Geranium sawfly

The greyish green larvae of geranium sawfly feed on geranium leaves during spring and summer.

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Geranium sawfly larvae

Quick facts

Common name Geranium sawfly
Scientific name Ametastegia carpini
Plants affected Geranium
Main symptoms Holes in leaves
Most active May to September

What is geranium sawfly?

Sawflies are a group of insects suborder (Symphyta) of the Hymenoptera (bees, ants and wasps). There are about 500 species of sawfly in Britain. They have caterpillar like larvae that feed on plant material and are named after the saw like egg laying organ used by females to lay eggs in plant material. Adults can come in a range of colours many are black, green orange or striped yellow and black. Most are small (< 1cm) but some species such as the Birch sawfly (Cimbex femoratus) can be over 2 cm long. Several species can be found in gardens and are part of the biodiversity a healthy garden will support. More information can be found at The Sawflies of Britain and Ireland webpages

Geranium sawfly has greyish-green larvae that reach 12mm in length. The larvae feed on leaves of hardy geranium in May and September leaving a holed appearance. The larvae readily drop of the plants when disturbed and so are not often seen. The adult sawfly is a black 10mm long fly-like insect. 

Control

Although the damage on the foliage can be considered unsightly, it is generally not extensive enough to affect the plant’s growth or its ability to produce flowers and this insect can be treated as part of the biodiversity a healthy garden supports.

Check geranium frequently from May 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 sawfly, this species rarely causes sever defoliation and is part of the biodiversity a healthy garden can support
  • Encourage predators and other natural enemies of sawfly in the garden, such as birds and ground beetles.
  • Check plants regularly from May for the presence of larvae and remove by hand where practical
Pesticide control

The RHS believes that avoiding pests, diseases and weeds by good practice in cultivation methods, cultivar selection, garden hygiene and encouraging or introducing natural enemies, should be the first line of control. If chemical controls are used, they should be used only in a minimal and highly targeted manner.
  • 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 pyrethrinrum (e.g. Bug Clear Gun for Fruit & Veg, Neudorff Bug Free Bug and Larvae Killer). Several applications of this short persistence products may be necessary to give good control
  • More persistent contact-action 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)
  • A systemic containing the active ingredient Flupyradifurone (Provanto Smart Bug Killer) is available for use on ornamentals and selected edibles
  • The systemic neonicotinoid insecticide acetamiprid (e.g. Bug Clear Ultra) is also available
Follow label instructions when using pesticides. 

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.

Download

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

Biology

There are two generations a year of geranium sawfly with larvae present in May and September. Fully grown larvae pupate in the soil, the September generation overwintering in this state. Adults emerge in spring and lay eggs on the foliage.

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