Your Roses Versus the Insects

Humankind has voted roses as our favorite flower. Those same roses also seem to be the favorite flower of aphids, spider mites and thrips. These are very tiny insects that have voracious appetites for your roses. So how do you successfully fight them and save your roses?

First step is to identify the bug or bugs doing the damage. Aphids are about 1/8th inch long, usually green and have soft bodies. They are found on the new growth, both the pedals and the leaves.

Spider mites, the tiniest of garden pests (about the size of salt grains) are tiny green, red or yellow specks also with soft bodies. If you will hold the infected leaf over a sheet of white paper and tap the infected leaf sharply you will see these tiny creatures crawling around looking for a new home.

Gorse Thrips are the rose invaders and invade the blossoms as well as the leaves. To find them place a white sheet of paper on the ground, carefully tear the infected blossom apart and shake it vigorously. The thrips will fall out onto the white paper. The juveniles are light yellow while the adults are almost black very thin, thread-like insects.

The second step is the eradication of the demons. My favorite weapon is the lady bug. They love to eat aphids. Lady bugs are small, red beetles with black spots all over their backs. If you aren't blessed with a population of lady bugs you can spray the roses with an insecticide solution containing acephate, malathion or pyrethrins. You will find details on the website.

Did you find spider mites? Ladybugs eat spider mites, too. And, incidentally, of you don't have your own army of ladybugs you can buy them at many outlets around the country. They can be a lot less expensive than chemicals and they won't harm your pet or you. You can't find any lady bugs in your garden and you don't have time to mail order your own army? Then spray the roses with a miticide containing hexakis. Caution: Read the label carefully for complete instructions.

So maybe your unwelcome invader is thrips. Yes, you guessed it; ladybugs eat thrips, too. But thrips are very different from aphids and spider mites in that they move down into your soil or other plant medium to pupate. In addition to the above-ground fight take the fight to the soil (or other growing medium you are using) by using 'Double Death' predator nematodes. You can buy them mail order just like you can buy ladybugs. I have also read that pirate bugs are recommended in the war against thrips but I have found that they bite humans, too. So I do not recommend them.

The war against rose damaging bugs can be won. I prefer using the natural weapons, ladybugs and nematodes, but if the infestation is too severe there may be little alternative to using chemical weapons. Many of these chemicals also kill the ladybugs and even nematodes. So be patient and use caution and you will have your beautiful roses to enjoy all summer.

Bob and his wife, Elaine, maintain a website for gardeners,, to answer gardening questions submitted by their viewers. Elaine is a Master Gardener (Bob is the grunt man) and has been helping fellow gardeners increase their joy of gardening for four decades. Their website also includes an extensive glossary of garden and horticultural terms. E-mail them at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

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Last modified on Friday, 27 March 2015 15:11
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