Rose aphids

Roses can suffer heavy infestations of sap sucking aphids (greenfly, blackfly and related insects) during spring and summer.

Rose aphids Macrosipum rosae

Rose aphids Macrosipum rosae

Quick facts

Common name Rose aphids
Latin name Several species, the most common is usually Macrosiphum rosae
Plants affected Wild and cultivated roses
Main symptoms Small green and/or pink insects clustered on the foliage, flower buds and shoot tips. Plants become sticky
Caused by Sap-sucking insects known as aphids or greenfly
Timing March-August

What are rose aphids?

Aphids, also known as greenfly and blackfly, are sap-sucking insects. There are several species that occur on roses in Britain.

 

Symptoms

Check your roses regularly for signs of infestation;

  • Green or pink insects, cluster on the flower buds, shoot tips and young foliage
  • White cast aphid skins are often seen on infested flower buds and leaves
  • Flower buds and foliage can be covered in a sticky honeydew that aphids excrete
  • Black sooty moulds may grow on the honeydew

Control

Look for aphids on the shoot tips and underside of leaves from spring onwards.


Non-pesticide control

  • Where possible tolerate infestations of aphids
  • Aphids are eaten by various natural controls including ladybirds and their larvae, hoverfly larvae, lacewing larvae and are also killed by several species of parasitic wasps. Natural enemy population can take some time to build up before they control aphids
  • Where feasible squashing aphids with finger can give good control

Pesticide control

  • Organic sprays, such as natural pyrethrum (e.g. Bug Clear Gun for Fruit & Veg, Ecofective Bug Killer), fatty acids (e.g. Solabiol Bug Free, Doff Greenfly & Blackfly Killer) or plant oils (e.g. Vitax Organic Pest & Disease Control, Bug Clear for Fruit and Veg) can give good control of aphids. These pesticides have a very short persistence and so may require reapplication to keep aphid numbers in check. Plant oil and fatty acid products are less likely to affect larger insects such as ladybird adults
  • More persistent insecticides include the synthetic pyrethroids lambda-cyhalothrin (e.g. Westland Resolva Pest Killer), deltamethrin (e.g. Provanto Ultimate Fruit & Vegetable Bug Killer) and cypermethrin (e.g. Py Bug Killer)
  • 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 the danger to pollinating insects
  • Inclusion of a pesticide product does not indicate a recommendation or endorsement by the RHS. It is a list of products currently available to the home gardener

Download

Pesticides for gardeners (Adobe Acrobat pdf document outlining pesticides available to gardeners)

Biology

Aphids usually overwinter on roses as eggs laid on the stems in the previous autumn. However, in sheltered places there may be active nymphs and adults all year round.

Aphid numbers start to increase in spring when roses are producing new growth and reach a peak in early summer. Some rose aphids are green but a common species, Macrosiphum rosae, is pink. During spring and summer, the aphids are mostly wingless forms, 2-4mm long, that give birth to live young.

Winged forms develop when plants are heavily infested and aphids need to migrate to new host plants.


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