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I too am having the same problem and have never had it before. I have 7 Berberis in both my front and back gardens and they have all been attacked, but I have yet to see the culprit as I didn't look too closely - just thought "I wonder what's been eating them?"! I live in north west Kent
We have a Berberis thunbergii that is the main screen for the front of our house (or was) - we only noticed a few days ago that we could see through it quite drastically and upon inspecting it yesterday, noticed nearly all of the leaves decimated. We have shook off many caterpillars - and sprayed it. Just hope it comes back. This has never happened before in the 6 years we have lived here. We live in North Manchester and not heard of anyone else locally that has suffered with this pest?
I have had the same problem on my Berberis for the last 2/3 years with just the leaves right at the end of the branches left, this weekend I saw many flies, almost certainly the same as above flitting around the bush. This is in the Harrow side of London
I have them on my berberis too, I'm in sunbury, right at the end of the M3. How do i get rid of them?
I have this too. First time ever and it's made a mess of my mature barberry. I noticed the flies first in early July, but I couldn't identify them in any of my books (obviously my books are too old for this one). Now I've identified it, I shall be spraying!


Please stop all this spraying. I'm sorry your plants aren't looking so good but it won't kill you to just leave the insects to just get on with it and let nature redress the balance next year. The sawflies are bound to have predators - try encouraging more birds to visit your garden. The sprays are killing bees and butterflies, which are in serious danger of extinction. Please, I beg you. Stop spraying!
After hours of research we have finally discovered 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 Butterflies. However, we were very suprised when we found that they had hatched into Sawflies.

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?

I have the same problem! I have 5 berberis and they have been stripped bare for the first time in 3 years. Will they grow again? I am worried they will move onto my ligustrum!
Dear Jackie O, I hear what you're saying, but I have a three acre garden with tons of nettles on the banks and large swathes of area which we've left to 'go native' for wild insects etc. Sorry, but I've sprayed the sawflies caterpillars..if they had been butteflies or moths, I would have let them continue, even though my large Berberis is next to my front door. :)
I have had my berberis for 20 years and this is the first time it has been attacked. There is no foliage left, only sawfly caterpillars. My question is what to spray it with and will they come back next year if left alone?
Reply to everyone who wants rid of the things. I rid my roses of sawflies a year or so ago. Take an umbrella, upturn it and hold it underneath the infested branches and give them a sharp tap. All the caterpillars fall out. Close the umbrella and take it another part of the garden, and scatter them out. They will either starve or get eaten by birds, Simple. Either that or search out each caterpillar and squish it with a pair of tweezers.
AARRGGHH! Not again! I live in West Kent and have been robbed of my autumn red show from my Berberis thanks to these greedy little blighters! for the 2nd year running! Today I have finally seen them and am very cross that they have shredded my hedge - any ideas if they actually damage the bush - apart from eating the leaves and any idea which birds like to feast on these caterpillars? as I quite fancy the umbrella route but do not want to spread the infestation! any Advice gladly taken :O)
I have the same problem in Gosport Hampshire, I haven't sprayed much and they eaten the entire hedge which is a mature hedge of 15 years, does anybody know whether the sawfly has damaged the growth for next year please? Thanks - Sue
I came across these little fellas about 4-5 years ago. Yes they will come back year after year. If you spray you will have to spray upwards from under the leaves. Not my idea of dealing with the problem. I'm looking for something more predatory than chemical but found nothing so far. Alternative is let Virginia Creeper or somesuch grow over the Berberis and then you wont have to see the problem.
I noticed last night that my Berberis was almost completely bare of foliage and the branches covered in small caterpillars. Now i know what they are. We keep chickens and i picked a few off for them thinking i might have a solution but they refused to eat them. I put them on the bird table though and they were soon spotted by a robin who enjoyed the snack.


I have just looked up about this problem which I have never encountered before. I will now be looking for those caterpillars assuming that they have not already changed into sawflies. I live in Wendover, Buckinghamshire.
Two weeks ago I had a healthy 6yr old berberis in my front garden and now I have something that looks like a lace curtain. At least I now know what has caused it but I'm still waiting to find out if the plant will recover for next year. I'm in Wakefield, West Yorkshire and have never seen this happen before.
My berberis has lost most of its leaves this year, probably by the sawfly. If I prune it now in Oct/Nov and then spray with insecticide in the Spring is it possible for it to recover?
Am in Southampton, my beautiful mature 15 year old Berberis is pretty much no more due to infestation by what I know now is sawflies. Am going to get aggressive with the blighters this year as losing such a mature plant in the garden is just not an option! Best of luck everyone.
Reply. This insect is certainly spreading widely, as newly invading animals often do. Let's hope that natural predators, parasitoids or diseases follow shortly, to keep the sawfly in check.