Bug's life by James Freeman
Hello anthophilous (flower frequenting) friends, and also, hello to the other anthophilous creatures that will be joining each of us in our homes and offices too. That’s right, I’m talking about bugs, bad bugs, the bugs that make your plants less pretty, the bugs you would never invite in.
Truthfully though I couldn’t fault a fellow herbivore for eating plants. We grow plants because we love the way they look, although this matters little to an aphid or mealybug, as they’ve simply just turned up for dinner.
This brings me onto my school teacher friend, she has nits, and as such is not allowed to come around. It’s not because we’ve fell out, it’s just good household biosecurity. Don’t let potential pests into the house, human or otherwise. This is absolutely the best step for preventing pests coming into your plant space.
Buy from reputable suppliers or nurseries. (even the best fall short sometimes)
Thoroughly inspect leaves and stems before your purchase gets out the shop, even tipping out the plant and inspecting the roots for damage isn’t too crazy
If you notice bugs on a plant after purchase or if it’s a gift, get it straight into quarantine so you can diagnose the problem and treat accordingly
The reason we have to be so careful is because when growing plants indoors, we are creating an unbalanced ecosystem. There’s no heavy rain to wash the bugs away and there’s none of the bugs natural predators either.
Sadly, even the best household biosecurity cannot prevent pests arriving. They come in on the breeze and on our clothing. They could also just be dormant and unnoticed on a neighbouring plant. Just waiting to spring into life the second you move your Crassula ovata (Jade plant) into the wrong place... Mine is constantly battling mealybugs.
Plants, when under attack, can signal nearby plants and alert them to the threat. They essentially smell the danger, and in turn can produce compounds that deter pests from eating their leaves. On the other hand, stressed plants give off signals that attract pests too. Isn’t nature wonderful.
It would be wise then to keep our plants as healthy as possible as they will be more resistant in the long run, and prettier.
Having said all that, if you’ve got plants, you’ve probably got pests.
Common signs of pests;
Spots on leaves
Sudden leaf fall
White furry patches on stems or leaves
Black/brown streaks on stems or leaves
Lots of tiny flies on the leaves or soil
There is where plant inspections and magnifying glasses can come into play. Ideally you want to be able to identify your pest.
Some of my go to solutions are;
A firm wipe with a soft damp cloth, being careful not to rip the leaves, but using enough pressure to squash or dislodge any pests
Don’t let topsoil stay damp for long periods of time. Overwatering is a sure-fire way to get white fly or gnats
For stubborn pests like scale or mealybugs, isopropyl alcohol on a cue tip is a good way of cleaning stems and leaf petioles while removing the adults and eggs
Give your plant a good hose down to try and dislodge the bugs. It’s often more about getting the problem under control than it is curing the issue
Lastly but not leastly repurpose an old spray bottle and turn into a blaster. Use a dilute water and soap solution and blast off bugs regularly
If all else fails, send that plant to the great compost bin in the sky. Or gift it to someone you don’t like.