May 112014

imgresWe were blithely enjoying the fact that our gooseberries were tropically lush this spring when, yesterday, we noticed they were disappearing before our eyes. A closer inspection than we had done up to that point revealed hundreds of larva of the greedy, voracious, orc-like sawfly. These little bastards can do an amazing amount of damage seemingly in a matter of hours. Apparently, the sawfly lays her eggs on the bottom of the leaf stem. When the larva hatch they spread out and line of on the perimeter of the leaf and with impressive teamwork begin to eat their way to the center of the leaf. It doesn’t take long for the leaf to disappear.

So now, in addition, to my daily caterpillar check, I will be inspecting for sawfly. This can go on all summer according to my internet research to wit:

  • The common gooseberry sawfly is the most troublesome pest of gooseberries. It can have three generations a year, with the larvae active in late April to June, July, and August to September
  • The female sawflies lay eggs on the underside of leaves low down in the centre of the bush, so the young larvae go unnoticed until they have eaten their way upwards and outwards, devouring the leaves as they go. (My observation is that they eat from the outside in).
  • Defoliated plants are weakened and may produce a poor crop the following year
  • When the larvae are fully fed, they go into the soil, where they spin silk cocoons and pupate
  • The pale spotted gooseberry sawfly only has one generation a year with larvae present in May and June.
  • The small gooseberry sawfly has up to four generations a year with larvae present from late April.

My solution to the problem is to locate them and squish them. I have done much squishing of crawly critters this spring. I have to admit that on one level, it’s disturbing to kill so many little things. However, if I want to eat an apple or a gooseberry, it must be done. Yet, the swath of destruction I have left in my wake is nearly biblical.

“And there came great swarms of flies into the house of Pharaoh and the houses of his servants and the land was laid waste because of the swarms of flies in all the land of Egypt.” 

I must go outside now and stand guard against the next plague that is to come.


  One Response to “Sawfly”

  1. One year I had dozens of caterpillar nests in my apple trees. I wondered if I should spray or if this was going to be the end of the few trees I had. Well I carefully ‘harvested’ all the nests, trying to be thorough in collecting the escapees. Then I buried them into the soil (no burning, gas, or landfill for these guys – back to the soil!). To this day I still have not seen it happen again. I think you have to disrupt them from making your home their spawning ground. Will they still show up? Yes, but not in numbers. That I can live with 🙂

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