It’s bug season, and there are a slew of orchid pests to contend with during the warm months of the year. However, knowing how to preserve your orchid from being eaten by insects is essential to its long-term health.
In orchid maintenance, one of the most difficult aspects is that the environment that is best for your orchid is also best for orchid pests.. Odonata bug pests are usually present when you purchase a plant. It is possible for crawlers to spread from one orchid to another. Identifying and eradicating common orchid pests should be a top priority for any orchid grower.
The American Orchid Society offers a comprehensive list of potential orchid pests, but we’re going to focus on a handful of the more prevalent pests. As a result of this, you can generally apply same techniques to other insects as well, which is a welcome relief. You can prevent these pests from destroying your orchid by examining a handful of the most frequent ones.
Orchid Pests: Scale Insects
Scale bug infestations are notoriously difficult to treat in the world of orchid pests. Brown scale is the most common type of scale seen by American orchid growers, out of a total of 27 species. If left untreated, this orchid bug, which can be identified by its yellow or brown oval “shells,” will kill your plant. Anywhere on your orchid will do.
They can even be found on the rhizomes and roots of plants. It is possible to pick them off the leaves and stems or gently scrape them loose.
Management strategies that are least harmful to humans, animals, and plants take the most time. There are, however, less exacting alternatives.
- You can get 70 percent Isopropyl alcohol in a store to use as a rubbing alcohol. Mix equal amounts of water and alcoholic beverages. To get rid of scale infestations, you can use a cotton ball or a misting bottle, but you’ll have to do it again after one to two weeks. Perseverance is the key to maintaining power.
- Is an environmentally friendly alternative to traditional insecticides. Dishwashing liquid without bleach is an option. Just add 1 12 tablespoons to a quart of water for each bar of soap.
- Spray with 2 tbsp. oil and 2 tbsp. baby shampoo in 1 gallon of water for an oil spray. To aid in penetrating the orchid insect’s shell, combine 1 cup of this with 1 cup of alcohol. Before and during use, shake thoroughly. Spray every five to seven days, as needed, and be sure to get all sides of the leaves covered. Using the soap/oil mixture, wash the leaves one at a time and rinse thoroughly.
- Scale eggs and crawlers can be found in your orchid’s potting material, so repotting is a good approach to keep the infestation at bay.
Orchid Pests: Mealybug
Mealybugs pose a significant threat to orchids. After scale insects, they’re perhaps the most difficult orchid pest to handle.. They can be found on the roots, pseudobulbs, and the undersides of leaves, to name a few.
Roots and rhizomes are great places for them to hide, but they prefer to hide in your potting soil. Using rubbing alcohol and repotting to get rid of these orchid pests is also a wonderful idea. You’ll also need 70% isopropyl rubbing alcohol in this situation. If you already have mealybugs, you can use a pump sprayer or a misting bottle to apply your alcohol solution straight to the mealybugs. It’s possible that you’ll have to dribble a little alcohol into the tiniest of spaces. You can prevent mealybugs from invading your orchid by spraying everything around it, including window sills, tables, and even your own furniture.
Just make sure you remove your orchid first, and then reposition it once the growing area has dried up. Mealybugs and other orchid pests can be kept at bay with the use of several oils and soaps. You can give it a shot:
- Oil used in agricultural production
- Oil of neem
- Oil extracted from the ground
- Soaps that kill insects
When you’ve diluted your oil or soap with water and potentially a plant-safe detergent, you’re ready to spritz it like rubbing alcohol. You should avoid spraying your orchids on really hot days or when they are in direct sunlight, since this could cause damage to the foliage.
Orchid Pests: Aphid
It is not uncommon for orchid pests to be aphids. They’re soft-bodied insects with a sluggish gait that are connected to the scale family. Aphids can be found in three places:
- On the rise
- Flowers have buds at their base.
- Underneath a leaf’s surface
Insecticides like garlic and chili sprays can be used to get rid of aphids, as can a jet of water.
Orchid Pest Prevention Tips
If you already have an infestation of orchid pests, or if you’ve had to deal with them in the past, you’ll want to prevent them from returning. Do these steps to keep the bugs from becoming accustomed to your treatment methods:.
Mealybugs can be found across North America in over 300 different species. There are only a few species of orchid pests that are common or harmful. They belong to the Pseudococcidae family, which is closely related to scale insects. Mealybugs However, mealybugs are actually a soft scale that doesn’t build a protective coat like most scales do. Pseudococcus, Planococcus, Phenacoccus, and Dysmicoccus are the pest species. Mealybugs can range in length from 0.5 to 8.0 mm, depending on their stage of development. Almost all of the orchid-eating species have a waxy substance covering their bodies. White, yellowish-white or pale pink to pale blue are the most typical colors for the adult stage of the most common species of these unusual insects that infest orchids. On the sides of the body are short waxy filaments, and on the posterior end of the body there may be 2-4 short to long filaments. Many legs can be the result of these filaments.
Roots, rhizomes, pseudobulbs, and the undersides of leaves are the most common sites for mealybugs, but they can be found on any part of the plant. You will find them on roots and rhizomes deep within the potting media as well as hidden under sheaths or in other crevices. Like scales, mealybugs will leave plants in search of feeding spots, so make sure to look for them in cracks, joints on benches and under the lip of pots and trays. The young birds are white to yellowish to pale pink in color, and they are the smallest of the birds. Hatchling nymphs, also known as crawlers, are difficult to spot without a magnifying glass and prefer to stay hidden, but as they grow bigger, they take on the appearance of small adults. Purchase of an afflicted plant, transfer from one infested plant to another, and windblown colonization all play a role in the spread of mealybugs on orchids. These crawlers can be found crawling amongst plants, in pots and on benches. It is not uncommon for Mealybugs to drop from plants and hide in crevices of benches, pots, and trays. With the help of circulating and heating fans, the movement of crawlers can take place both inside and outside. Infestation hotspots may form as a result of crawlers finding the weakest air currents on plants to settle on. Aphids, scales, and spider mites all have similar effects.
In order to correctly identify mealybugs, you’ll need the help of a taxonomy entomologist who specializes in these bugs. Accurate information on orchid-infesting species is lacking due to the difficulties in identifying and studying these organisms. Of course, there are a number of tropical or subtropical orchid-infesting species that can feed on hundreds of other ornamental plants, not only orchids, and these species are the most problematic.
There are 39 species of mealybug reported from orchids by the Systematic Entomology Laboratory, U.S. Department of Agriculture. Fortunately, only a small number of species are an issue in North America. As a result, any of these species can be moved without detection. As a result, anyone transporting orchids across state or country lines should exercise extraordinary caution and due care.
Longtailed mealybug (Pseudococcus longispinus) is the most frequent and problematic species of mealybug on orchids in most of Canada and the United States. These lengthy filaments make it easy to tell this species from from others, as well.
Long-tailed ducks are quite prevalent in California. Pseudococcus microcirculus, imported mealybug, obscure mealybug, pineapple mealybug, and the solanum mealybug are the other five orchid feeding species that have been identified. Pseudococcus obscurus is an obscure orchid mealybug (Phenacoccus solani). According to reports, the most troublesome species in California appears to be the orchid mealybug.
Orchids in Hawaii are infested with longtailed and pineapple mealybugs. Pseudococcus dendrobiorum, Jack Beardsley’s mealybug, and grape mealybug are more examples of pseudococcus spp (Pseudococcus maritimus).
There are three stages in a Mealybug’s life cycle: egg, larva (nymph or crawler), and mature adult. The female produces a waxy-coated egg sac in which she lays her eggs. About 10 days after they are laid, the eggs hatch into tiny adult crawlers, the nymphs that move around on their hind legs. Crawlers are the most mobile stage of development, able to move across plants and undergoing multiple growth phases before becoming adults. This includes most species’ elders. Like scales, mealybugs will travel around to find feeding spots, unlike scales where the crawler finds a good location and remains stationary. The longtailed mealybug, the most prevalent pest, is parthenogenetic; no males of this species have been discovered.
Male mealybugs eat very little and only when they are still crawling. Adult males are winged organisms that range in size from 1.5 to 2.5 millimeters and exist solely for the purpose of mating and dying. Unlike males, females and immatures cannot fly, yet they will crawl out of the plant and spread out across an area of growth.
During a typical season, mealybugs in temperate zones have one or two generations. As many as eight overlapping generations may occur each year in a heated greenhouse or indoor environment. Temperature-resistant mealybugs can be found hiding in areas like tree bark, roots, and compost when the weather is chilly outside.
Insects such as wasps, brown and green lacewings, lady beetles, and ladybugs can prey on mealybugs outside. Mealybug numbers are kept low by the weather, particularly heavy rainfall. Due to the crawlers’ proclivity for getting into small spaces and feeding on roots, controlling mealybugs inside is tough. Any treatment must be applied repeatedly to kill the immature, and treatments are more effective against the crawling crawling creatures. Only the most visible adults and larger nymphs can be removed with one’s hands. Immediately following the finding, all control efforts must get under way. Even small infestations that only affect a few plants can quickly grow out of control and demand the use of chemicals. To prevent mealybugs from spreading, quarantine infected plants as soon as feasible. The lips and cracks of containers, trays, and benches should also be checked for females wandering away from the plant in search of a place to take refuge. If plants other than orchids are grown, make sure to inspect them as well.
You’ll need to treat every 10-14 days for a significant mealybug infestation because their life cycles can be so brief and generations overlap. Unfortunately, there aren’t many effective “home cures” for mealybug infestations due to their widespread prevalence. Insecticides are likely to be required if an infestation is already well-established. Non-insecticidal therapies for mealybugs may not be very effective unless they are applied and followed by other treatments.
Swab and daub plants with a cotton-tipped swab or cotton ball doused in isopropyl (rubbing) alcohol is perhaps the most popular home cure for mealybugs. Other alcohols, such as ethanol and methanol, can damage plant tissues and should be avoided. Isopropyl acetate at a concentration of 70%, as commonly seen in supermarkets, is adequate. When dealing with hard-leaved plants, rubbing with the fingers, a cotton ball or a soft babies toothbrush is all that is needed. Large and little mealybugs should be removed at once. A second treatment with alcohol is required after this in order to get rid of any remaining crawlers, which appear as yellowish dots. Observe the folds, crisscrossing crotches, branch bases, midribs, and roots in particular. A misting bottle or small pump sprayer works well for applying the alcohol, however dripping the liquid into small crevices is necessary. Moving the plants to a large sink, bathtub or shower stall is a good way to avoid getting a solution on window-sills, table tops, furniture, non-target plants and so on.
Mixing a tiny amount of mild liquid dish detergent and mineral oil with alcohol is a common practice among amateur gardeners. Vegetable oils can also be used, although in direct sunlight they can soon go rancid and lose their potency. An isopropyl and water solution mixed 50:50 with a few drops to roughly a teaspoon of liquid soap to function as a spreader and a teaspoon of an oil is one possible recipe for the 1.5L spray container. Every grower, however, appears to use different quantities of these substances, and no one method appears to be superior. If you use an ammonia-based chemical cleaner or excessive amounts of detergent, you run the risk of damaging your plants, particularly their buds and blossoms. Natural plant waxes can be removed by dish cleansers and household detergents, and this is especially true for plants. Spraying alcohol does not always work against eggs that are well buried, so being thorough and repeating the process is necessary.
Even a mild to moderate mealybug infestation should be a cause for concern. Insects like to move into the potting media and feed on the plant’s roots, or travel away from the plant in search of hiding places to lay their eggs. Removing mealybugs from merely the tops of plants won’t guarantee success unless the roots are examined and the media is changed. Compost it or toss it in the garbage if you don’t want eggs and crawlers in your compost. The roots must be thoroughly cleaned and sprayed prior to repotting in order to ensure a successful replanting.
Oils and Soaps
Horticultural oil and insecticide soaps can be used to control mealybugs. “Organic” or non-chemical methods like oils and soaps are sometimes referred to as “organic,” although this is a mistake or a completely meaningless idea of “organic.” Horticultural oils and mineral oils are petroleum distillates, whereas neem oil is derived from the neem tree. A mild detergent manufactured from petroleum compounds is also used in insecticide soaps, which contain synthetic pyrethroids. But all of these alternatives to traditional insecticides are thought to be less harmful to people, pets, and plants. It is impossible to completely eradicate mealybugs, however frequent use during the crawler population can significantly lower their numbers.
Using neem oil, mineral, or horticultural sprays, total coverage of sprayed plants is necessary to keep the insects at bay. In order to improve the oil’s spreading and adhesion, it is typically combined with water and a plant-safe detergent. When using these oil solutions, the most important thing to keep in mind is that they should never be applied to plants in direct sunlight or on hot days (85° F). After you’ve applied the treatment, place the plant in a shady spot to dry. Anecdotal evidence suggests that the flowers of some orchids, such as Miltonia and Masdevallia, are sensitive to neem oil.
Insecticide soaps typically contain a plant-safe detergent and a synthetic pyrethrin. Pyrethrin is dispersed more evenly and the detergent serves as a mild caustic against the insects by acting as a surfactant. Apply the chemical and let it dry in the shade to avoid sunburn. Synthetic analogs of pyrethrum, which is a natural extract from certain Asteraceae, are pyrethrins. So-called “safe” insecticide washes should be used with caution since some plants, particularly tender young tissue, are vulnerable. There are several non-orchid ornamentals that will shed leaves and abort flowers when sprayed with insecticides, thus care is advised for orchids.
Synthetic pesticides may be required if mealybug populations are persistent or if numerous plants are infested. Pesticides designated for use on ornamental plants are readily available and affordable. Solvents that facilitate in the application of the active ingredient in insecticide formulations that are not designated for ornamental plants are common. Solvents, not insecticides, can often create phytotoxicity, which can be harmful to or even fatal to plants. Never use insecticides that aren’t specially designated for ornamental plants, as this could harm your plants. Acephate (e.g., orthene), malathion, carbaryl, and diazinon are some of the most widely accessible and effective pesticides. Pyrethrins and rotenone have a limited ability to control pests. It goes without saying that you should always observe the label’s instructions and never mix anything with a concentration higher than the one recommended. Extensive testing on specific pests and plants informs the formulation of recommended remedies. However, despite their tenacity, orchids can be susceptible to a wide range of chemical formulations, especially when exposed to strong sunshine or high temperatures, therefore it is always prudent to conduct tests on different varieties before using a particular one.
Occasionally, the use of certain insecticides is halted due to the discovery of a risk. It is no longer advised or labeled for orchids since Cygon damages many plants, especially buds and flowers, and is exceedingly dangerous to use. Cygon is an example of one of these harmful chemicals. It may be advisable to dispose of pesticides with expired labels rather than risk damaging or losing plants, or increasing your own health threat, by continuing to use them.
Most home orchid growers and keepers in the northern regions who need to apply insecticides during stormy weather require additional attention for the application process. In the event that you are unable to spray outside, place your plants in a large plastic bag (remove the bag after the spray has settled!) and allow them to ventilate in a location where the fumes will not be blown around the house or workspace. Repotting the plant in a fresh container after removing the old potting medium and spraying the plant may be necessary.
Growth Regulators and Chitin Inhibitors
Insecticides of this type have a lot of potential for managing orchid pests. Compared to the price of botanical oils, growth regulators are more expensive up front but less so over the course of treatment.
Kinoprene (enstar II), a synthetic type of juvenile hormone, is essential for insects at critical periods of metamorphosis. Mealybugs, scales, aphids, and whiteflies are among the insects whose normal development is disrupted when kinoprene is used. Under normal use precautions, this insect hormone appears to be harmless for humans and pets. Mealybugs, among other orchid pests, have been successfully controlled with this product in greenhouses and private collections.
Ornamental plants can also benefit from insect growth regulators, but little is known about their usage on orchids. It is possible that some of these new substances may not be available for non-commercial use in some states.
Azadirachtin is a chitin inhibitor obtained from plants with the trade names Azatin and Neemazad. In the development of their integument, or exoskeleton, insects use chitin as a primary building block. Azadirachtin inhibits the insect’s capacity to correctly develop its integument, resulting in the insect’s death as a result of inadequate development. For orchids, there is little information accessible, but it is available on a wide range of ornamentals, is labeled for greenhouse applications, and may be prohibitively expensive for most home greenhouses..
If you have a tiny greenhouse or a residence, you’re unlikely to benefit from parasitic wasps or other predatory insects that feed on mealybugs. The use of biological control agents in general is relatively limited or ineffective for the orchid keeper with a small collection. The employment of parasitic or predatory insects to control mealybugs may be an option for those who grow a large number of plants in a greenhouse or for commercial growers. A complete eradication is impossible, just like in all other biological control initiatives. When using biological control agents, it is imperative that they are used in a way that does not harm the beneficial insects.
Commercially available biological control agents include parasitic wasps, brown lacewings, green lacewings, and lady beetles, all of which are microscopic parasite wasps. In greenhouses, Cryptolaemus montrouzieri, a lady beetle known as a mealybug destroyer, is a powerful weapon against mealybugs.
Insecticides may be necessary to combat severe mealybug infestations, especially if they affect a large number of plants. There are times when it’s better to just get rid of a plant exhibiting signs of decline due to an infestation because it may not be worth the time and money to keep treating it. There are several ways to rationalize the purchase of a new plant once a sick plant is destroyed! If you’ve been utilizing the same insecticidal approach to control mealybugs for an extended length of time (e.g., more than nine months), then you’ve definitely produced a resistant population. Do not employ the same chemical combination more than three or four times in a row; instead, switch to a new procedure and new chemicals. After removing infected plants, apply a different product to the rest of the plants in your garden. If you used insecticide, for example, try a different oil, soap, or insecticide. Kinoprene, a growth regulator, does not have a problem with resistance. Insecticides not designated for ornamental plants should never be used, as a general rule. Do not use less than the recommended amount of oil or soap mixtures or more than the suggested amount of insecticides while using these products. A chemical’s resistance is boosted by low concentrations, whereas large concentrations can harm the plant. When it comes to using chemicals as a preventative, do not do so unless you are a commercial grower who rotates chemical combinations. This is a waste of chemical (and money!) and permits resistant mealybugs to develop. Finally, if possible, continue to manually remove any mealybugs.
A good example of a pest that can be easily moved and causes a lot of damage are mealybugs. The vast majority of orchid keepers in North America purchase their orchids from reputable growers in either Canada or the United States, however there are others who acquire their plants while traveling or exchanging plants with friends. Everyone should be aware of the dangers of accidentally dispersing species, particularly those that originate outside of the United States. It cannot be emphasized enough how important it is to buy plants only from trustworthy and high-quality growers who guarantee that they are free of pests.