Gardening Principles | Home & Garden

A side effect of scale insects

Sooty mold appears as blackish deposits on leaves that have been fed by scale insects or other sucking insects. These insects leave behind a sticky gel that invites sooty mold as it dries. Although mold looks like a disease, it does not invade plant leaves. Its worst effect is that it limits the ability of the leaves to absorb light and also looks dirty. Sooty mold is easily removed from most leaves with a soft cloth dampened with soapy water. Keep in mind that if you see sooty mold, there are probably mealy bugs, scale insects, or other sucking insects on your plants as well.

Neem oil, which comes from the neem tree of India, is an effective botanical control against Japanese beetles. Applied to the ground, it prevents the larvae from turning into adult beetles. Applied to plants, it prevents adult beetles from feeding. You can use neem on ornamental and edible plants.

Pheromone traps give you a happy cull because they catch hundreds of beetles, but they attract more beetles to your garden than would normally arrive. If you try the traps, place them at least 50 feet from one of the beetles’ favorite crops. Better yet, when you see your neighbors setting the traps, don’t say anything because the beetles in your garden will be attracted to their traps.

Mealybug likes indoor plants, as well as certain fruits, vegetables and shrubs. If you see small pink or white fluffy masses on the leaf stems, you are seeing scale insects. If you see a team on houseplants, always isolate newly purchased plants to ensure they are free of these common pests.

Eliminate scale insects by dabbing them with cotton swabs dipped in pure white vinegar or rubbing alcohol. Or wipe the plant leaves with a sponge soaked in soapy water.

If you see scale insects on outdoor plants, let the scale insect destroyer, the ladybugs, go after them. You can also spray the plants with insecticidal soap or malathion.

Root mealybugs attack the roots of houseplants, causing plants to appear thirsty and undernourished. If you see cottony lumps when you remove the plant from its pot, rinse the roots thoroughly and repot the plant in a clean pot filled with fresh soil.

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