Con­trol mealy­bugs

Treat in­door in­fes­ta­tions early to save your plants

Garden News (UK) - - About Now -

Sap-suck­ing mealy­bugs can be a prob­lem all year on in­door-grown plants. So check your houseplants, cacti, or­chids and glasshouse vines and fruit trees for these grey­ish, scale in­sects up to 4mm long, and for their eggs cov­ered in white, fluffy pouches.

They tend to gather on leaf un­der­sides, in leaf joints and around growth points, feed­ing on sap sucked from their host. This weak­ens the plant, caus­ing stunted or de­formed growth and yel­low­ing or dropped leaves. The bugs also se­crete hon­ey­dew, which can be colonised by black, sooty moulds.

To com­bat in­fes­ta­tions or­gan­i­cally, pick off as many mealy­bugs as pos­si­ble, cut off badly in­fested stems and shoots if it doesn’t se­verely dam­age or dis­fig­ure the plant and clear away debris from around the base. Also check for mealy­bugs lurk­ing in the soil, nearby crevices, the pot rim and tray.

Next, use an or­ganic fatty acid or in­sec­ti­ci­dal soap, such as Doff Uni­ver­sal Bug Killer (£2.99 for 1 litre, from Home­base, 0345 077 8888; www.home­base.co.uk) – or di­luted wash­ing-up liq­uid. Spray the plant or wash leaves thor­oughly with the so­lu­tion. Al­ter­na­tively, try Neem Oil (£6.98 for 30ml from The Neem Team, 01633 263567; the­neemteam.co.uk.

In green­houses, where tem­per­a­tures can reach 20C (68F) for a few hours a day, use the la­dy­bird preda­tor Cryp­to­lae­mus mon­trouzieri (£10.96 for 10 lar­vae from De­fend­ers, 01233 813130; www. de­fend­ers.co.uk).

Nasty mealy­bugs

Or­ganic sprays are kin­der to the en­vi­ron­ment

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