The outside insects and plants are dormant. Not so with the ones in a warm environment. Insects that migrated indoors in the fall or summer are very active will have had enough time to become noticeable.
Take time to examine inside plants to see if they are home to undesirables. It is best to discover the insects before the leaves become mottled, covered with sticky residue or webs appear.
As many of the insects are small use a magnifying class. Check the undersides of leaves and areas where leaves or branches join together.
Tiny insects called spider mites frequent the bottom of leaves. They are small and can often be mistaken for leaf marks or specks of potting medium.
Like other insects, spider mites lay their eggs along the leaf’s vein to make them less noticeable. When a plant is badly infected with spider mites small webs will be visible between the leaves and stems.
Aphids are easy to spot as they are larger green or white insects that are often translucent.
They are also found on the undersides of leaves or on soft new growth. These insects will secrete a sticky residue which will be visible on lower leaves, the pot and the floor.
When the aphid colony becomes too large for the amount of food available the next generation is born with wings to allow them to fly to a new food source.
Insects called Scale are brown, flat, oblong disks that are usually located on stems. Once established these insects cling to the bark sucking nutrients from the plant. Do not be fooled into thinking Scale is part of the plant because it is stationary.
Mealy bugs are white, fuzzy and sticky to the touch. They can be anywhere on the plant but are usually found where branches interconnect
Another common insect is White fly. They are tiny white flies that live on the undersides of new growth. Touching the top of an infected plant will send the flies fleeing in all directions.
Tiny black gnats that look like fruit flies are very common. They indicate that a plant in the area has been over watered. While these gnats are annoying they do not hurt the plant.
As insects can harm and eventually kill plants it is best to deal with them as soon as they are found.
Spidermites and aphids can be removed with a strong spay of water.
Place the infected plant in a sink or tub, turn the water on full and spray the foliage with a spray nozzle. This will have to be repeated regularly as all eggs might not be removed.
Scale and mealy bugs are large enough to see without a magnifying glass and therefore can be removed by hand. Rubbing alcohol and a cotton tipped stick can prove helpful.
Yellow sticky traps will decrease the number of flying insects such as white flies, aphids and gnats. The traps in themselves are unsightly. Place them in a place when the insects will find them but they are rarely seen.
Insecticidal soaps, horticultural oils and neem oil works by coating the plant and insects. Plants are not affected but coated insects are smothered and die. Eggs are rarely affected which means that continued applications are needed to control or eliminate the next batch of pests.
There are some chemical insecticides that are licensed for use on houseplants. When using them, follow the directions carefully, which often includes not spraying in an enclosed area.
Before taking the time to illuminate insects, decide if it can be done easily or will be an ongoing or loosing battle. In the case of the latter, throw the plant out.
Eliminating insects as they start or not bringing them into the house is the best policy.
Linda Tomlinson is a horticulturalist that lives near Rocky Mountain House. She can be reached at www.igardencanada.com or firstname.lastname@example.org