Friday, December 18, 2009

I See Aphids

Bean looks over the blooms of this Sharry Baby, thinking that they might be treats. She discovers nasty aphids.

Sure enough, I spotted the pests on adjacent soft-leafed plants. I pulled them off the table and wiped their leaves with warm water and diluted rubbing alcohol. Bean helped, and together we got most of them killed.

The Sharry Baby required more extreme measures, so I consulted my home library.

The otherwise rich and informative The Best Orchids for Indoors, published by the Brooklyn Botanic Garden, lives in a blissful world where insects pose no threat. Batchelor's Your First Orchid, published by the AOS, seems to cover all of the insects except aphids. Banks' Orchid Grower's Companion encourages me to consider insecticides only as a last resort and to "take a shower afterward" (pg. 73) as if I'm Karen Silkwood.
Frowine's Orchids for Dummies informs me that aphids are carriers of viruses and diseases, which only ratchets up my growing neurosis. He recommends two lines of defense: warm water and then, if necessary,insecticidal soap, horticultural oil, orange oil, and/or isopropyl alcohol. Finally, Orchid Growing Illustrated by the Rittershausens sends me into a tailspin of paranoia with twenty pages of vivid illustrations of orchid pests and disorders, giving me whole new categories of things to worry about. Pseudomonas cattleyae? Fusarioum oxysporum? And here's a giant picture of a wood louse. Feel better now?

Although each individual book suggested soft initial steps, collectively they led me to attack the problem with extreme prejudice. Break out the Agent Orange! Or "orange oil." Whatever. Ultimately, I wanted an insecticide that accurately captured my emotions upon seeing the bugs. I couldn't find "Frustration." I was also unable to locate "Disgust." So, I settled on "Concern."

I sprayed down the plant in the shower, let it sit overnight, and then washed it down the next day. I waited a week before reintegrating it with the others. Next time, I might apply a softer touch, but the aggressive approach appeared to have worked. I'm prepared for the next outbreak, unless it's giant wood lice.

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