Fruit growing

What’s eaten the leaves on your gooseberry bush? – Sawfly

Last updated on April 3rd, 2022

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If you are growing gooseberries, you might have to contend with a few pests or diseases here or there, trying to ruin your harvest. But what do you do when you see the leaves are being eaten? What is the culprit and how do you stop it?

Gooseberry Sawfly

Gooseberry Sawfly is a pest that brings about a great deal of damage to gooseberries in particular. It is not so much the adult flies, but the larvae that do the majority of the damage. Once the larvae are on your plant, they will begin to eat away at the leaves until they have completely stripped away all of the leaves, leaving only the skeleton of the leaves.

There are three main types of sawfly including:

  1. Gooseberry sawfly (Nematus ribesii)
  2. Pale gooseberry sawfly (Pristiphora pallipes) 
  3. Gooseberry sawfly (N. leucotrochus)

When a sawfly makes home on your gooseberry, it lays the pupae over the winter and these usually hatch around April. The new insects lay eggs on the leaves, and the new larvae eat heavily for about one month before they pupate. Three weeks later, flies emerge. You might have a full outbreak of two or three generations in a single year.

They can be very destructive

The larvae, as mentioned, eat their way through your gooseberry leaves from the outer edge, inwards. If there are many of them, they can defoliate your bush in the span of a single week, this is usually the main problem and the one that does the most damage. The fruit won’t be impacted, but the significant leaf loss will reduce the fruit you get next year and in the present, diminish the health of the bush. These sawflies can also spread to blackcurrants and redcurrants.

How to spot them

If you see pests on your plant, they might be the gooseberry sawfly. The larvae look like caterpillars but their skin is shinier. If you can get a closer look at them you might notice that they have three pairs of legs at the front. They can get up to 20mm long. One species is pale green and the other, green with black spots. There are three species but these two are the most common. 

Controlling sawfly

Prevention is key. You should regularly check your gooseberry for signs and symptoms. Most of the time the eggs are laid deep in the centre of the bush so don’t beat yourself up if you miss them. 

As soon as you see them, control them. Remember, they can strip a bush in less than one week. The easiest way to control them is to pick them off by hand.

Spraying with insecticide is recommended

Alternatively, you can use an approved insecticide. Many of these will enter the sawfly and kill them from the inside, so you don’t need to worry about it leaving behind an extra generation of babies. Be sure to find an approved insecticide for edible plants though if you plan to use it on your gooseberries. 

Recommended sawfly insecticide for gooseberries

Provanto Ultimate Bug Killer, 1L - Fast Acting Bug Spray with Up To 2 Weeks Protection From Pests, Contact Insecticide for Indoor & Outdoor Plants
  • FAST ACTING: A contact bug killer that kills most common plant pests including Box Tree Caterpillar
  • 2 WEEKS PROTECTION: Protects from pests for up to 2 weeks
  • EASY TO USE: Convenient, ready to use spray with twist and lock function for quick application
  • WIDE RANGE: Can be used to protect many ornamentals and more than 50 different crops
  • NOTE: This product does not have an expiry date, the date on the product is the manufacturing date

Either way, once you have controlled the outbreak, remember to check the bushes regularly because even a few missed larvae can become adults within the span of a few weeks and wreak havoc on your bush all over again.

Image credits –

Last update on 2024-07-21 / Affiliate links / Images from Amazon Product Advertising API

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