Posts Tagged ‘Orchid pests’

Blooms aplenty in the greenhouse this week. The Phal. tetraspis has never had this many blossoms at once. It’s one of the species from which, even after the blooms drop, I’ll not cut off the inflorescences because they will provide more blooms next time.

Early spring always brings a  burst in flower production — it’s also a time that brings a burst in ant production.

Last weekend (March 20-21), I attended an orchid conference in Omaha. Just before I left on the trip, I quickly hosed down the greenhouse plants, hoping that foregoing my “examine each plant once a week” policy wouldn’t have any dire consequences.

Well, it did.

This weekend when I picked up my Laelia anceps’ pot , I discovered a large colony of ants and  a small mountain of their white eggs. In moments, the entire bench was swarming with ants — as was my arm that held the pot.

I spent the next 45 minutes dumping out the Laelia’s potting mix, cleaning the plant (its pseudobulbs and its roots),  and spraying the bench (and neighboring benches and pots) with my 409 insecticide mix. [See November 18, 2009 post: “Tips – Fighting the Vermin.”]

It’s possible that an ant colony could have formed in just a week. Two weeks of neglect, however, provided ample time for the problem to become a greenhouse owner’s nightmare.

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Last weekend I attended the Orchid Society of Greater Kansas City’s exhibit at the KC Lawn and Garden Show. The OSGKC invited several regional societies and national orchid vendors to join our local group for this big event.

Attending a show like this is a great opportunity to learn from some of the best growers in the country. Here are three tips I learned about raising Phragmipediums. The first tip is from Russ Vernon of New Vision Orchids in Indiana and the last two are from Sandy Wells of Hilltop Orchids, also in Indiana.

1. To enhance the brightness of the red blossoms on a besseae phrag, keep the spiking plant cool – around 50 degrees.

2. For more vigorous and blooming phrags, add Epsom Salts once a month when watering: two tablespoons of Epsom Salts per one gallon of water.

3. Also, work a dolomite lime dressing into phrags’ growing medium every four months.

I received a comment on the last post about the damaged phal leaves. A member of the St. Augustine Orchid Society mentions using a regime that calls for Phyton. [Read about Tom Nassar’s suggestions in the SAOS newsletter.]

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This last weekend I violated one of the best tips I’ve ever received from a seasoned and successful orchid grower: inspect each of your plants at least once a week.

An invasion of tiny white scale sent this little Masdevallia erinche across the River Styx last year. I discovered the problem weeks after its demise when I studied this photograph. Note the white dots on the leaves of the plant sitting to the right of the masdevallia. Hard lesson!

Most weekends – which is the only time I can spend long hours in the greenhouse – I follow that tip. I examine the entire plant, thoroughly inspecting each leaf/pseudobulb (top and bottom), flower stem, flower and exposed roots.

It’s a great, plant-saving habit. And most weekends I follow that advice — but not this weekend. Other commitments called.

In all likelihood, when I return to the greenhouse next weekend, I’ll find some orchid vermin. Here’s what I’ll do to battle the problem.

If the culprit is solo, or at the most a trio, I’ll simply remove it (them) by hand.  If, however, the problem is more widespread, I’ll spray the infected area or the entire plant with one of my homebrew insecticides:

 Insecticide for scale:

  • 1 part isopropyl alcohol
  • 1 part water (my sprayer accommodates about 12 ounces each of alcohol and H2O)
  • Capful of Neem oil, which amounts to about 1 – 2 teaspoons
  • Two or three drops of liquid dishwater soap

To keep the oil mixed with the other ingredients, shake the bottle before every spraying. [If a colony of scales invades the orchid, especially a hard-to-reach part of the plant, I attack the affected spot with a cue-tip soaked in straight Neem oil.]

 Insecticide for other vermin, like mealy bugs, red spider, aphids, flies, and ants:

  • 1 part isopropyl alcohol
  • 1 part 409 household cleaner
  • 6 parts water
  • Two or three drops of liquid dishwater soap

Spray where needed. Note: This mix can damage tender growth.

 Also spray as needed – don’t use these two insecticides or any treatments preventively. That’s a waste of time and money.

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