Return of the world-first Berberis sawflies?

Do you remember my world-first insect discovery last October? The first Berberis sawfly larvae ever to be spotted in Yorkshire! Well, it could be that they are now back, in their adult form!

Adult sawfly on our berberis, June 07

Since Saturday 16 June, I have been noticing up to 7 of these black sawflies on and around the berberis bush that the larvae were eating last autumn.

Sawfly in the garden, June 07

I sent some photos to insect expert Andrew Halstead at the Royal Horticultural Society, to see if he could identify them for me. (You’ll remember he wrote an article about Berberis sawfly in the UK – including a mention of my sighting – for the Sawfly Study Group Newsletter in January of this year.)

Sawfly in the garden, June 2007

He replied:
“These pictures are all of Arge sp sawflies and could be Arge berberidis, particularly if they are seen in the vicinity of its host plants (Berberis and Mahonia).”

So, these could well be the first adult Berberis sawflies (Arge berberidis) ever recorded in Yorkshire!  I’m going to send some samples to the Natural History Museum in London to have them identified for certain!

Find out more about Berberis sawflies (including photos of eggs, larvae and adults) here

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  1. Thanks for this article as it has helped us discover the identity of the ‘caterpillars’ that are destroying our Berberis and a few other plants in our garden in Bromley, Kent.

    Does anyone know a good way of getting rid of these invaders?

  2. After hours of research we have finally discovered through this article that our “caterpillars” that we have been nurturing in an old fish tank in West London, are in fact Berberis Sawfly Caterpilars. I have 3 Berberis plants in the garden and all of them have been shredded.

    We thought that we would keep the hundreds of Sawfly Caterpillars hopeing that they would turn into beautiful Butterflys. However, were very suprised when we found that they had hatched into Sawflies. They look exactly the same as the pictures in this aricle and on theBigBuzz blog logo.

    We also discovered 2 large green grasshopper looking insects that we assume may be the Sawfly Caterpillars predator. Is there any hope of the Berberis plant regrowing its leaves? Furthermore, are Sawfly rare species? or are they just pesty beasts? Thanks for a great article which has solved our confussion.

    Kind Regards


  3. Dear Linda

    I’m very pleased to hear that my article has helped you to identify the mystery caterpillars you have in your garden. I certainly found it difficult identifying them when I first spotted them in my garden (see

    You ask if they’re rare. Well, they’d certainly never been recorded in Yorkhire before. They actually come from central Europe. Andrew Halstead of the Royal Horticultural Society has been plotting their spread in the UK, since they were first recorded here in 2002. You can read his article and see his distribution map at

    As you’ll see from that blogpost, Andrew Halstead is keen to hear of Berberis sawfly sightings, so do tell him about yours (contact details in the blogpost).

    As to the Berberis plant – our leaves have always grown back fine the next year.

    I’m interested in your grasshopper-type insects. We’ve never seen anything eat ‘our’ larvae.



  4. Hi,

    Thanks for the blog! Taken me a while to figure this one out. As we have had an explosion of butterfly’s and moths ive been trying to identify these for a while, they didnt look familiar to me as normal captepillars. Anyway – found a load of them eating Roses in my garden, and found one hatched today in adult form – puzzle sorted!

    They are in bournemouth now!!!


  5. My friend asked if I knew what had destroyed her berberis which are normally good. They’ve been stripped completely and are covered with little caterpillars. There are other shrubs all around and they’ve not been touched – so I would assume these pesky Sawflies have reached Ascot in Berkshire !
    They are getting themselves around !


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