Uncovering the Mystery of Holes in Rose Leaves

Indulging in the fantasy of a picture-perfect garden is something we all yearn for. Those glossy magazine spreads and stunning internet images depict flawless roses against an immaculate backdrop of vibrant, lush foliage. Naturally, we desire the same for our own gardens.

However, the reality is that we don’t live in a meticulously edited magazine. In real gardens, bugs are part of the ecosystem, coexisting with us and sometimes snacking on our precious rose bushes. But fear not! A little tolerance can go a long way in maintaining a healthy garden ecosystem.

Detecting the Culprit

So, how do we determine if the holes in our rose leaves are the work of a friendly visitor or a harmful intruder? Let’s assess the damage and identify the responsible party. Once we know who’s using our roses as a buffet, we can handle the situation appropriately. Let the investigation begin!

Rose Chafer Beetle

A close-up reveals the delicate beauty of a pink rose, its velvety petals gently unfurling in the sunlight. The vibrant green leaves gracefully cradle the blossom, providing a contrasting backdrop. Within the heart of the flower, a Rose Chafer Beetle rests, its metallic green exoskeleton glinting as it explores the beautiful bloom.
This common rose pest is a fuzzy tan beetle with small yellow hairs on its head and thorax.

One potential suspect is the Rose Chafer Beetle. These tan beetles, known as Macrodactylus subspinosis, have a somewhat fuzzy appearance due to small yellow hairs on their head and thorax. They are commonly found in Eastern North America and thrive in sandy soil.

Measuring around half an inch long, these beetles start their journey as fat white C-shaped grubs, hibernating in the soil and emerging in early spring. If you spot one, there’s likely more to come, as they tend to arrive in swarms. Alongside roses, these beetles feast on various ornamental plants and crops such as strawberries, grapes, and peppers. It’s important to note that they contain a toxin, making them lethal if consumed by dogs, cats, or birds.

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Sawfly Larvae

A close-up of a rose branch, the intricately veined leaves come into focus, showcasing their rich emerald hues. The supple branches twist and intertwine, supporting the blooming flowers. Amidst the foliage, a group of Sawfly Larvae wriggle and munch on the tender leaves, their translucent bodies marked with tiny black dots.
Identifying sawfly larvae accurately is crucial due to their resemblance to various caterpillar species.

If you observe tan, nearly transparent splotches called “windowpanes” on your rose foliage, chances are you’ve been visited by sawfly larvae. These little green caterpillar look-alikes, commonly known as rose slugs, transform into dark-colored non-stinging wasps. Their emergence aligns with the arrival of warmer weather in early spring.

Accurate identification of sawfly larvae is crucial, as they bear a resemblance to many other caterpillar species. While moth and butterfly caterpillars also enjoy a rose feast, they should be relocated within the garden rather than destroyed. These caterpillars serve as the primary food source for birds and grow into essential pollinators.

As sawfly larvae mature, they progress from creating “windowpanes” to making irregular holes in the foliage. So, keep an eye out for these leaf-munching culprits!

Leafcutter Bees

A close-up of a Rose leaf, the intricate network of veins is visible, nourishing the plant and lending a touch of elegance. However, the leaf bears a noticeable tear, a testament to the Leafcutter Bees
Leafcutter bees are beneficial pollinators valued in the agricultural industry and home gardens.

If you notice tidy round notches at the edges of your rose leaves, don’t panic – it might just be the work of leafcutter bees. These beneficial pollinators, approximately the same size as honeybees, are highly regarded in the agricultural industry and home gardens. They are native to the Western United States.

Leafcutter bees are not interested in eating the leaves or causing lasting damage to your roses. Instead, they utilize their scissor-like jaws to cut small sections of leaves, which they roll into tubes, fill with pollen, and use to line their nests. Witnessing the work of these specialized bees in your garden is truly a testament to the symbiotic relationship between flowers and pollinators.


A close-up of the vibrant yellow petals of a rose radiating warmth and joy. Delicate and velvety, the rose exudes elegance and charm. On one of the petals, a slimy and slow-moving slug clings, contrasting the flower
These mollusks are most active at night, so it’s best to search for them then.

While slugs and snails are usually considered the nemeses of vegetable gardens, they can occasionally cause havoc in rose beds too. Their damage typically occurs on the lower leaves and canes, resulting in ragged holes and trails of mucus.

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These mollusks are most active at night, so nighttime searches are the best way to spot them. Although they generally prefer herbaceous plants over large woody perennials like roses, they aren’t always picky eaters.

Japanese Beetle

A close-up of a leaf reveals its intricate surface textured with veins and subtle hues of green. Atop the leaf rests a Japanese Beetle, its metallic green and bronze iridescence catching the light. The beetle scuttles and grazes on the leaf, leaving behind tiny marks as evidence of its feeding.
Originally from Japan, these invasive pests have become more common in the Eastern United States.

If you’ve encountered Japanese beetles, you’ll know them by their daytime feeding habits. These beetles, around half an inch in length, boast sturdy, metallic green bodies with copper heads. Distinguishing features include white tufts of hair near their legs.

Originally hailing from Japan, these invasive pests are increasingly prevalent in the Eastern United States. Their life cycle involves spending winter as white grubs in the soil, emerging in spring to feast on turfgrass roots. By early summer, they pupate and transform into their adult form.

Japanese beetles indulge in devouring rose leaves, buds, and blooms, causing significant damage to these beautiful plants.

Fuller Rose Beetle

A close-up showcases clusters of piled leaves, resembling succulent foliage with their plump and fleshy appearance. The leaf-like branches cascade gracefully, forming an enchanting arrangement. Nestled within this verdant scene, a Fuller Rose Beetle can be seen, its glossy body adorned with dark spots, gracefully navigating its lush surroundings.
Rose weevils have a preference for chewing irregular notches on leaf edges.

Just like a criminal unique from others, the Fuller Rose Beetle, also known as a rose weevil, has its own modus operandi. They leave behind ragged and irregular holes on the edges of rose leaves, distinguishing their damage from the neat and smooth-edged notches created by leafcutter bees.

These beetles possess a grayish-tan appearance and distinctive pointed snouts characteristic of weevils. Measuring about ⅓ inch in length, they begin their lives as grubs in the soil, feeding on plant roots.

Fortunately, Fuller rose beetles don’t usually cause significant damage and can be tolerated in small numbers. Plus, they serve as prey for parasitic wasps and ladybugs, benefiting the overall garden ecosystem.

Nature’s Wrath: Hail

A close-up of a vibrant red rose reveals its velvety petals delicately unfurling, exuding an enchanting fragrance that fills the air. The rose
When a storm is imminent, setting up a protective cover for your roses is recommended.

While insects are typically the primary suspects when holes appear in rose leaves, storms can also inflict significant damage. Hail, in particular, can puncture leaves, snap fragile stems, and create wounds on the canes.

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To safeguard your roses from the ravages of hail, it’s crucial to pay attention to weather forecasts. If a storm is on the horizon, consider erecting a protective cover to shield your precious blooms from harm.

Now that we’ve uncovered the mystery of the holes in your rose leaves, you can nurture your garden with confidence. Embrace the fascinating interplay between nature’s creatures and your cherished roses, knowing that a harmonious ecosystem is the key to a flourishing garden.

To explore more tips and tricks for maintaining a thriving garden, visit the [Ames Farm Center](https://amesfarmcenter.com).