Tag Archive | Insects

House Plant Advice

I am a little bit shocked, I must say, by the fact that house plants are “in” again.

Of course, for me, they never went “out.” I’ve been growing house plants since I was a teenager–which means at least 4 decades. That’s okay. I’m glad that something that I like is suddenly “cool” again.

But of course now everyone is online giving “expert” advice about everything to do with house plants. One of the most amusing ones–to me anyway–is how to bring house plants–or tropicals if we’re being exotic–in for the winter.

First of all, if you’re in the northeastern united states and you haven’t done this yet, be prepared for a major mess on your hands. It’s surely not too late to try to save some of your plants–but the later you wait, the more they have trouble with the transition. I generally bring mine in around Labor Day just to avoid that.

On the other hand, you could take some of the so-called expert advice and slowly transition them inside over a period of two weeks, spraying them no less than three times with some sort of organic insecticide.

I’ve never heard of such nonsense in my life. Clearly these folks don’t realize that the insects are going to go dormant in the winter (for the most part) and won’t wake up again (if at all) until spring.

They also don’t realize that some of these insects have eggs that can live up to 2 years in the soil–so you can spray your durned fool heads off as many times as you like and you’re not going to solve that little problem!

So rather than weakening your plants by thrusting them into the dark and spraying them with insecticide (even organic insecticide!), why not just hose the plants down with a good hard spray of water to try to dislodge anything that you can and then bring the plants in?

I am also no fan of the advice I have seen that suggests that you take the entire plant and submerge it wholesale in a bucket of soapy water. Again, why? This is like killing a flea–or an imagined flea–with a sledgehammer. You are weakening the entire plant and damaging its natural leaf coatings and you don’t even know if there’s a problem. Just. Dont’. Do. It.

Once the plants are inside, do watch them carefully to assure that you didn’t bring in any insects. You have another good month or so before really cold weather sets in. If you need to take a plant or two outside to spot treat with an organic insecticide, that’s certainly do-able. But no need to treat everything willy-nilly if you see no problems.

And continue to monitor. That’s what a good house plant owner does. The sooner you catch any problems, the sooner you can solve them. Both you and your plants will be happier that way!

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Don’t Ignore the House Plants

It’s summer.  Even when there isn’t a drought,  there’s enough to do outside  (weeding, deadheading, trying to figure out how to outsmart the pesky chipmunks so that I finally get a tomato from them [or not, after the poisoning incident]–you get the idea) that generally all I do with the few house plants that have stayed indoors is water.

So this year, even though more house plants than usual remained indoors (meaning that I have more watering than usual), I am still not thinking much about the indoor plants.

When a couple of my big philodendron started to get yellow leaves, I shrugged and figured that I was keeping the light in the room too dark.

When I adjusted that and then they started to sunburn,  now I looked closer.

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Ick! So this is not a light problem at all! This is why I always say in my house plant lectures “be ever vigitant, I  beseech you!” (It’s a malapropism from Shakespeare).

Luckily,  I caught this before they became worse although they are pretty bad as it is. These are aphid nymphs. In a few more days, they probably would have begun sprouting wings and moving among my other plants. Ugh.

I took the two affected plants outdoors,  removed the most badly infested leaves and hosed the plants down. I also washed the trays the plants had under them.

I will continue to hose the plants down for the next couple of weeks.  And once they come in,  I will watch them closely for repeat infestations.

And I guess I have learned not to presume that insect infestations only strike in spring and fall (generally, in my house, anyway). I will need to follow my own advice.

What’s Wrong With This Picture?

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Lovely leaf, not so lovely result, right?

When I first saw this, I thought I knew immediately what was happening.  Several years ago, when I was in North Carolina, I heard about a beetle that was ravaging canna lilies there. I thought that this beetle had somehow made its way north (as all noxious things somehow eventually do) and gotten to Connecticut.

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It turns out that there is a simpler explanation for all of this.

Yes, it still has to do with a noxious invader. But this time the “invader” is quite well known to us here in Connecticut and has been for some time.

What’s turning these Canna leaves into lace (and it really is pretty, unless these are your plants, in which case, you probably want to scream! I think I might do a little judicious trimming if they were mine) is the all too common Japanese beetle.

As a doctor once told me, sometimes even if you have an unusual presentation, we still look for a common explanation, and not for something rare.  That’s probably good advice in gardening too.

Boids

It’s getting to be “beetle ” time in the garden.  I am not really seeing too many beetles on the plants–I never really do–but occasionally I see the beetles on the screens at night, or hear them thwack into a window while I am reading at night.

Do you remember the Japanese beetle traps? They were popular in the 90s.  They were plastic bags with a scent lure designed to attract the beetles. They did attract beetles because of the scent lure–but then the issue became whether they attracted more beetles than they caught?

In any event,  after a few years, everyone stopped using them. I don’t think I have seen the traps in years and I can count on two hands each year the number of beetles I see.

So what is the magic in my yard? Boids–as the the Spoiler calls them, otherwise known as birds.

I have written about this topic before.  This isn’t news. Birds feed insects to their young. And what are grubs but insects!

Grubs–the larva of beetles–are some pretty protein packed food for young birds. And if the birds get them, you don’t have skunks or moles or voles digging up the lawn either.

It’s all pretty simple.  It’s the ecosystem working as it should.  But it can only work if you do not use pesticides.  Just a thought.

A Voice for the Unloved

My long-time readers know how much I love ants. I think they are they greatest insects. And while we don’t ever want to go overboard and say, “Oh heck, ants are just like us!,” it’s true that if you want to compare a bug to human beings, ants are not a bad bug to start with and here’s why: they live in communities (that’s what those anthills are all about); they have defined roles (did you know that there are such things as “nurse” ants, “forager” ants and “soldier” ants, for example? In other words, ants have jobs to do just like we do!

And ants are pollinators as my long time readers know. They pollinate all sorts of spring wild flowers. But many of you have probably reaped the benefits of ant pollination in a more practical sense–I know I have.

If you grow grape hyacinth (muscari species) ants actually pollinate those. Ever wonder how or why they suddenly show up in strange places you didn’t plant them? You can thank the ants.

Ant pollination occurs in a rather unusual way. Certain plants have a structure called an eliaosome attached to their seeds. This structure is rich in lipids and proteins and attracts the ants, who pick up the seeds for these eliaosomes.

Once they carry the seeds back to their nests, the seeds are dispersed and the plants are transported–and in the process, pollinated. Pretty fascinating stuff.

I am not going to ask you to put up with ants all over your kitchen. Even I don’t do that. But please, if the ants are outside and safely away from your home, please let them be. This very active ant hill is on the edge of my driveway,  bothering no one.

And speaking of that, on Monday, we’ll talk about bees!

Wordless Wednesday–Hibernation?

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I always talk about leaving leaf litter and brush piles so insects can over-winter.

We recently installed a new garage door opener and it has a keypad on the outside of the door. This milkweed bug apparently thinks the keypad is going to make a nice sheltered place to over-winter. I don’t necessarily disagree .  I took the photo and shut it back inside safely .