Hey rose, what’s eating you?

It has been a wet few days. The roses have been slurping up that water and their growing tips and buds are nice and juicy. Mmmmm, say the bugs, the rose buffet is now open! Not for long, bugs.

First, meet the leafroller – larva of one of a number of common moths. Leafrollers produce a couple of generations a season, and the early one about now is the one to catch. That way, you’re reducing the numbers of chewing mouth parts clamped on your roses per summer.

Leafrollers can be detected by the small web they spin around the flower bud and young leaves at the tip of the growing stem. Inside the web, the folded leaf or the bud itself, is the small greenish or buff caterpillar, taking bites from everything and devouring the developing flower. Leafrollers also attack other members of the rose family, including apples.

Here’s what I do. Forget the chemicals. Out come Helen’s flying fickle fingers of fate. Open up the web. Squish, squish. And squish for good measure. Bye bye, leafrollers.

Next, meet the aphids, small sucking insects that use the new growth like Jughead uses the Chocklit Shoppe. Aphids come in different sizes, depending on their age, and in different colours. Sometimes pink…

Sometimes aphids are green…

And sometimes even white. All are equally vulnerable to my highly technical skill: squishing! Should you feel more squeamish than squishish, a strong spray with the hose directed at the young shoots may be enough to dislodge aphids from their roost. (This doesn’t work on the leafrollers, unfortunately. Perhaps you can find a squishing proxy for those.)

However, there’s a wonderful atavistic pleasure about squishing bugs. Gloves are optional. Guaranteed: the ones you squish won’t come back. Ever. Give it a try.


  1. Just wanted to say what a great gardening blog you've got here. As a Toronto Master Gardener it's great to see!

    Check out my blog at ecostems.blogspot.com and learn more about eco|stems, an environmentally and socially sustainable flower shop.

  2. Welcome eco|stems, and thanks for your comment.

    I was a Toronto Master Gardener myself for six years. It's a great organization and does fine things for the Toronto gardening community. One day, when I have a little more time on my hands, I might be back!

  3. Hi ladies: Really enjoyed this informative post about rose pests. You did a great job of reminding people there are many organic ways to effectively get rid of those bugs. Remember: without aphids, there's nothing for ladybugs to eat… 😉 Teresa

  4. Teresa, I can almost guarantee that, even with my fickle fingers, there will be plenty of aphids left for the ladybugs. The ladybug wolf nymphs are starting to appear right now, so watch them vacuum up the aphids.

  5. Hello,
    I need your advice…Desperately…Something is eating my rose buds, before they get to open. I’ve sprayed it; however looks like chunks are bitten off at the base of the rosebud. Any ideas? No aphids or any other insects on the roses. Many, many thanks. Lumi.

  6. Lumi, if you look closely, do you see little caterpllars in the bud? Then it's the moths I've been writing about. The best strategy is to squish them! It's hard to spray them, as the bugs are hiding in the rolled leaves and webwork. You'll lose a few buds, but generally the hand is more effective than the spray.

  7. Just wanted to say thank you for helping me to identify the leaf rollers! I've grown roses for over ten years, and have never had problems with these until this year, and they're on every species of roses I grow. Didn't know what they were until I found your blog. Thanks for the help! (I felt a grim joy in squishing them, but as an amateur entomologist, I felt a little guilty at the same time.) We're keeping a couple to raise to see what exactly they are!

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