Friday, July 8, 2011

You Know What I Hate?

I have a problem in my garden.  Last year, it was a little problem, something was cutting round and oval holes in fleshy new rose leaves on my Madame Alfred Carriere rose climber.   I did a little research because the evidence is pretty specific... I mean really? How many bugs cut perfectly round and perfect little oval holes in your plants?

There is just one and I can tell you who does it: Leaf cutter bees.  They use it to create nests to grow more leaf cutter bees.

This year, in March, when all the new leaves were leafed out, they did it again, and much worse this time, decimating 100% of the new growth on the MAC rose, and also completely decimating all the new growth on the Carefree Wonder rose.   But, I sighed, they are good for the garden otherwise, and its just the first flush of leaves so I'm going to let it go.   Well, ahhemmm!  Those little bastards DO IT EVERY 2 months on the dot.   This is the single thing that does the most destruction to any plant in my garden.  And it has to stop NOW.

It actually is rather aggravating as I'm going around looking for solutions to this problem and every website keeps saying, "aw but the little things are great pollinators, aw, be THANKFUL they are in your garden."  I feel like smacking those authors.   And frankly, IT IS COMPLETELY A LIE that chemical insecticides won't kill these little creeps, because they will, and frankly, its one of the reasons that they think the bee population might be going down.  Though I think this might be gross speculation (experts will tell you they are stumped as to what is actually causing this, as bee's lived quite fine through years of DDT), I'm personally not a fan of killing off bee's myself, and I'm pretty sure insecticides in any form for any reason isn't the greatest of ideas.

But people who should know better need to stop talking out of both sides of their mouths.  And lying about it saying, 'oh, they don't eat the leaves, they use them as nesting, so insecticides won't do any good' is an insult to my intelligence.  And frankly it can backfire too, when lets say someone thinks that they are going to use insecticides to get rid of some other garden pest and then it wipes out the bee population.   No insect needs to eat a pesticide for it to be effective, they nearly all work on contact.   Its why they highly recommend you wearing gloves when handling the stuff - they're pretty sure you aren't going to drink the stuff, but its dangerous to get it on you.

And when is the last time you received a rose from the nursery with 100s of little round holes cut out of the leaves? Right, never huh?  So there IS a solution, and it isn't live and let live!

Anyhow, this madness has got to end, because my carefree wonder shrub, in a half a day has lost 50% of its leaves.  We have a long growing season here, and the bees reproduce every 60 days, so we cannot live in peace, because they obviously don't understand when enough is enough.  And no, I'm sorry, if any bug or disease was completely defoliating your plant you would not think warm and fuzzy thoughts about these cute little creatures.   The balance of rose leaves vs leafcutter bees in my garden is not sustainable, as they are going to kill the damn roses.

So does anyone have a good effective suggestion before I go and actually pesticide the hell out of these two roses?  I really would prefer not to pesticide even two plants, but I need this to stop.  The Mac rose is a climber and it isn't reasonable to 'cover' it.    And searching out 'rotted' wood and removing it is laughable too, I live in Charleston, land of faded grandeur and glorious decrepitude.  Everything is rotting, constantly.  I'd have to pull out the neighborhood.

Oh, I'm young and angry today.


  1. Oh Jess, you won't like the solution I had to this problem. I stopped growing roses, and lilacs, they liked those too. I had a full English rose garden at our last house, and I honestly got tired of striving for perfection with roses, and never achieving it. The leaf-cutter bees will cut leaves and petals from a number of plants, and we have a few in the gardens here, but it's never been enough to do anything more than cosmetic damage. I've seen some rather spectacular holes in my Calochortus blooms here though. Yes, pesticides will work on them, just as they will on the ladybugs, the honeybees, and other beneficial pollinators. I'd rather keep the pollinators though, but as I keep bees, you already know I'm one of 'those' people :P Good luck, I do hope someone has a helpful solution for you. If you need cheering up, stop by and see what popped up here this week ;)

    1. They also like Pink Jasmines and they love love love bougainvillea's they tore them up I wish we were able to show pictures, but its true they love some roses more than others

  2. Jess, I am sorry about your rose leave. We have leaf cutter bees too, and I actually think those leaves look pretty, sort of like lacework or Swiss cheese maybe :). Please don't start hating me too. I don't know whether damage like that to a recently rooted baby cutting might weaken it, but if your MAC is a huge mature rose than the damage is mostly cosmetic, in my experience. From what I can see the rose is not at all fully defoliated. Although I do have to say that it doesn't happen every couple of months in my garden - just once a year as far as I can tell... No rose has died from it (or even lost a cane) in my garden. It might not be so bad after all...

  3. You won't like my solution either: Move to the Pacific Northwest. :) As far as I know we don't have those bees here. [We've got other varmints though.] I wish I could offer something a bit more doable. Hopefully someone will. I sure understand your frustration though. Gardening can be so maddening sometimes. Please let us know.

  4. Clare - your website did cheer me up a little. I am not having a good week and I think these bees which I know are going to be back at it tomorrow pulled me over the edge here! They're probably out there now...grrrr.

    Masha - I think if they did it just once during the year I would be accepting (last year it was only one major time), but what is happening is that they do this often enough to do some major visual damage (3rd time this year). The MAC isn't going to die from it, the CF Wonder is the one that isn't going to have any leaves by the end of this week. I do realize it is cosmetic, for the most part... (I was being dramatic there!) I just have to ask myself though, since this is a constant affair, not once a year, and I grow roses for cosmetic reasons, what then is the point? It really is doing a doozy, and I do agree it sort of looks pretty, as a sprig, seeing no leaves on 50% of a bush is depressing! And no worries, of course I'm not gonna be hating you :) I'm asking for opinions for a purpose!

    After all, I still hate the squirrels worse than anyone! Last time I checked the bee's weren't digging up entire plants and throwing them on the patio.

  5. Bastards. I think I have these, too, which is not surprising, since every bug in the universe eats my plants. :0 We do live in the same state, though, so I guess it makes sense. Pulled up my Morning Glories this morning; gonna put in a perennial Passion Flower. Wish me luck.

  6. I get these, too, and I just ignore it. Sorry I'm not helping...

  7. No help to offer, but a little sympathy thrown your way. It is frustrating but roses are pretty good on the recovery front.

  8. You feel the same about your leaf cutter bees as I do about my wood-chewin' bees. I think more people resort to pesticides than admit to it. I say do what you feel you must! Even if I'll probably be booed loudly for it. :)

  9. Cover them with nets during foraging season, and give them a plant they can annihilate in another part of the garden. Kind of like giving a digging dog a corner spot for himself only to dig. Just a thought. If not, off with there heads!

  10. I know how frustrating it is to try to keep plants healthy and viable and remain organic. There are some organic sprays that may help...try looking in the organic section of Lowe's or Home Depot. You can also try making your own solution: (This will not hurt any insects only deter them from biting into the leaf.)

    1 cup of marigold leaves and flowers (cut finely)
    Mix with 2 cups of hot water
    Steep for 24 hours, then strain thru cheesecloth
    Add 6 cups of water and 1/4 teaspoon Dr. Bronner Soap (or castile soap)
    Pour in spray bottle. Spray lightly in early morning or evening (not midday sun) Spray again after rain.
    Hope this helps...

  11. I can relate - I love all creatures, great and small, but seriously, if the mole doesn't get out of my garden soon ...!!

  12. Before blog reading I had no idea there were bees that chewed through wood and cut circles in leaves. In an odd way I'm happy for my colder climate! (sorry no help there, but I do find this interesting)

  13. Ah, but you're a great read when you're angry :D

    No pictures of the cute little bees then? No? Perhaps not. I just get ugly aphids and they don't make pretty lacy doilies out of my roses. Still can't bring myself to do anything drastic to kill 'em. I think the roses are going to have to go one day :(

  14. I have found many a hole and ragged edges in my plants, had NO IDEA as I never saw a bug. I thought maybe a leaf cutter bee but there was a lot of cutting being done for a bee. I went out at night this past week and what did I see?!!
    EARWIGS munching away on my plants, plants with missing leaf edges, nice little half circles all over the edges. Oh well time for slug, snail and earwig bait. Buggers.

  15. I have this happen every year on the Noisettes in the front garden. If it bothers me looking at it, I cut them back and they reflush. the bugs go without for a while and usually move on. Fall's growth goes without the problem. You do seem a little angry over something that is just nature's way.....ease up. the heat is getting to all of us........

  16. Oh, my!
    I can sure hear your anger, and frustration.
    For me it's voles. I have a tunnel system more complicated than the London subways in my garden. And I know those little buggers will multiply quickly.
    Unfortunately I come with no advice. I just have to refer to the readers before (and perhaps after) for comfort and advice.
    I do like your blog though.



  17. I think you're wasting emotion and letting negativity conquer. Why hate a little bee? It (as a species) was here long before you or your roses. Perfection is highly over rated, and lack of perfection should not engender hatred.

  18. Lisa and Robb - haha yeah I was having a bad week. Sometimes it helps though to rant about what's bothering you, ya know? In this case, they did a devastating amount of damage. If I'd have 'trimmed' one of the damaged bushes it would have had to be to the ground! It wasn't about perfection (obviously I don't spray my garden so there are always problems). But you'll probably be happy to know that I chilled out and decided that I might have just over-reacted a wee bit! :) The bee's are all alive and well.

  19. Surely there are something abutting to any fables. The same has been tried here, well done!

  20. Those leaf cutter bees are out in full force already, I noticed about 2 weeks ago, but not only do they like roses they also like Pink Jasmine's and they love love love Bougainvilla's they did a number on them.