Bugs! Bugs! Bugs!
Mealybug…mealybug…what is there to say about mealybug? Well it’s one of the most annoying insects on the planet if you ask me. Not the most annoying though, they come later! For those who don’t know, mealybug are the white cottony masses you can see on the stems of my Aeonium above. This is a pretty severe infestation and I’m probably going to throw this plant away when it’s done blooming. The only reason I do still have it is because it was going to be thrown away at work when I noticed the buds on it and decided I have to see what it looks like blooming. Yes, I really am that dumb that I’ll risk getting mealybug on all my plants just because I’ve never seen it bloom before. These are pretty good examples of what it looks like. You typically find them at the joints of branches but really they can be anywhere. How does one get rid of them? That is a great question. I’ve tried just about everything and am STILL constantly battling them. I’ve never really had much luck with systemic insecticides, especially now that disulfotan is no longer on the market for home use (which really isn’t a bad thing, that stuff could kill you if you didn’t use it right). My best luck for keeping them in check is dabbing all the adults with rubbing alcohol on a q-tip on a weekly basis. But I’ve been doing this for 3-4 months on a weekly basis now and still have plenty every week so obviously it’s not a perfect solution. Sometimes it’s best to just toss the plant if things get really bad like my Brunfelsia earlier this winter. That thing was just raining mealybug onto all my other plants. Nothing is worth losing everything for. At least not in my opinion but then again my rarest plant is not really all that rare so my opinion might be kind of skewed.
Our final pest of honor is armored scale. They’re related to mealybug and are very similar except armored scale have (surprise!) armored shells instead of cottony fluff. This makes sprays very hard to use on them. Once again I’ve resorted to dabbing with rubbing alcohol and hoping for the best. These can be really hard to spot because they are often brown or greenish-brown (just like the part they’re feeding on! Yay! It’s always good to not be able to see what you’re trying to eradicate). I had a tapeworm plant (Homalocladium playcladum) that I thought was dying of drought stress. Nope, turned out it was covered from tip to root in a dull gray-green scale exactly the color of the plant when it was thirsty. Of course I ended up over watering it AND letting the scale run so rampant that I had to throw the plant away (which is frustrating because I really liked it).
This is a horrible picture of scale but I’m actually doing a pretty good job with keeping it under control lately so I (thankfully) don’t have anything ridiculous to show you). The scale is the small brown lump on the midrib (dead center in the picture). This is also where you’ll usually find scale. They love to feed at the midrib but they can be found all over the leaf. The other small thing is a piece of peat moss, in case you’re wondering.
So yes, plant pests are fun. Keep them under control and they shouldn’t affect your collections too bad…or you can be like me and use them to weed your collection down to a manageable size every fall! Actually I don’t recommend that. And I don’t really WANT that to happen, it just often does. Stupid bugs. Grr.