Friday, February 09, 2007

So What's Really Bugging You?

It seems that insects of some type are pretty much a constant if you have significant numbers of plants. Some are a serious threat to your plant collection and others merely pests. Springtails and fungus gnats are in the pest category, but pest often times is spelled with a capital “P”. As a matter of fact, the whole word is capitalized sometimes. There is nothing as nice as having a dinner party in progress and a stupid fungus gnat decides to aim for your guest’s nose.

This article is not a scientific “what works best for what”. It’s just to give you couple ideas of what’s out there. And there are sooooooo many things to consider when you choose an insecticide:

Are your plants in a room that can be closed off?

Do you have children or pets?

How toxic is the insecticide?

Do you have allergies?

So, the bugs I have dealt with over my years of growing African violets are fungus gnats, springtails, soil and foliar mealybugs, white flies, aphids, mites, scale, thrips and root knot nematodes. Do I have fun or what?!?!?

This is a battery operated device that is activated every 15 minutes. It is relatively safe and is even recommended for kennels and barns. Turn it on for a few consecutive nights and it does a great job on flying insects. This is especially helpful in the summer when the windows are open every day.

If you absolutely want to avoid any type of chemicals, go for the sticky strips or pinguiculas. Pings are carnivorous plants and some have very attractive blossoms. Both of these will work for flying insects. Keep in mind that since pings are in regular potting medium, they are susceptible to any type of soil pest.

There are a number of different sprays. Check the ingredients and on what they are supposed to be effective. Some are more hazardous than others. Insecticidal soap if a very safe alternative, but may not be nearly as effective as chemicals. You personal preferences and plant locations will be a factor in choosing the appropriate spray. These will work on flying and crawling critters.

Sevin is great for soil or folier mealybugs; but not for African violets. It is kept around to treat orchids. Basically, on my AVs, for soil mealies I save a leaf or top a chimera, treat it with a bleach solution and toss the root ball. For foliar mealies it is spraying and wiping with alcohol dipped cotton swabs.

AVID is a mitacide. It does a great job; but is highly toxic.

Systemic insecticides are supposedly good for soil mealybugs and thrips. However, they can be smelly and many are toxic.

Terro?? Yes, if you have enough orchids with enough blooms and enough nectar dripping, the ants will find them. Plus, for some reason we have an infestation of ants NOW in the middle of winter. Good old Terro to the rescue.

So what about a few of the other pests? Thrips - try flea and tick collars for dogs. Scale- wash the plant and dab critters with alcohol. Root knot nematodes - toss the plant. Earwigs and spiders - most sprays work. Springtails - lots of luck!

Oh, by the way! Many of us like to use chlorine bleach to kill any possible pests when washing our pots, trays and work area. We all know that you do not mix bleach and ammonia. Now I may be the only one dumb enough not to have thought of this, but………. I always thought it would clean better if some soap was added. Spic and Span - NO. Ajax dish detergent - NO. Sun Light dish detergent - NO. All say NOT to use with chlorine bleach, so check all products labels.

Many thanks to Barb Werness for this article and excellent pictures!

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

I guess I didn't really know that you couldn't add detergent to the cleaning water with chlorine in it either....