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House plant damagers ... here are actions to take.

House plant damagers . . . here are actions to take

Tiny creatures will gladly make your house plants their home unless you stop them. To stop them with an effective control, take a good close look at your plants; one of these five intruders could be the cause of your plant troubles:

Aphids are recognized by soft, round, pinhead-size bodies that may be whitish, green, or black; they often huddle together on new shoots, buds, and leaves.

Mealybugs look like tufts of cotton with fringed edges (there's one in the photograph above); they feed on plant juices and are often found along stems.

Mites (actually spider relatives, not insects look like specks of reddish dust on plant leaves; they stipple leaves with little yellowish spots by sucking plant juices. If you suspect that a plant has mites, shake the leaves over white paper and look for dust-like specks that move slowly.

Scale insects appear as small lumps (usually tan) on stems and leaves. A waxy stationary shell protects the insect as it feeds on plant juices, exuding a sticky substance that darkens leaves.

Thrips show up under a hand lens as fastmoving tannish specks. Their small size (1/25 inch) makes them hard to see. Damage to leaves shows in a dull, silvery upper surface; numerous black dots of excrement on lower leaf surfaces will confirm their presence. When numerous enough, they distort foliage by rasping into unopened flowers and leaves, leaving strips of seersucker puckerings.

Spraying infested plants will kill plant damagers, but can cause logistical problems when you try to spray in a practical and safe place. Systemic insecticides, added directly to the soil, provide an alternative to sprays.

Use only sprays labeled for house plant application. There are many on the market in both aerosol and pump-type dispensers. The insect-controlling ingredients are usually nicotine, pyrethrins, and rotenone (alone or in combination). One pump spray contains an insect-growth regulator that provides long-lasting control. Check the label to make sure the spray is both safe for your plant and will kill the creature you'er aiming for.

When you spray plants, do the job outdoors, out of direct sunlight and away from wood or upholstered furniture. If you have a plant too big to move, you can fashion a fumigation tent from a plastic laundry bag; spray and keep the bag sealed for two weeks. Water plants well several hours before you spray them to lessen the danger of the chemicals burning the leaves. Wash your hands after you finish the job and keep children and pets away from the sprayed plants.

Systemic house plant insecticides are easier and safer to apply than sprays, and they usually remain effective longer (up to six weeks). Systemics are taken up by the plant's roots and travel through the conductive system to all branch and leafparts. They poison the plant's juices, killing creatures that feed on the plant.

To lessen the chances of an invasion, keep plants clean--free of dust--by wiping or showering them off every couple of weeks. Inspect stems and leaves routinely and often for tiny creatures. Check new plants carefully before you introduce them to your collection.

Photo: Fuzzy white lump at the base leaf is a mealybug, shown here four times actual size. Oval body is covered with waxy threads
COPYRIGHT 1985 Sunset Publishing Corp.
No portion of this article can be reproduced without the express written permission from the copyright holder.
Copyright 1985 Gale, Cengage Learning. All rights reserved.

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Date:Jan 1, 1985
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