I took a break from writing to find ways to eliminate pests that have been comfortably living in the medium and chewing away on the young tender roots. I guess we were negligent and did not notice signs of these silent critters grinding away on our precious possessions.
Pic 1: Lesion nematodes effect on roots of Cycnode Wine delight.
Pic 2 & 3: Systemic disease on Miltonia caused by pill bug/sow bug feeding.
Pic 4: Root abrasion by pill bugs/Snails.
The pests we were harboring were (in order of destruction) ; pill bugs (sucking and chewing on roots), Snails (chewing), lesion nematodes (drill inside the roots and sucking), Spider mites (sucking), soil mites (sucking), springtails.
To know what’s hiding under your orchids, I would suggest spraying some form of essential oil mixture. The easiest available is a spray of garlic extract. Grate 3 big cloves of garlic and add to 100ml of water. Add three drops of dish detergent, close the container and give it a good mix. Let it sit for about 24 hrs. Give it a good shake a couple of times in between, if you remember. After 24 hrs, filter the garlic potion through a piece of cloth to remove the particles. Now add the filtrate into 1-1.5 liters of water and spray on the base of the orchids. Drench the whole medium. If there are any insects in the medium, the spray will stress them and they will start emerging to the surface to cool off.
I started by organically controlling the pests by spraying with neem oil, garlic extract, orange peel extract (D-limonene), Chilli extract, commercially available essential oil pest sprays, insecticidal soap and a combination of these. I tried these at least for two months on a regular basis. All to no avail. Then I convinced myself to check out some hard chemistry options. However, I wanted to use the synthetic chemistry products as minimally as possible. My primary target was the pill bug (rollie pollies) cause they were the most destructive. I checked out the shelves at Home Depot and found 1L of Black Flag ($4).
NOTE: Ensure proper protection equipment while handling chemical actives. Properly read labels before using this or any insecticides.
The active ingredient is zeta-Cypermethrin (0.2%). Although this was a ready to use spray bottle, I wanted to find the lowest effective dose for the pill bugs. I collected some pill bugs from my orchids (at this point I had lots to test on) and put them in a petri dish and got to work. A dialogue with my wife, I’d like to share while doing this.
Wife: Are you torturing the bugs?
Me: No, I am optimizing dosage.
Wife: …..Yeah, you are torturing them!!!
Anyways, I found that a dilution of 100 times of 0.2% Cypermethrin (Final concentration 0.002%; 10ml of Black Flag in 990ml of water) was still very effective at neutralizing the pill bugs. Also, further improving the effectiveness of the mixture is to add neem oil or garlic extract to further stress out the pests. So one liter of Black Flag can go a long way, especially if you have a several plants or a green house.
One round of spray and that was the end of pill bugs. I have not seen any since then. I had found new life, new hope.
read more about zeta-Cypermethrin : https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Cypermethrin
My fight was not over yet. I still had the nematodes and the mites to deal with.
Again, I was looking for a synthetic active, something relatively benign. A chemical, Permethrin caught my attention. (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Permethrin#Pest_control)
Permethrin based creams are used on humans for scabies and lice. It is also used similar to DEET as insect repellent for humans to keep away ticks, mites and mosquitoes. I was convinced and purchased from my local farm store a container of 10% Permethrin ($13). Again, I wanted to find the lowest effective dose. Typical, insect repellents have a concentration of 0.1% active Permethrin. So I went with 100 times dilution; 10ml of 10% permethrin in 990ml of water. Again, to further improve effectiveness, I added neem oil and garlic extract to the 0.1% Permethrin spray.
………..And that was the end of lesion nematodes, spider mites and soil mites.
TOTAL SATISFACTION relieving of my orchids of most of the pests. Roots have started to pop out slowly and shoots shooting up as well. Overall there is a new energy.
…But still haven’t found a good solution to Spring tails and Snails. We still manually pick out snails when we see them.
I will leave you will few of our recent blooms.
Brassidium ShelobOncidium Heaven scent
Please, share what pests you have dealt with and how.
Thanks for reading.
Paco De Lucia
One way to improve it’s effectiveness that I found through my reading is to combine it with essential oils. Well, I started out finding