Thursday, February 19, 2009

What's Eating (and Killing) My Goji Plants?: Goji Killing Aphids

Summary of Post
How to identify aphid infestations on your potted goji plants. And how to get rid of these pesky sap sucking insects.

The Attack of the Aphids
I started my Goji Berry Germinating Endeavour in the fall of 2008, way before I potted my mint, basil, pepper, strawberry and other plants to bring indoors over winter. Unbeknownst to me, a mama aphid had hitched a ride on one of these plants, into my home sweet home. Aphids have a incredible propensity for making babies. If you were to examine my mama aphid under a very powerful microscope, you could see her baby developing inside her, and her baby's baby developing inside her baby. (Freaky huh?). These ladies don't even need Mr Aphid to reproduce (Nonono, it's not what you think. No lady lovin' - these critters are Asexual. Some aphid life cycle info here). After two weeks I started noticing some tiny yellowish bugs the size of a pin head, on my basil (see aphid enlarged pic at right). I squashed them with my fingers, hoping for the best, but knowing deep deep within my heart that I would soon be facing the challenge of my career.

I am embarrassed to admit, I should have known better being an entomologist and all - Quarantine Quarantine Quarantine. (This means that when one brings potted plants indoors, one should isolate these plants from existing house plants for a week or two until one is extremely sure there are no six legged pests lurking and skulking on the newbies).

Aphid Explosion
Within a month the aphids and their daughters were the majority in my home. I was outnumbered 1000 to 1. They preferred some plants over others, and for a while I thought my goji plants were not going to be harassed. Ah woe!
These critters are polyphagous and would probably eat any green thing. They began clustering like little green near-translucent berries on my beloved goji plants (see pic below). My worst fears were realised. I could imagine their straw-like stylets piercing the tender growing tips of my goji babies... sucking their life blood ... those murderous vampires of the insect world.

How to Kill Aphids
Or rather, I should say, how to try to kill aphids. I fought valiantly, spraying twice a day with a soap and water solution, squishing the bigger aphids with a vengeance. The spray helped tremendously, but I wasn't consistent enough and didn't get all of them. And as we know, all it takes is one survivor, and The One will breed the new generation of aphids. Anyway, to make the soap and water solution, simply add a couple of drops of dishwash detergent to a (handheld) spray bottle of water. Shake up and spray mist all over the infested plants (underneath the leaves too). The soap breaks down the protective cuticle of these soft bodied creepy crawlies and in a few days you'll see them turn into little aphid mummies as they desiccate, shrivel up and die. (You can also buy ready to spray products - I suggest environmentally-friendly/green products e.g. the liquid rotenone/pyrethrin spray offered by Gardens Alive!). Ah, the little pleasures of life. For now I have concentrated my pest control efforts on protecting my severely attacked goji plants. And hopefully my gojis will prevail.

How to Really Kill Aphids
A sure bet is to let loose a couple of lady beetles (also known as ladybugs or ladybirds) or lacewings into the midst of the rampaging aphids. I've observed those natural enemy predators rip into aphid prey so voraciously it usually takes just a few days to wipe out an entire aphid colony. These cost a bit more (about $13) than the homemade soap water solution, but then you get the instant gratification of seeing the aphids mauled and eaten before your very eyes :). I never buy anything from Gardens Alive without using one of their ever-available discount coupons. Here's a $20 off $40 coupon if you are interested: Gardens Alive $20 off $40 purchase coupon.

More soon on growing gojis under a grow light!


P.S. Hey it would be awesome if you could click on any ad here and I'll get 1 to 2 cents per click, from the advertisers. Thanks heaps!

1 comment:

  1. Thanks a lot for this. I have these things all over my plants and didn't even know what they were. There all over them and killing them. Hope this works.


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