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Caterpillars eating my redcurrants and gooseberries

polbpolb Posts: 198
edited June 2020 in Problem solving
Hi, for the past couple of years our red-currants and gooseberry bushes have been annihilated by loads of small green caterpillars! :| Each year I have not managed to get to them before they've consumed most of the leaves :-/ I am not a fan of spraying them and there is just too many for me to manually remove. 

Is there a natural solution to this problem?
Is there something I could do to prevent them arriving in the first place?
Also, right next to these bushes are blackcurrants which they never seem to go for. I'm not complaining about this but just wondered why they don't touch them?

Many thanks for any help!


  • steephillsteephill Posts: 2,764
    Gooseberry sawfly - try using fleece to stop the adult being able to lay eggs. Give the ground around the plants a good going over with a hoe or other cultivator in autumn and spring to reduce the number of overwintering larvae. You can also try blasting them off with water or spray with soapy water.
  • polbpolb Posts: 198
    ah yes, I'd not thought of hosing them off..but I'm guessing they might then go onto my blackcurrants or just climb back up after the shock!! :/

    The ground around the bushes is hard to hoe, they are quite packed in and the soil is full of roots. Would mulching help or make the problem worse? Is there something I could put down over winter to prevent the larvae from staying around?!

    We are not keen on the gooseberries anyway. If we dug these out, would this solve the problem long term?

  • Bee witchedBee witched Posts: 1,240
    Hello @polb,

    Try using a spray of diluted neem oil .... it is totally organic and is derived by pressing the seed kernels of the neem tree.

    I use it for lily beetles and sawfly on gooseberries / solomons seal and aruncus. Also use it if the aphids get too bad on the roses.

    See this link for further info.

    and this one for how to make it.

    I use it as soon as growth starts in April and I drench the foliage. Any spare solution goes onto the soil below as the earthworms are supposed to love it. I repeat spray every few weeks.

    Neem is best used preventatively .... but will work on pests that have already arrived. It does not hurt beneficial insects. Only chewing and sucking insects are affected. The main reason is that insects need to ingest the neem oil to be affected, and beneficial insects don't eat your plants. However, you can still kill beneficial insects if you smother them with neem oil, so I tend to spray late evening to be safe.

    It does stink a bit ... but is easy to mix up and apply.

    I got mine off ebay .... wasn't expensive for a big bottle which will last ages. At room temperature it is solid, but goes liquid again within a couple of hours in the airing cupboard.

    Worth a try.

    Bee x


    Gardener and beekeeper in beautiful Scottish Borders  

    A single bee creates just one twelfth of a teaspoon of honey in her lifetime
  • polbpolb Posts: 198
    ooh..I've not heard of this! Thank you! What insecticidal soap do you use to mix it with?

    Any idea why they've not gone for my blackcurrants?
  • Bee witchedBee witched Posts: 1,240

    Just a squirt of Fairy Liquid .... I think it's just to help it stick onto the foliage. 
    Not sure why sawfly don't attack Blackcurrants ... but I've never seen any damage on them and the bushes are reasonable close to each other.

    Hope it works for you.

    I also put chopped comfrey leaves around the base of the bushes when I have any spare. Helps keep the moisture in and I'm hoping it might stop the larvae burrowing down to over-winter.

    Bee x

    Gardener and beekeeper in beautiful Scottish Borders  

    A single bee creates just one twelfth of a teaspoon of honey in her lifetime
  • polbpolb Posts: 198
    Thanks Bee, I'll order some of the neem oil and give that a try for next year!

    We're not big fans of the gooseberries and we can survive without the redcurrants so I guess the other option would be to dig them out and plant something else.. Perhaps I'll try the oil first and see how that goes!

    Many thanks for your help :)
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