Gooseberry sawfly

The larvae of several sawfly species can feed on the leaves gooseberry and red/white currants during spring and summer.

Common gooseberry sawfly (<i>Euura ribesii</i>) on Gooseberry (<i>Ribes uva-crispa</i>). Credit: RHS/Entomology
Common gooseberry sawfly (Euura ribesii) on Gooseberry (Ribes uva-crispa). Credit: RHS/Entomology

Quick facts

Common name Common gooseberry sawfly, spotted gooseberry sawfly and small gooseberry sawfly
Scientific name Euura ribesii, E. leucotrochus and Pristiphora appendiculata
Plants affected Gooseberry, red and white currants
Main symptoms Foliage is rapidly devoured by caterpillar-like larvae that are green with black dots
Most active April to September

What is gooseberry 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.

There are three common species of sawfly that can be found feeding on the leaves of gooseberry and some related fruit bushes.


  • Defoliation of the bushes can be caused by the caterpillar-like larvae of one of three species of sawfly
  • Larvae of the common gooseberry sawfly (Euura ribesii) are up to 20mm long, pale green, with many black spots, and black heads. The adults are winged insects; females are 5-7mm long and are yellow with black heads and black markings on the thorax; males are similar but more extensively marked with black, including the upper surface of the abdomen
  • Larvae of the pale spotted gooseberry sawfly (E. leucotrochus) are slightly smaller than those of the common gooseberry sawfly and have pale green heads. It has one generation a year with larvae present in May and June. The adult is similar in appearance to the pale spotted gooseberry sawfly but are usually brown in colour 
  • The small gooseberry sawfly (Pristiphora appendiculata) can have up to four generations of pale green larvae from late April onwards. The adult about 5mm long is black with pale yellow leggs
  • The larvae of some moths may also eat the foliage of gooseberries and currants
  • Plants will usually survive complete defoliation, however this may reduce yield


Check susceptible plants frequently from spring onwards so action can be taken before a damaging population has developed. When choosing management options you can minimise harm to non-target animals by starting with the methods in the non-pesticide control section and avoiding pesticides. Pesticide treatments are likely to kill natural enemies and are only likely to be successful if the entire plant can be reached.


  • Where possible tolerate populations of sawfly, complete defoliation rarely kills the plants although cropping may be affected
  • 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
  • A biological control (pathogenic nematode), sold as Fruit and Vegetable Protection, can be watered onto infested plants. The nematodes enter the bodies of the sawfly larvae and infect them with a bacterial disease. This nematode is available from some garden centres or via mail order. The nematode should be applied during cool damp weather. Nematodes have the potential to infect non-target animals, they should therefore be used with care and only when there is a specific problem to treat


The RHS recommends that you don't use pesticides. Most pesticides (including organic types) reduce biodiversity, including natural enemies, impact soil health and have wider adverse environmental effects.

Where you cannot tolerate sawflies, manage them using the information above as your first course of action.
Pesticide treatments are likely to kill natural enemies and so reduce the likelihood of natural control and can lead to resurgence of the target animal.

If you do decide to use pesticides, the shorter persistence products (that are usually certified for organic growing) are likely to be less damaging to non-target wildlife.
The pesticides listed are legally available in the UK. This information is provided to avoid misuse of legal products and the use of unauthorised and untested products, which potentially has more serious consequences for the environment and wildlife than when products are used legally.
Always follow the instructions on the products. For edible plants, make sure the food plant is listed on the label and follow instructions on maximum number of applications, spray interval and harvest interval.

Homemade products are not recommended as they are unregulated and usually untested.
Be aware that products such as Neem oil are not registered for use in the UK and we cannot advise on their use.

Plants in flower must not be sprayed due to the danger to bees and other pollinating insects.
  • 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 pyrethrum (e.g. Bug Clear Ultra 2, Neudorff Bug Free Bug and Larvae Killer) have a largely physical mode of action. These are broad spectrum so will kill a wide range of insects. Several applications of these short persistence products may be necessary to give good control. Plant oil and fatty acid products are less likely to affect larger insects such as ladybird adults
  • Further information about the use of pesticides available for management of sawfly is available on the pesticides for gardeners leaflet
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)Non-pesticide control

Biological control suppliers (pdf document)


  • The common gooseberry sawfly is the most frequently found of the gooseberry sawflies. It can have three generations a year, with the larvae active in late April to June, July, and August to September
  • The female sawflies lay eggs on the underside of leaves, low down in the centre of the bush, so the young larvae go unnoticed until they have eaten their way upwards and outwards, devouring the leaves as they go
  • Defoliated plants are weakened and may produce a poor crop the following year
  • When the larvae are fully fed, they go into the soil, where they spin silk cocoons and pupate
  • The pale spotted gooseberry sawfly only has one generation a year with larvae present in May and June
  • The small gooseberry sawfly has up to four generations a year with larvae present from late April

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