Aphids in the Plant Nursery!

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CritterMama
Posts: 18
Joined: 21 Mar 2021, 13:43

Aphids in the Plant Nursery!

Post by CritterMama » 15 May 2021, 22:42

Egad! I planted some "testudo mix" in preparation for my baby Hermann's arrival in a month or so. Doting (as I do) on anything growing on my plant table (sometimes I over-dote and kill one now and then! :shock: ), I was taking some pictures as the seedlings in the mix grew (mostly, I want to find out what's in this seed mix as they vendor doesn't exactly say!) Anyway, I hauled out my tripod and set the camera on close-ups and when I looked at the pictures, this is what I saw! I think these are aphids (shudder! 😱)

I don't use insecticides, but in the past I have used a spray solution of water, alcohol, and dish soap. I've been spraying these plants 2x a day, making sure to get up under the leaves. Some of the bugs turn brown, but there always seems to be more new green ones every time I look. I have 2 trays which I've now separated from each other as well as from all my other plants and seedlings. These bugs don't seem to be going after the zinnias, marigolds, or viola seedlings and they've all been together under the grow lights.

So - my questions: do these look like aphids to you? or something else? How long should I give my soap spray treatment before I chuck the whole batch and start over? Any other things I should be doing? Don't know of a safe-for-tortoise systemic treatment, but I'm open to that if there is one.

Thanks all, for your help!
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Critter Mama

One Husband, one Bearded Dragon, one Panther Chameleon, one Labrador Retriever. Next up? One Hermann's Tortoise!

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Nina
Posts: 1515
Joined: 16 Mar 2017, 11:22

Re: Aphids in the Plant Nursery!

Post by Nina » 16 May 2021, 09:15

Hi CritterMama,

Well, I'm finding it hard to see the insects on your first photo, but on the second one it certainly looks like aphids -- maybe whitefly. It's a really difficult problem because tortoises are especially sensitive to insecticides so you obviously can't spray them. A strong spray with soapy water works OK for short periods of time (even the strength of the spray can sometimes knock them off the plant, but as you say, they return. I also try to rub the insects off the leaves and squeeze them with my fingers (a fairly icky job), but that's a fairly futile attempt.

Are the plants growing indoors? Is it possible to put the boxes/tubs outside? I find that when I have an infestation indoors (I seem to get mealy bug and red spider mite) that if I put the plants outdoors for a while quite often the bugs go away (maybe ladybirds or birds eat them -- or they just don't like the conditions outdoors as much.

It's true that aphids and similar insects don't like certain plants -- not sure why, but these insects mainly suck the sap from the plants and perhaps certain plants have sap that tastes unpleasant to them or have insect repellent properties.

If it's any comfort to you, even professional gardeners have this problem: https://www.theguardian.com/lifeandstyl ... ids-attack

Nina

CritterMama
Posts: 18
Joined: 21 Mar 2021, 13:43

Re: Aphids in the Plant Nursery!

Post by CritterMama » 16 May 2021, 21:47

Thank you, Nina. I'm glad I'm not alone! I didn't think of putting the trays outside. Every time I ever put houseplants outside in the past, they've come back with bugs that they didn't have when I put them out there! But, maybe I should give Mother Nature a whack at these (better than bringing lady bugs inside!)

Last night I couldn't get to sleep thinking about all those sap-suckers chowing down in my kitchen! So I got up, tossed the whole tray of seedlings into the trash and took it out to the curb! Probably over-reacting, but I slept better! :lol: The next morning, I looked at the second tray and there were just a couple of bugs on the same type of plant (I think you're right - there are certain plants they go for and they leave others completely alone!) Anyway, I pulled out the plants they were on and threw them out too. Good thing I've got about a gazillion testudo mix seeds!

I need to plant more trays (I like your idea of staggering the plantings and putting them right in the enclosure!) I am going to sterilize the trays first. I think I got these bugs in here on some violas I bought at the local garden center. I threw them and their dirt away, but I don't remember washing and sterilizing the trays themselves. So, as my aunt used to say "I did myself some dirt on that one!" - quite literally!

I hate bugs! :evil:
Critter Mama

One Husband, one Bearded Dragon, one Panther Chameleon, one Labrador Retriever. Next up? One Hermann's Tortoise!

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Nina
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Joined: 16 Mar 2017, 11:22

Re: Aphids in the Plant Nursery!

Post by Nina » 16 May 2021, 22:22

Ha, ha -- I do hope you'll be victorious in your war on bugs! And if you find the ultimate cure let me know. At the moment I'm struggling with mealy bug (do you have that in the USA?) on a lot of the succulents that I grow indoors. I absolutely hate them!

If you have a lot of extra seeds and a spare part of the yard where you could cultivate a little testudo buffet, why not try that? Most plants prefer to grow outdoors anyway (are you only growing nice flowers or are you trying weeds as well?). If you can grow dandelions, plantain, sowthistle and other weeds, they will love a small patch of earth, and they thrive on neglect -- and weeds tend to be the best plants for tortoises anyway. Have a go at cultivating some plants outside and see what happens.

Nina

CritterMama
Posts: 18
Joined: 21 Mar 2021, 13:43

Re: Aphids in the Plant Nursery!

Post by CritterMama » 17 May 2021, 15:03

Nina wrote:
> At the moment I'm struggling with
> mealy bug (do you have that in the USA?) on a lot of the succulents that I
> grow indoors. I absolutely hate them!
>
Oh yes - mealy bugs and I are old adversaries! The most effective solution I've used is a cotton swab dipped in rubbing alcohol. The bugs come off on the swab and turn brown (quite gratifying, actually! :) ) You have to be vigilant though because this is "one-at-a-timing" (although, I suppose you could dip the whole plant down head first into a solution like the one we discussed above - I've never tried it).

An added bonus of the alcohol swab is that if what you have is NOT mealy bugs, whatever it is does NOT turn brown which tells you that you're dealing with something else. My prayer plant (Maranta leuconeura) often gets a "glob" of white fuzz on a stem joint. I haven't figured out what it is yet (maybe mildew?). It does come off on the swab, it just doesn't turn brown.

I uploaded a couple of closeups of what I think are aphids from my original post. They looked HUGE to me when I first looked at the images, but I see that they are really quite small! :lol:
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Critter Mama

One Husband, one Bearded Dragon, one Panther Chameleon, one Labrador Retriever. Next up? One Hermann's Tortoise!

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Nina
Posts: 1515
Joined: 16 Mar 2017, 11:22

Re: Aphids in the Plant Nursery!

Post by Nina » 17 May 2021, 19:16

Yes, they definitely look like greenfly to me, and they are having a great time at Mama Critter's buffet. I hope you're successful in getting rid of them. I find with greenfly that I do a squishing operation first (ugh) and then a strong spray of water (or soapy water) helps. Actually there are surficants in soap, and I wonder if that is why they work (sort of).

Haven't tried the alcohol swab yet, but I will definitely give it a go. I get mealy bugs on a variety of succulents and other plants that I have indoors, and sometimes I just take them outside and spray them, but I have a Hoya australis that sits on the windowsill next to my tortoise table, and the stems are about 6' long and wind around the window and over the tortoise table, and I can't really move it, so it needs to be treated in situ, and with something that won't harm the tortoises.

I've been using a spray called SB Plant Invigorator and Bug Killer, and it is meant to not only get rid of the beasties but to feed your plant as well, and it works pretty well -- gets rid of them for a while, until they return. The thing about it is that it's not an insecticide, and says that it is non-toxic, bee-friendly, environmentally friendly and bugs don't become resistant to it. I think it works with a combination of surficants that coat the bug and stop it functioning in some way. It was recommended to me by someone at that UK Cacti and Succulent Society. It's not perfect, but works pretty well.

Nina

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