Pear and cherry slugworm

The grazing activities slug-like larvae of the pear and cherry slugworm sawfly can cause some leaves on pears, cherries, hawthorn, plum, Cotoneaster, Chaenomeles and Sorbus to dry up and turn brown.

Pear and cherry slugworm (Caliroa cerasi) on pear

Quick facts

Common name: Pear and cherry slugworm
Scientific name: Caliroa cerasi
Plants affected: Pears, cherries, hawthorn, plum, cotoneaster, chaenomeles and sorbus
Main symptoms: The upper surface of leaves is grazed away and the grazed areas dry up and turn brown
Most active: June to October

What is pear and cherry slugworm?

Pear and cherry slugworms are the larvae of a sawfly. Sawflies are in the same group of insects as bees, ants and wasps (the Hymenoptera). Adult pear and cherry slugworm have black bodies about 4-6mm long and two pairs of transparent wings. Eggs are laid on the foliage and they hatch into larvae that are black with a slimy slug-like appearance. The larvae grow to a length of about 10mm and are somewhat club-shaped with the head end being wider than the rear. When fully fed the larvae enter the soil to pupate.

There are two or sometimes three generations a year between June and October. The second generation in July and August can be the most obvious. Larvae that complete their feeding late in the year overwinter in cocoons in the soil before pupating in April to May of the following year.


The larvae feed by grazing away the upper surfaces of the leaves and the remaining portions of the grazed areas  dry up and turn brown.


This insect can usually be tolerated. Heavy infestations can affect the appearance of the trees but the long term heath and on fruit trees the crop, is usually unaffected. 

Check susceptible plants frequently from spring onwards so action can be taken before a damaging infestation has developed. When choosing control options you can minimise harm to non-target animals by starting with the methods in the non-pesticide control section. If this is not sufficient to reduce the damage to acceptable levels then you may choose to use pesticides. Within this group the shorter persistence pesticides (that are usually certified for organic growing) are likely to be less damaging to non-target wildlife than those with longer persistence and/or systemic action.

Non-pesticide control

  • Where possible tolerate populations of slugworm sawfly
  • Encourage predators and other natural enemies of sawfly in the garden, such as birds and ground beetles.
  • Check plants regularly from April for the presence of larvae and remove by hand where practical
Pesticide control
  • If numbers of larvae are too high for hand picking, control may be achieved by spraying with pesticides. Spraying at dusk is likely to give the best results
  • Organic contact insecticides containing natural pyrethrins (e.g. Bug Clear Gun for Fruit & Veg, Neudorff Bug Free Bug and Larvae Killer). Several applications of these short persistence products may be necessary to give good control
  • More persistent contact insecticides include the synthetic pyrethroids lambda-cyhalothrin (e.g. Westland Resolva Bug Killer), deltamethrin (e.g. Provanto Ultimate Fruit & Vegetable Bug Killer, Provanto Sprayday Greenfly Killer) and cypermethrin (e.g. Py Bug Killer)
Follow label instructions when using pesticides. On edible plants make sure the food plant is listed on the label and follow instructions on maximum number applications, spray interval and harvest interval. 

Plants in flower should not be sprayed due to the danger to bees and other pollinating insects.

Inclusion of a pesticide product does not indicate a recommendation or endorsement by RHS Gardening Advice. It is a list of products currently available to the home gardener.


Pesticides for gardeners (pdf document outlining pesticides available to home gardeners)

See also...

Big Garden Sawfly Survey (External link)
Protect your garden

Gardeners' calendar

Find out what to do this month with our gardeners' calendar

Advice from the RHS

Did you find the advice you needed?

RHS members can get exclusive individual advice from the RHS Gardening Advice team.

Join the RHS now

Get involved

The Royal Horticultural Society is the UK’s leading gardening charity. We aim to enrich everyone’s life through plants, and make the UK a greener and more beautiful place.