I was happily meandering through my roses yesterday, when you can imagine my distress and horror as I saw the unmistakable trail of destruction left by sawfly caterpillars. I went weak at the knees and my life flashed before me. Eventually I pulled myself together and screamed at the top of my voice ”sawfly caterpillars emergency, emegency”. And now you know why I am rushing this special post out.
23rd July 2022. Things I have been doing lately:
Dealing with a sawfly caterpillar infestation. Those of you who have roses need to go out now and check whether you have sawfly caterpillars on them. The tell tale sign of an infestation is that starting from the top of a rose stem and going towards the ground all the leaves will have been eaten leaving a mere filigree of leaves. The photo below shows the damage to my roses.
To understand what is happening here, you have to understand the life cycle of the very clever sawfly. Mummy sawfly gets her name from the fact that at the bottom of her abdomen she has a saw like implement that she uses to saw a long strip from a rose stem. Once she has completed the sawing she then uses the same implement to insert a large number of eggs into individual cells along the cut which she then seals over. The cut is always made towards the top of the rose branch so that when the caterpillars hatch they then happily eat their way down your rose (getting bigger and fatter as they go) before eventually imbedding themselves in the soil before it all starts again.
Now here is the tricky part, you cannot kill sawfly caterpillars with caterpillar spray, because they are not caterpillars, they are larvae. Even though they look like a caterpillar act like a caterpillar etc. Anyway, the only way you can break this cycle is to pick them off by hand and then dispose of them. The funny thing is that they try to stop you by rearing up and looking at you with their pretend eyes and acting as if they have a sting. This works with birds, but not with us old intrepid gardeners. The first photo below shows mummy sawfly’s nursery. Whilst the second photo shows the extent of the infestation and the defensive position of the caterpillars. Click on each photo for a larger view.
I was just about to dispose of the collected caterpillars in the time honoured way of seeing if they could swim, when from out of nowhere I heard the music from Wagner’s The Ride of the Valkyries. Suddenly Cruella (my wife) appeared in a winged helmet, running across the lawn leading a motley crew of chickens. “Onward girls, onward”she kept screaming (in chickenese) as she pushed me roughly aside and the chickens attacked the sawfly caterpillars. Cruella was moving too fast for me to get a photo, but the photo below is a good depiction.
The outcome was never in doubt as Cruella (or Brynhildr as she now insists on being called) and her chicken Furies descended on the sawfly caterpillars. The photos below show the ensuing massacre. Click on each photo for a larger view.
Cruella has now demanded that I take the name Siegfried, but I have refused as I know how it all ends and I am staying away from the Rhine.