Plants and Pests - Very Real, and Very Manageable
Plant Pests (mealybugs, mites, thrips, aphids, scale, etc.) are definitely a very real (and a very manageable) thing, and their existence has been loudly shouted about in plant communities lately, much more so since 2020.
Here's a breakdown of some facts to remember when it comes to plant pests, as well as a few simple tricks to control and limit pest infestations in your own collection.
Just as Plants exist in Nature, so do bugs. The symbiotic relationship between flora and fauna has existed for billions of years, and will continue for many more.
Since about March 2020, the boom in plant sales, and subsequent plant shortages, has meant many retailers having to get plants from new or different sources, some of which may not have as disciplined pest management procedures as others. It has also meant that with many new plant parents (as much as a 600% increase in YOY plant sales in the US), the level of experience dropped significantly, and that contributed The good news is- most pests are easily treated. Follow protocols when you purchase plants (no matter where you get them!) In order to protect yourself and your collection.
1. VISUALLY INSPECT each plant prior to purchase. Take out your phone and use the flashlight! If the seller gives you a hard time, there's a good chance it's because they know it's got pests. In that case, you probably don't want to do business with them.
2. When you get the plant home, INSPECT AGAIN. Use a bright light, dig around in the soil a little, open up spaces between leaves, check underneath leaves, especially around the base of the plant.
3. TREAT NEW PLANTS! If you have a large, or valuable collection, you may already do this. Spray down each new plant you purchase, prior to introducing the new guy to the rest of the gang. You can start with the shower, washing off each leaf, and finish with a natural pest treatment, such as a neem oil/horticultural soap/dish soap, etc. solution. If you see bugs, remove the plant from the pot, and gently shake the soil from the roots before washing it down again. Sanitize the pot, and toss the soil into the trash.
4. QUARANTINE. It's not just for humans! If you aren't comfortable with the idea of preemptively (just in case) treating for pests, keep your new purchases away from the rest of your collection, until you are SURE that it's pest free. Inspecting your plants regularly can help prevent a full on infestation, because you can catch it before it's spread to your other plants.
5. USE NATURE AGAINST ITSELF. Ladybugs, green lacewings, predatory mites, nematodes and more are all readily available at many plant shops and garden centers, and can help control or prevent most infestations. Better yet, they're natural remedies, rather than soaking your plants/home with chemicals, which can burn the leaves of many plants, not to mention are usually STINKY!!!
6. Give your plants a better chance at Pest Resistance by PROVIDING THEM WITH THE BEST ENVIRONMENT; (giving the proper water, lighting, soil, and space to your plants, all contribute to keeping your plant healthier, and less likely targets to pests! Studies have shown that plants that are stressed or sick release a hormone that the pests are attracted to. Imagine a motel, with its 'VACANCY' sign lit, announcing to all- 'Hey, we've got several rooms available, with free continental breakfast!' This is the invitation that pests get from a sickly, or over-crowded plant.
7. ASK THE RETAILER what their IPM (Integrated Pest Management) procedures consist of. Use their response, along with your gut, to make the decision on buying that plant. If you have any doubts, don't risk introducing new plants into your collection.
Plants exist as a part of nature, as do bugs. They always will.