Rose Slug Infestation in a Garden

Rose slug (via Wikimedia Commons, CC BY-SA 4.0)

Rose slugs are pests that can cause significant damage to rose bushes. These pests are the larvae of sawflies and feed on the leaves of the roses, leaving behind holes and skeletonized leaves. Rose slugs are most commonly found in the northern hemisphere, and their presence can lead to the decline of rose bushes if not properly controlled.


  • Holes in leaves: Rose slugs feed by chewing on the leaves of roses, leaving behind holes. These holes can be large and can cause significant damage to the plant.
  • Skeletonized leaves: As the rose slugs continue to feed, they can strip the leaves of the rose bush, leaving behind only the veins, which gives the leaves a skeletonized appearance.
  • Shrivelled or curled leaves: The feeding activity of the rose slugs can cause the leaves to shrivel and curl, giving the plant an unhealthy appearance.
  • Sticky or shiny residue on leaves: The rose slugs secrete a sticky or shiny residue on the leaves, which can attract other insects or promote the growth of sooty moulds.
  • New leaves appearing distorted or stunted: The feeding activity of the rose slugs can also cause new leaves to appear distorted or stunted, which can affect the overall growth of the plant.
  • Yellowing or browning of leaves: As the damage caused by the rose slugs becomes more severe, the leaves can yellow or brown, leading to leaf drop and further stress on the plant.

What is a Rose Slug

  • Pale green or yellow body: Rose slugs have a pale green or yellow body that blends in well with the leaves of the rose bushes.
  • Long and narrow: The body of a rose slug is long and narrow, making it well adapted for feeding on the leaves of rose bushes.
  • Up to 1/2 inch long: Rose slugs can grow up to 1/2 inch long, making them relatively easy to spot if you know what to look for.
  • Slimy appearance: Rose slugs have a slimy appearance due to their protective layer of slime, which helps to deter predators.
  • No legs visible: Rose slugs do not have any visible legs, making them appear to move like slugs.
  • Covered in a protective layer of slime: To deter predators, rose slugs are covered in a protective layer of slime. This slime also makes it more difficult for gardeners to control the pests, as it can make it challenging to effectively apply insecticides.

Treating a Rose Slug Infestation

It may be necessary to use multiple methods to effectively control rose slug infestations in a garden. For example, removing the rose slugs by hand or blasting them with water may not be enough, so you may also need to use an insecticide or encourage natural predators.

Cultural control

  • Proper pruning: Prune your rose bushes regularly to maintain their health and vigor, which can help to prevent rose slug infestations.
  • Cleaning up debris: Remove fallen leaves, flowers, and other plant debris from around the base of the rose bushes, which can provide a habitat for rose slugs and their larvae.
  • Providing proper care: Ensure that your roses receive proper care, including adequate water, fertilizer, and sunlight, which can help to prevent rose slug infestations.

Physical removal

  • Hand picking: Inspect the leaves of the rose bushes regularly and physically remove any rose slugs you find by hand. This method is effective for small infestations and does not involve the use of chemicals.
  • Blasting with water: Use a strong blast of water from a hose to remove the rose slugs from the leaves of the roses. This is also effective in removing their protective layer of slime, making it easier for insecticides to be effective. This method should be used in the early morning or late evening, when the rose slugs are most active.

Biological control

  • Encouraging natural predators: Encourage birds, ladybugs, and other predators to visit your garden by providing food and shelter. These predators can help to control the rose slug population. Planting a diverse range of flowers and plants can also help to attract these beneficial insects.
  • Using parasitic wasps: Introduce parasitic wasps to your garden, which will lay their eggs on the rose slugs, effectively killing them. This method is safe for other wildlife and does not involve the use of chemicals.

Chemical control

  • Using insecticides: Apply a registered insecticide that is specifically labelled for use against rose slugs. Be sure to follow the instructions carefully, and only use insecticides as a last resort, after other methods have failed. Some effective insecticides include spinosad and pyrethroids.
  • Neem oil: Use neem oil, a natural insecticide, to control the rose slug population. Neem oil works by disrupting the growth and reproduction of the rose slugs, and is a safer alternative to synthetic insecticides.