Begonias, Begosh and Begolly

March 3, 2010 0 Comments

Sue sent me an email asking about her angel-leaf winged begonias.  She puts them out in the spring and brings them inside to overwinter and take cuttings.  They have become sticky.  The plants look great and are flowering but everything she has tried hasn’t worked.  I don’t know the exact things she tried, but there are some things to try when you think you may have bugs on your houseplants.

 

A sticky leaf.  No it's not a begonia leaf.  I didn't have access to Sue's plants and I couldn't find any images of a "sticky begonia leaf".

A sticky leaf. No it's not a begonia leaf. I didn't have access to Sue's plants and I couldn't find any images of a "sticky begonia leaf".

 

Okay.  Here's a begonia leaf (although not Sue's angel wing) and it has some sort of problem on it's underside.  Yuck!

Okay. Here's a begonia leaf (although not Sue's angel wing) and it has some sort of problem on it's underside. Yuck!

Sticky stuff usually means that you have some hitchhikers from the garden.  Warm and dry conditions in your house, along with the lack of predators, will allow populations of small, soft-bodied insects, like aphids, whiteflies, mealybugs and scales to grow quickly.

Aphids come in different colors.

Aphids come in different colors.

Obviously, these are red ones.

Obviously, these are red ones.

 

These are soybean aphids. They probably won't be a problem in your house, but it shows that there are all sorts of aphid types.

These are soybean aphids. They probably won't be a problem in your house, but it shows that there are all sorts of aphid types.

 

This is what was all over our asters.  They succeeded in decimating one of the clusters, but we managed to save two others.

Whiteflies. We had these all over our asters. They succeeded in decimating one of the clusters, but we managed to save two others.

Mealybug.

Mealybug.

Scales.

Scales.

They excrete a sticky substance that, when outside, attracts ants.  This substance can also be home to fungal disease.  In order to get rid of the sticky substance you need to get rid of the sticky-substance-secreting pests.  The trick is to do it without hurting the plant. 

Soft bodied insects can be killed with an insecticidal soap or neem oil (always follow label directions).

There are all sorts of choices on store shelves.  Ask at your local nursery for what they recommend.

There are all sorts of choices on store shelves. Ask at your local nursery for what they recommend.

Same for the commercial insecticidal soaps.

Same for the commercial insecticidal soaps.

Neem is a tree in the mahogany family and most of the tree can be utilized for many medicinal uses. 

This Neem tree is in New Delhi, India. (AFP Photo)

This Neem tree is in New Delhi, India. (AFP Photo)

The insecticidal soap can be found on shelves, too, or you can make your own.  We had some asters that became infested with whiteflies one year in our garden.  We bought some insecticidal soap from the store and used the entire bottle up in one use (we had three large plants to coat).  It was going to be expensive if we kept buying it from the store due to the large size of our plants.  After doing some research online we found out we could make our own soap. 

Your ingredients are dish detergent and water. 

We used Dawn, but you can use Ivory, Palmolive or even Murphy’s Oil soap.  The type of soap doesn’t appear to be the main thing to watch for.  The right concentration is the key to be effective and prevent damage to the plants.  I have done this before but can’t remember what the concentration was.  I looked online and found anywhere from 1 teaspoon per quart to 1 tablespoon per quart to 1 tablespoon per gallon.  So, I tried calling around to see what I could find.  One of the articles I read had a phone number.  I called and the person who wrote the article no longer worked there and the person who answered the phone didn’t know.  Everyone I called was very helpful, but didn’t know the correct answer.  Fortunately, my good friend Heidi Tietz-De Silva from Peterson and Tietz Florist and Greenhouses here in Waterloo happened to stop into the station.  So, I thought I would take advantage of our friendship ask “The Professional”.  She only uses Dawn dishwashing liquid in the concentration of 1 part Dawn to 9 parts water.   Sounds good to me (and familiar)!

We keep a spray bottle like this with our gardening stuff.  We make sure it is labeled "Insecticidal Soap Only" so we don't use it for something else and regret it later.

We keep a spray bottle like this with our gardening stuff. We make sure it is labeled "Insecticidal Soap Only" so we don't use it for something else and regret it later.

Once you have the insecticidal soap mixed up, you have to use it correctly to get the desired results.  Thoroughly cover the plants leaves and stem including the undersides of the leaves.  If you don’t completely wet the insect, you can’t control it.  The insecticidal soap may need to be reapplied every week for a few weeks to control some pests, like spider mites and immature scales, or if you have a severe infestation of aphids or mealybugs.  If you need to spray the plants often, you run the risk of damaging the leaves, so wash or rinse the plants off within a couple of hours after spraying. 

Of course, you could always get a few ladybugs to help out, too, but then you have to deal with them flying around your house!

Dig it!

Filed in: General, Pests

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