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Gooseberry Sawfly Beware

Background- gooseberry bush eaten by sawfly caterpillars

Background- gooseberry bush eaten by sawfly caterpillars

When I was at school and hadn’t revised properly for an exam, I put the main course text book under my pillow hoping that magically the information would be transmitted into my brain as I slept.

This guaranteed a restless night, especially if the tome was large. I’d usually wake feeling tired and stressed. Perhaps it was the adrenalin and desperation that made me creative with my exam answers. Generally I passed. But would have done far better if I had prepared properly for the exams.

These days my radio headset is a boon but often I’m not concentrating 100% on the programmes. I focus on topics that appeal and drift on the edge of other programmes that bob in the background just in case. Often I’m drawn in to a topic that I didn’t know existed.

Last night I stalked down to the kitchen garden to peruse the potential gooseberry and currant harvest. Both gooseberry bushes were stripped bare.

I immediately thought sawfly. I must have picked up this tip subliminally from Gardener’s World  (BBC Radio4) as I swooshed the green paint over my clients’ garage doors. Our gooseberry and currant bushes have finally come into their own after three years and were laden with blossom this spring. Tiny hands had clapped with glee at the prospect of fruit vodkas and chic jellies and tarts. We had planned giving gooseberry wine a go. The sawflies had eaten all the fruit and every bit of leaf from the green gooseberry bush but had left the fruit on the sweet red (dessert) gooseberry bush. Why?

We are sawfly virgins. So this evening I looked up sawfly on the internet and discovered that the gooseberry sawflies are also partial to red and white currants. My blood pressure immediately raced.

I shot down to the fruit cage and spotted hundreds of small caterpillars guzzling our currant bushes, and thousands of eggs waiting on the stalks to mature and continue the devastation.

So now we are at war, there are five of us (two humans and three Min Pins) up against millions of hungry and potentially ravenous new born caterpillars. Help!

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  1. thanks for info keep up good work

  2. Twizzle

    Alas after years of home remedies resorted to ultimate bug killer – got a fw goosegogs and abandoned all hope of berries any style -they were binned

  3. David Morris

    On several of my gooseberry bushes I have discovered an infestation of sawfly plus something I can’t identify – “strings” of what might be a fungus or could be sawfly larvae. They are like small balls of sticky cotton wool capped with a black object. Could you please identify this problem for me and advise the best way of dealing with them. I have sprayed with a fungicide and with a pest eradicator, but it doesn’t seem to have affected this mysterious problem.

  4. Nematodes – we had an outbreak three years ago, and since then we’ve used Nematodes to good effect. It’s not cheap, but over the two years we’ve seen the problem drop off in severity – I imagine the nematodes are killing off the population over time. It’s not a cheap option, but it’s a lot less faff than moving compost around, digging over, etc.

  5. Pamela Melcher

    We have these critters on our gooseberries and jostaberries at our home. There are gooseberries and jostaberries at our community garden that are unaffected. So I theorized that there might be a predator at the community garden. So I planted 2 gooseberry bushes in our community garden, plants that had been ravaged by these critters when they were at our house. Last year was the first summer of these gooseberries at the community garden, and there was no sign of these critters on the 2 at the community garden. There might be a predatory wasp or insect at the community garden that likes sour little caterpillars. Hopefully I did not import these critters on the 2 plants I put into the community garden. We shall see. Good luck, folks. What kind of soap did you use? What proportions of Neem oil?

  6. We’ve had years of problems with this, they can strip any color of currant and gooseberries in 24 hours. A major assault is called for!
    1) Remove loose organic material from beneath the plants in the Spring and cover ground within the drip radius with plastic mulch of any color.
    2) As they appear about the same time every year, heavy applications(s)of neem oil, preferably before you know they’ll emerge and when they start to appear. Be sure to spray both the tops and bottoms of leaves.
    3) Hand removal and squishing of any little green caterpillars that show up on leaves. Children and grandchildren seem to enjoy this activity.
    I have tried the organic soaping and it helps, but not as good as neem oil as the oil is more persistent if it rains. The chemical carbaryl (Sevin) is also quite effective but not very appealing to an organic gardener as it is a potent neurotoxin that can’t be good for the adjacent soil foodweb.
    Nice site…
    Alaska Master Gardener

  7. Thanks for all the advice – I had sawfly last year and the goosberries suffered – I pruned out the middle as advise but and they are back again this – when I went to spray with the washing up liquid there were a number of ladybirds on the gooseberries so I am now worried that the spay might harm them too – Help what do I do??

  8. Rebecc

    Hi there, I to was shocked to find that my redcurrant bush that was laden with berries is now virtually gone due to sawfly caterpillars, my son and I go out three times a day to pick off these little monsters and drown them, but to my dismay I still see the damn flys hovering round. I have put some plastic windmills on the top of long canes that I pushed in and around the bush in the hope that the windmill will vibrate and move the bush enough for the flies to not settle but this is only an idea I just had so no scientific testing to prove this is a cure. Have you found any thing else that may help, I have heard that humming birds love to eat sawflies so puuing hummingbird feeders up can help. We don’t get many of those in Wales though.

    Kind regards


  9. Pat on 26 Feb 2012

    Thanks everyone for all your advice I will be trying everything. I have now pulled up my gooseberry bush because it was eaten so badly sawfly then started on my redcurrants last year.
    I will be trying very hard to eradicate the problem.
    Thanks everyone.

  10. Thanks for all your help I never knew about them until today when I looked at what was left of my gooseberry bush, BUT I have noticed I have a frog under the bush do you think that he might eat the critters ?? I am hoping

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