North Central News

Getting pests off your indoor plants

By Melinda Myers
With the weather warming up, more windows and screen doors are being opened during the still-cool morning and evening hours. But while this might welcome in the cooler, fresh air, it also lets in less-welcome, winged guests.

Fungus gnats are those small, fruit fly-like insects that flit around your house. They feed on plant roots and organic matter in the soil. They usually don’t harm the plants, but certainly are annoying.

Just sprinkle an organic insecticide that contains the active ingredient Bacillus thuringiensis israelensis on the soil surface. This naturally occurring bacterium only kills the larvae of fungus gnats, black flies and mosquitoes.

Aphids are common pests of indoor and outdoor plants. These small teardrop shaped insects suck plant juices, causing the leaves to yellow, brown, wilt or become distorted. They secrete a clear sticky substance known as honeydew.

Mites cause similar damage, but are too small to see without a hand lens. If you suspect mites, shake a leaf over a white piece of paper and watch for specks, the mites, moving across the paper. Don’t wait until you see webbing to control these pests. At that point there are thousands of mites—making it difficult to control.

Both these types of pests can be managed in the same way. Start by placing plants in the sink or tub and knock the insects off the plant with a strong blast of water. Follow with several applications of insecticidal soap to kill the adults. Repeat as needed. Or suffocate all stages of the insects with a lightweight horticulture oil like Summit Year-Round Spray Oil (SummitResponsibleSolutions.com).

No matter what products you choose, natural or synthetic, make sure they are labeled for the plant and pest you are treating. And always read and follow label directions carefully.

 

Editor’s note: Melinda Myers has written more than 20 gardening books, including “Small Space Gardening.” She is a columnist and contributing editor for Birds & Blooms magazine and was commissioned by Summit for her expertise to write this article.

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