wasps, birds and bats will eat the larvae. Attract natural garden predators into the garden by providing spots of cover. Wild patches and strips of native wildflower/ grass can provide cover for predatory insects. Climbing plants such as ivy is excellent habitat for small songbirds.

Chemical treatment

If infestations are substantial, there are chemical alternatives. Plants intended for consumption should not be sprayed unless stated on the bottle label. Organic pesticides might be an option you wish to try something less persistent. Always research pesticides before you release them into the environment. Assess the damage before application. Plants will recover in the following years with or without treatments! Never apply to flowering plants. Insecticides typically have a non-selective mode of action, meaning anything the chemical comes in contact with, will be affected.



Ribes uva-crispa

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Ribes rubrum

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