Problems, pests and diseases

Rose pests that attack roses and how to control them

Last updated on April 5th, 2022

Our site is reader supported, this means we may earn a small commission from Amazon and other affiliates when you buy through links on our site.

Roses are known for their stunning and often scented flowering displays, as long as they aren’t being attacked. But, as is the case with all plants, there is a risk of damage from pests, with aphids being the main culprit. This is not a reason to remove your existing roses or avoid planting them, but it is nevertheless important to understand the common rose pests that attack roses, how to spot the early signs before they get out of control and how to control them. 

Rose Pests

There are a handful of annoying pests that prove problematic for roses. The pests that attack roses range from creatures that subsist off your plant and, if you don’t treat them, they can seriously damage your roses. With most of these pests, traditional measures like spring bug killers are very effective, although there are natural, alternative forms of control as well. You can even do things like introducing natural predators like ladybirds, which you can actually buy, or plant companion plants.

The most common pest problems you will face include things like:

  • Aphids such as greenfly, whitefly and blackfly
  • Caterpillars
  • Leaf rolling sawfly
  • Rose slug sawfly
  • Red spider mite
  • Thrips


Aphids will cause significant damage to foliage and buds very quickly if the infestation is allowed to continue unchecked. Aphids will settle in large numbers and they multiply very quickly on young shoots or new buds. Once they settle into place they will start to suck out the sap and distort your rose, leaving behind a secretion known as honeydew. This substance is very sticky and eventually turns into a black fungus referred to as sooty mould.

Aphids on rose plant

Controlling aphids

You can use organic pest sprays to coat the aphids with a sticky substance. You can also make the same type of spray at home with a mixture of washing up liquid and water. The goal here is to cover the aphid with something sticky that renders them motionless and blocks the spores in their shells they use to breathe.

While these are effective if you use them thoroughly to coat every single leaf and flower, top to bottom, inside and out, they are not as effective as chemical controls. If you want to introduce natural predators you can introduce ladybirds, and believe it or not, you can actually buy them online, or encourage small birds into your garden because they will eat the aphids rather quickly. You can also plant marigolds around the perimeter of your roses.

The best control method will be a systemic pesticide that you apply on a regular basis. This will prevent an infestation in the first place and kill the insect immediately if you have an existing infestation. Some products such as RoseClear Ultra will even help control diseases and fungi such as black spot, powdery mildew and rust.

Recommended systemic pesticides and fungicides

RoseClear Ultra Plant Protection Concentrate Liquid For Aphids, 3 in 1 Action, 200 ml
  • Systmic insecticide and fungicide with 3-in-1 action
  • Kills systemically and on contact
  • Kills aphids
  • Controls blackspot, powdery mildew and rust
  • Protects for up to four weeks to prevent further attacks


Caterpillars will make their way up the stems of your roses and eat the leaves with a great deal of enthusiasm. The females lay their eggs on the underside of a leaf so you likely won’t notice them until they have matured and started causing damage. You might see large chunks of your leaves suddenly disappear and as soon as you see one you need to remove the caterpillar and destroy it.

Caterpillar eating rose bush

If you have a large infestation of caterpillars, removal by hand will not be sufficient, especially when there are likely many young eggs still maturing on the underside of your leaves. At this point, it’s important to spray with an insecticide on both sides of the leaves. Again, we recommend using RoseClear Ultra.

Froghopper Beetles

The Frog Hopper Beetle is another pest that likes to make its initial home in your rose bush. You might notice something that looks like spit, a foamy white substance around your flower buds or in the joints. Be advised that inside of this substance is a young Froghopper Beetle. It gets its name from the fact that once fully grown it will start to hop around your roses, eating the sap from inside the young buds and shoots, the same as an aphid.

Froghopper beetles

It’s unlikely that the Frog Hopper Beetle will cause a lot of damage, but it will result in occasional wilting and the best method of control is to spray with a hose as soon as you notice the unsightly white foam. 

Leaf Rolling Sawfly

The female leaf rolling sawfly lays eggs inside the leaves of your roses and the most telltale sign of an infestation is rolled or curled leaves. If you notice your leaves are curling inwards and downwards, it is likely a reaction to the chemical left behind by the female once she lays her eggs.

Rose Sawfly eating rose bush leaves

When the larvae hatch they eat the leaves and this renders them useless. It’s difficult to control this with pesticides because the leaves stay curled around the larvae and you have to get the pesticide inside that curled leaf for it to be effective. Now, there is an option for manually removing the larvae when you see them or removing the curled leaves.

If you have a mild infestation with a few damaged leaves here or there this is fine, however, if you have a large infestation, removing the all of the affected leaves would cause more damage to your rose bush than what the larvae would do. The best control is to remove the leaves early on, as soon as you see them, and burn them.


If you live in a rural area with a growing population of deer (which is now becoming more common in many parts of the UK) your young roses are at risk. When snow falls on the ground deer start to stray into regular gardens in search of food. You can put up a perimeter fence to try and protect your roses, however, be aware, they can scale large fences easily.

Rose Slug Sawfly (Slug Worm)

These are little slug type creatures and they are actually the larvae of a type of sawfly. They eat the flesh of your rose leaves and you can tell when you have a problem because you will suddenly notice there’s nothing but a skeleton of veins left where a leaf once was.

They will eat an entire leaf completely before they move on to the next. The only successful form of control for this infestation is to use an insecticide. Organic pest sprays and removal of the leaves is not likely to do anything.

Recommended systemic pesticides and fungicides

RoseClear Ultra Plant Protection Concentrate Liquid For Aphids, 3 in 1 Action, 200 ml
  • Systmic insecticide and fungicide with 3-in-1 action
  • Kills systemically and on contact
  • Kills aphids
  • Controls blackspot, powdery mildew and rust
  • Protects for up to four weeks to prevent further attacks


Rabbits may seem adorable when you read about them in your children’s storybooks but in your garden, they are a pest. Young rabbits will eat the tender young shoots in spring. Older rabbits will cause even more destruction, especially in winter because they eat away the bark of your rose bush to as high as they can reach.

If you live in an area with rabbits you will need to set up a wire mesh fence to protect your garden or erect individual fences around the base of every rose bush you have while they are still young. 

Red Spider Mite

Tiny red spider mites are almost impossible to see with the naked eye because they are so small, however, they are a very prevalent pest, especially during hot and dry weather. You might not notice you have an infestation of red spider mites until they are so prolific that it looks as though your leaves have spots all over them. They also produce a fine web between leaves that cause a lot of damage and this is usually the point at which people notice the problem.

Glasshouse Red Spider which effectives citrus trees

The leaves start to become pale and limp, looking as though they are dirty before they fall off. The best solution is to spray the leaves with an insecticide, but if you don’t notice until your leaves are covered in the webbing they produce, the damage has unfortunately, already been done. You should wash down any plants on which you notice tiny spider mites every day until there are no more mites. 


Thrips (both young and mature) will start to eat the edges of the rose petals so that they can feed on the sap within. Most gardeners notice the damage done by this insect before they actually notice the insect, this is often because thrips live in the buds and the flowers of your plant. Much like the red spider mites, by this time, it’s too late.

You can work hard toward preventing thrips and this will be much more effective than trying to control it afterwards. Regularly spraying with a weak solution of washing up liquid and water or an organic spray will go a long way toward prevention, however, if you do have a severe attack you need to use stronger chemicals to remove the pests. 

Being aware of these potential problems will help you go a long way towards preventing them and treating or controlling them once an infestation occurs.

Related articles you may be interested in

The best fungicides for treating roses

How to treat black spot on roses and help prevent it

Common rose problems and diseases to look out for

Why is my rose wilting? We answer this common question

Treating roses with yellow leaves

Image credits –

Last update on 2024-05-28 / Affiliate links / Images from Amazon Product Advertising API

Welcome to my site, my name is John and I have been lucky enough to work in horticultural nurseries for over 15 years in the UK. As the founder and editor as well as researcher, I have a City & Guilds Horticultural Qualifications which I proudly display on our About us page. I now work full time on this website where I review the very best gardening products and tools and write reliable gardening guides. Behind this site is an actual real person who has worked and has experience with the types of products we review as well as years of knowledge on the topics we cover from actual experience. You can reach out to me at

Write A Comment