What's eating my roses!

elliemaes_gardenJuly 2, 2008

I'm not rose gardener, but I have a few rose bushes that start every season looking very beautiful with lots of blooms and then slowly get eaten by something. The problem is that I never see anything on the roses themselves. I look for mites, aphids, worms, beetles, etc. I look on the underside of the leaves and see nothing. But, slowly something is eating up leaves. There are lots of small holes on each leaf... it almost looks lacey and to the point where some leaves are skeleton-like. There is no black spot fungus or mold issues. I water the roses regularly. Spray with Neem every 7-10 days and fertilizer with organic materials. Whatever it is that's eating seems to only be active at night since I've looked all hours of the day and don't see anything munching on them. If anyone has any ideas, it would be most appreciated. I have no idea how to treat something I can't see... could this be slugs? Thanks!

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dublinbay z6 (KS)

My guess is rose slugs. Had that problem last year, but almost none this year.

The good news is that a predator (I forget what it is) will probably come along after a couple weeks and help you out. Until then, the leaves do look unsightly, don't they!

What I did was to go out early in the morning and check the edges of the leaves in the newly damaged areas--and sometimes along the "neck" of newly forming buds. At first, I had to stare a lot at each individual leaf before I would see those green creatures who seem to shape their bodies exactly to the shape of the leaf--which is why they are hard to see. Then I would pull them off and toss them in the grass--they won't make it back to the rose. (Some gutsy folks actually squish them with their fingers.) After some practice, my eyes got used to focusing in on the minute details on the leaves and it became relatively easy to spot the critters--sometimes even as I was just approaching the plant.

In case you haven't actually seen a rose slug, it looks like a tiny mini-caterpillar, green worm-like thing.

Good luck.


    Bookmark   July 2, 2008 at 2:20PM
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jerijen(Zone 10)

I squish 'em.
They POP. :-)

They are very, VERY teeny, and hard to spot.


    Bookmark   July 2, 2008 at 2:24PM
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I've seen two kinds out here, but only one kind is very common in my garden: the European rose slug. It eats one side of the leaflet, leaving a thin, translucent surface layer intact. IIRC, the other two kinds are larger, one a lot larger, like caterpillar size.

Here is a link that might be useful: Damage of the European Rose Slug

    Bookmark   July 2, 2008 at 2:29PM
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Thanks so much for the info! The pic posted by Berndoodle looks exactly like my roses! I have a problem with regular slugs in my vegetable garden and have had success catching them with beer. Will that work for the rose slug too or is the only option catching them by hand? I want to stay organic.

    Bookmark   July 2, 2008 at 9:08PM
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jerijen(Zone 10)

No. They're not actual "slugs," and beer doesn't tempt them.
You must spray with something, or remove them by hand.
Removing them by hand is actually the easiest and most dependable approach.

It's pretty easy to do. The hardest part is spotting them.
I noticed this morning that one had been at a potted 'Sweet Chariot' on my patio.
I found the little devil, and squished him, and I have to say that he was the teeniest rose slug I've seen.
It was almost as tho my Miniature Rose had gotten itself a Miniature Pest.
Examine all leaves with any hint of damage -- there may be several of them.
Go back and check again daily for a few days until you stop finding new damage.


    Bookmark   July 2, 2008 at 9:16PM
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I'm brand new to rose gardening. I rescued some neglected bushes when we moved to our new coastal home. There are lots of blooms, but have an invasion of the "slugs". Thanks for the photo... I've been checking in the mornings and squishing them. There is another pest. Fuzzy, golden spots on the undersides of leaves. Is this rust? What to do?

    Bookmark   July 14, 2011 at 10:33PM
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