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  • 4 Post By pavel

And there was much rejoicing............

This is a discussion on And there was much rejoicing............ within the Orchid Ailments / The Compost Pile forums, part of the Orchid Culture category; Well a bit of background first. I have a very nice, IMO, orange flowering hibiscus. ...

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  1. #1
    pavel's Avatar
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    Default And there was much rejoicing............

    Well a bit of background first. I have a very nice, IMO, orange flowering hibiscus. Being that it is a tropical plant, and that I have far more plants than any sane person should who lives in an apt in a northern clime, finding a place to overwinter it can be problematic. For the past several years I have overwintered it on a ledge in front of a 1/2 moon window that is above my sliding glass doors. While not a perfect solution, as this area gets directly hit by the hot air when the heat comes on, it is still the best option for me -- it has SW exposure and gets the hib out of my way. As winter progressed, I noticed the leaves were getting a bit yellow and the plant was loosing some leaves. I wasn't overly worried -- humid loving tropicals often suffer a bit being indoors over the winter. It's looked a bit ratty before during previous overwinterings.

    Spring finally arrived -- at least to a degree that meant it was time to take the plants on that ledge down and put a sun screen up. Upon doing so I noticed two things -- that the leaves were tacky, and little white things fluttering up. Those of you from warm, more tropical regions, or with greenhouses in which you have citrus plants probably already know what I am about to say. A scrouge I had not had to deal with since I left Hawaii had somehow infiltrated my home ... whiteflies! These noxious pests are relatives of such model citizens as mealy bugs, aphids, and scale. Needless to say, I was NOT amused.

    Nights were still too cold to leave my hib outside (and fortunately, my plethora of other plants apparently were not on the pests' menu). So I shook the hib vigorously outside to get as many adults as possible to take flight so the cold that night could kill them off. I then sprayed the plant with a systemic. Once nights got warm enough I put the hib outside . I still noticed winged adults taking flight when the plant was disturbed so knew that another spray down was in order. However, several days went by as I was simply too busy to stop and spray it. Weekend arrived and I went out to spray the hib down. What should I see? These all over the plant and balcony:
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    (*At this point I would like to opine for a moment .... I REALLY REALLY want to get a macro lens for my camera!)

    And there was much rejoicing. Now many of you may recognize these as mites -- and you'd be right. So why on Earth would I be happy to see these? Afterall, isn't whitefly bad enough?

    Well gentle reader, herein lies the educational portion of this admittedly somewhat longwinded post.

    Some well meaning but misguided souls might jump to the erroneous conclusion that I now had a spidermite infestation to deal with on top of the whitefly issue. Had that been the case I likely would have simply chucked my hib in the trash pot and all. Not only were there no webs on the plant, these mites were far too large and far to vibrantly red to be red spidermites. (Which btw, aren't really all that terribly red to begin with ... more of a dull/drab rust red color. Unfortunately, there are many sites on the web that have incorrect pictures of spidermites.)

    Those from down South might assume these were chiggers __ a type of mite infamous for biting people and causing itchy mosquito-bitelike bumps. However, that too would be incorrect. Not only don't chiggers live this far North, the larval stage of that mite -- which btw is the only stage that bites humans -- is far smaller than this. In fact, unless a bunch of them congregate in one place, they are practically invisible to the naked eye. Btw, for those who are interested in such things, the adults are vegetarians and generally live in the soil.

    So "What the heck are these then?!" you are prepared to shout in frustration. Patience gentle reader, all things in good time. I am (finally) getting to that. These are red velvet mites! Ah, I see you are unimpressed. Would it help if I were to mention that red velvet mites are predatory mites? They dine on, among other things, other mites and their eggs, and the eggs of snails and insects. So having them swarm my hibiscus meant that I can be quite certain that any whitefly eggs, larva, or unwary adults would get chomped on. Oh, and again for those who simply like to know such things, they aren't refered to as "velvet" mites because of their fondness for old Elvis paintings. Rather, under high magnification their bodies are covered with short hairs giving them a velvety appearance.

    We now return you to your regularly scheduled, and likely more exciting posts.

  2. #2
    orchidsal's Avatar
    orchidsal is offline Senior Member
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    I find your story rather interesting and if I ever have any of the named pests you speak of, I will invite these red velvet mites to dinner, or any other meal time for that matter. I am glad that these little guys showed up to help you and the Hibiscus out. AL

  3. #3
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    These red velvet mites can get up to 1/2 inch in size too. You will not need a macro lens to photo them if they grow up. hahaha... Apparently, they live in the soil as well. I did a little search to see if I could find any other photos and found a couple videos. Hope they take good care of your hibiscus plant.

    Cheers,
    BD

  4. #4
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    I enjoyed reading your post!!

    Hey, you might try to get into the breeding and marketing of these marvelous creatures. Just make sure people don't think they are an ingredient for red velvet cupcakes!

  5. #5
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    HMMMM, Predatory, Red and Velvety, What's not to like ??

  6. #6
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    im with al, send me some!!! i gace up on keeping hibiscus and a few other types of plants because taiwan is nothing more than a giant ant hill and all the ants have nothing better to do than to carry aphids all over certain plants...and they just dont sell diazinon over here...ahhh the good ol days!!

  7. #7
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    This post was both entertaining and educational! Good on ya! Glad to hear your hib is being well taken care of

  8. #8
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    Quote Originally Posted by Brutal_Dreamer View Post
    These red velvet mites can get up to 1/2 inch in size too. You will not need a macro lens to photo them if they grow up.
    Cheers,
    BD
    *Alas!* That would not be terribly likely. The species that gets to that size is native to India. Would be cool though.............

  9. #9
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    I hope those mites are very hungry and eat up all those pesky whiteflies very soon.

  10. #10
    pavel's Avatar
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    Default an update

    The initial 'swarm' of rvm's disappeared a couple days after their sudden appearance. That starting swarm, I suspect, was in part due to adults coming out of hibernation as well as the plentiful food supply. Hopefully none were done in by the systemic (by eating poisoned prey) I had used a couple weeks prior while the hib was still indoors. I have seen a few rvm's scurrying around on my balcony. Currently, I have not seen any more whiteflies on the hib. Now whether this is from the work of the rvm, the systemic, or being outside where less ideal conditions for the whiteflies exist or all of the above, I cannot say for certain.

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