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orchid fleas??? what the heck???

This is a discussion on orchid fleas??? what the heck??? within the Orchid Ailments / The Compost Pile forums, part of the Orchid Culture category; i've been trying to find out what these are, and how to get rid of ...

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  1. #1
    coeruleo's Avatar
    coeruleo is offline Night Bloomer
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    Default orchid fleas??? what the heck???

    i've been trying to find out what these are, and how to get rid of them. but i'm not even sure what i am dealing with. for many years i grew orchids relatively pest free, with just an occasional aphid outbreak (on flowers of course). then i moved to the coastal side of a range of mountiains, had no issues for about 8 years. grew a ton of old fashioned reed stem epidendrums outside, they became huge unmanageable bushes covered with tons of bunches of flowers. then i noticed one day they seemed to be a little limp looking. and the undersides of the leaves were sort of silvery, and sticky, and had little tiny almost microscopic black dots, sort of compressed like the shape of a flea, but nearly microscopic. at the time i tried everything i could think of, but they kept coming back, and slowly the epi's all dried up and died, and the few other cattleyas i had at the time.

    every now and then i get another orchid that they like, and eventually they find it and attack. they seem to go mostly after cattleya types, but not all of them. last year i dared to get a new small epidendrum, but eventually they got it, right as it was flowering. bug sprays work temporarily, but the bugs always manage to come back as it flowers. the damage they do is fast and hard. within a few days the plants will begin to feel wilted and have the silvery sheen and stickiness on the undersides.

    even when you get rid of the bugs, the leaves never look right. they have black splotches and pitting that disfigures the leaves after an attack, looking like virus or even sunburn. my epi has survived, but we went several rounds of treatment with some new organic bug spray i used. i have since switched to a neem oil based spray, as it actually kills off whatever these are. i've gotten a few more epidendrum lately (they come as smaller plants now!!!) and i am spraying all my orchids lightly with this spray. so far, so good. not sure if preventative spraying is working, or if we've just been lucky so far this year.

    anyway, does this pest sound familiar to anyone? it also decimates ludisias really fast, like in 2 days all the leaves die and dry up. and phal mannii, but otherwise mostly just epi's and cattleya hybrids. they only attack the undersides of leaves, and suck a plant dry in a few days, enough to blast flower buds and prevent flowering entirely.

    and these things are tiny. so small it took me a long time to even recognize them as insects.

    i was thinking maybe these were thrips, but not sure, they seem to have different habits. these never attack flower buds directly that ihave seen.

    i'd like to find a systemic pesticide if anyone knows a good one?

  2. #2
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    Default

    Maybe spider mites? They cause silvery looking damage to the upper side of leaves but live on the underside. Try wiping the underside of an infected leaf with a damp white paper towel. Spider mites will generally leave red marks on it.
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  3. #3
    Brutal_Dreamer's Avatar
    Brutal_Dreamer is offline Dreaming with my eyes open...
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    Yes, it sounds like you are describing spider-mites. Increase the humidity around your orchids. Spider-mites do not do well in humid environments and your orchids will appreciate the added humidity.

    cheers,
    BD

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    A product that is just an insecticide will not work on mites; they are not insects. Make sure whatever product you use is a miticide. I've used Trounce with success, but application has to be repeated once a week over the course of several weeks to get all the successive generations of hatchlings.

    And, yes, increase the humidity. I've learned the hard way that mites like it dry.

  5. #5
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    Hmmm ... the classic "silver look" damage to leaves, coupled with near microscopic black specks, sounds like thrip damage to me. Spider mite damage looks similar, but is generally coupled with webbing (mites are arachnids) around the damaged area and you can actually see the mites moving in the webs when it's nice and warm. Spider mite damage doesn't come with the black specks though (those are actually thrip poop ) or the sticky mess.

    If you search for thrip damage on the web you'll find plenty of examples. Let us know if that's what you have.

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    As far as mites go, I use Safers soap to deal with them if it's not bad. It also has to be used frequently. I'd guess it would work for thrips as well. I don't like using harsher things if I don't have to! Never heard of Trounce...I'll have to google it. Betty has a household ingredient recipe that she swears by. Maybe she will chime in. I have it around here somewhere. If I can find it, I'll message it to you.
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    By the way, I should probably clarify that Trounce, the product I mentioned earlier, is not a systemic. It is a Safer's product, but in addition to insecticidal soap, it has pyrethrins which come from chrysanthemums (you know those flowers that bloom in the fall?). They claim you can use this product on plants with edible fruit (like tomatoes) even on the day you harvest the fruit.

    If you rub the bottom of an infected leaf with a tissue, is it red? If it is tht is a telltale symptom of mites.

    Whether mites or thrips or some other pest, I hope you will soon be rid of them.

  8. #8
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    Using neem oil should work as its a insecticide, miticide, and fungicide so it will control most pests. But a word of caution it is an oil and can cause leaf burn if sprayed in the heat of the day so I only use it in the early evening to reduce this side affect.

  9. #9
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    Organic options are just as a preventive measure, if you have an infestation to the scale you mention, I recommend you bring out the big guns, like systemic, use it until it finishes off the pest and then switch back to the organic treatment at regular intervals. Use imidachloropid, its a nicotin analogue totally safe for humans, pets and non harmful insects except honey bees.

  10. #10
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    Quote Originally Posted by Halloamey View Post
    Organic options are just as a preventive measure, if you have an infestation to the scale you mention, I recommend you bring out the big guns, like systemic, use it until it finishes off the pest and then switch back to the organic treatment at regular intervals. Use imidachloropid, its a nicotin analogue totally safe for humans, pets and non harmful insects except honey bees.
    I'm familiar with imidachloropid but didn't know it is a nicotin analogue, we use it as a long term treatment for a broad spectrum pest control up to 12 month protection for most plants (we use it mostly to control psylilds to prevent further spread of the citrus greening disease which was just found down here earlier this year.)

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