University of Maryland Extension

Sawflies - Flowers

hibiscus leaves damaged by sawflies

Sawfly larvae resemble caterpillars but they have more than 5 pairs of prolegs on the abdomen. Adults are actually wasps. A common sawfly that may be found attacking hibiscus is the hibiscus sawfly. The adult is small and black with a red spot and smoky wings. The larvae are pale green with a dark head. They like to feed in groups and many may be found together feeding on lower surface of the leaves. Eventually, they may eat the entire leaf, leaving the mid-vein. Heavy infestations may cause complete defoliation. Hollyhock sawfly is another common sawfly in the garden.


Light infestations may be controlled by manually removing and destroying the sawflies. Heavy infestations of young larvae may be sprayed with horticultural oil. Even though sawflies look like caterpillars, they aren't. Bt (Bacillus  thuringiensis) will not control sawflies. (Bt is a microbial insecticide that controls caterpillars).

damge to hibiscus leaf
Damage to hibiscus leaf

sawfly larvae
Sawfly larvae

Maintained by the IET Department of the College of Agriculture and Natural Resources. © 2021. Web Accessibility

University programs, activities, and facilities are available to all without regard to race, color, sex, gender identity or expression, sexual orientation, marital status, age, national origin, political affiliation, physical or mental disability, religion, protected veteran status, genetic information, personal appearance, or any other legally protected class. If you need a reasonable accommodation to participate in any event or activity, please contact your local University of Maryland Extension Office.