Tiny insects pack a deadly punch

Longer days encourage inside plants to break dormancy and to put forth new growth.

Longer days encourage inside plants to break dormancy and to put forth new growth.

The new growth attracts insects that may have otherwise gone unnoticed. The insects mentioned below all give off ‘honey dew’, a sticky substance that drops and deposits on anything under the insect making a large infestation very noticeable.

Mealy bugs are unique looking insects. They appear to be small bits of fuzz, sticky fuzz. A large infestation is very noticeable as it will appear to be dripping from the plant.

Mealy bugs are usually seen in areas of new growth but can be found through out a plant. They attach themselves to leaves, veins or new stems and feed off of the plant’s juices. As a result, leaves will turn yellow then fall to the floor

The female mealy bugs are the ones that are noticed. Males are small winged insects whose sole purpose is to find a female and mate.

Females can give birth to nymphs or lay eggs in the white goo. Eggs hatch in about 10 days. Nymphs start feeding immediately and within a short time become adults.

Mealy bugs can be removed with a Q-Tip and rubbing alcohol. Dip the tip in the solution every time to ensure that the insects are not being spread.

Spraying with insecticidal soap can be effective if used often. Repeatedly coating the insect helps break through the insect’s waxy coating, nature’s protection.

There are numerous varieties of the insect “scale”. A number will only exist on specific plants. The insect itself is small, oblong or round and flat, usually brown or black.

The female insects hatch as crawlers and search for a place to feed.

Once they attach to a plant they develop into an adult with either a waxy or a hard coat depending on the variety of insect.

At this point their legs disappear and the insect never moves. Scale males, like mealy bugs, have one purpose in life, to mate. They visit the stationary females who lay eggs under their body and the cycle continues.

The armour or hard-coated scale is not attached to the insect and can be removed without harming its owner unlike the waxy backed scale. The armoured insect is much harder to eradicate.

Scale insects can be removed with soapy water and a toothbrush. It is possible to kill the waxy coated scale insects by touching them with rubbing alcohol but the dead insect will stay on the plant unless removed by hand.

Aphids are a common prolific insect. They are found on inside and outside plants. When a colony becomes too big for the number of plants available, the next generation grows wings and flies away.

Yellow spots in leaves and sticky bottom leaves are a good indication that aphids are present.

Aphids are easy to identify by their small translucent pear shaped body.

Green aphids are common but it’s not their only colour. These pear shaped creatures can also be shades of white, yellow, red or brown.

In an active colony of eggs are laid along the veins of the leaves. If the conditions are not favourable, eggs are laid under bark or in old plant material where they can wait until conditions improve.

Typically, it takes aphids between five and 50 days to go from hatching to maturity.

This means that one aphid can lay between 50 and 150 eggs.

Spraying with an insecticidal soap can prove effective.

There are insecticides on the market. Read the package carefully and follow instructions.

Another method is to purchase predator insects that feed on problem insects.

This process should be started when the first insect appears as it takes time for the predators to produce enough numbers to become effective.

Linda Tomlinson is a horticulturalist that lives near Rocky Mountain House. She can be reached at www.igardencanada.com or your_garden@hotmail.com

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