Tuesday, 19 April 2011

Mealy bugs!


I'm having kinda a down day and am searching for a new project to distract me during non-thesis time. My lithops and other mesembs are as cared for as they can get without inflicting harm, I've sowed as many seeds as is sensible give space considerations and possible near-future acquisitions. I've just finished the most recent book in the Dresden Files series and am in that looking-for-an-awesome-new-series limbo. Even my laundry is done!

What to do? I want so very badly to sew, and with the basement all tidy and clean, I (theoretically) have the room, but really should wait until after Easter travel. I suppose I could do my taxes, but that's not fun (and will take all of 20  min to do anyway).

So while I bumble about searching for my next project, I'm going to post about mealy bugs. Aren't you guys lucky! <grin>

Found the little buggers on my Lithops aucampiae the other day during my daily gazing-at-my-adorable-plants session, panicked, sent out a few emails to local experts, had a cup of tea and then attacked the suckers with sharp, pointy tweezers. 

But a thorough plucking usually isn't a permanent solution to mealy bugs, so I manned up and followed the directions for de-mealy-ing lithops in Steven Hammer's The New Mastering the Art of Growing Mesembs.

Directions can be summarized as:

1. Depot plant (ack! don't tear the roots)
2. Inspect and remove any mealies you can see (c'mere tiny fucker...oh, wait, you are a grain of quartz)
3. Dip plant in water to protect roots (um, how long is a dip exactly? these things really hate being over watered, I can only imagine how they feel about going for a swim)
4. Dip plant in alcohol (again, how long is a dip? he mentions the roots can start to get dangerously dehydrated after a few minutes, is a dip really a prolonged dunk?)
5. Dip plant in water again (for how long !?!?! argh! where is the empiricism people!?!)
6. Breathe, sip tea, hope I didn't just kill 2/3 of my mature(-ish) lithops
7. Allow roots to dry a bit (air dry is ok, but alcohol dry isn't?)
8. Repot (um, I'm still tweaking my soil mix, I hope you like it little plants)
9. Place in windowsill
10. Pour self a stiff drink. Whats good for the lithops is good for me. 

L. aucampiae depotted, poor thing
Rubbing alcohol bath
Final dip in water
Drying out

But I found my horticultural cajones and got it done, and now the two afflicted lithops are recovering in a sunny window for the next few days before getting to join the rest of the collection. Assuming they don't die of shock and horror at the indignities visited upon them.

Recovering in isolation


  1. Aw, poor plants. They now look fresh as a, well, not a daisy, but maybe a bleached rock? :D

  2. Hallo , where did you get "rubbing alcohol" please ..my chemist says" they dont make it anymore and what did I want it for anyway ?" made me feel really stupid for asking !
    Loving your blog . Debs : )

    1. Hi Flowerpot - Sorry for not getting back to you sooner, I was moving and haven't checked my blog email in weeks! I hope you see this reply!

      Regarding rubbing alcohol, it might be called something different where you live. In Canada is it always found in drug stores and is most often used for disinfecting small wounds and scrapes. It most definitely still available here.

      According to wikipedia is a colloquial term for either isopropyl alcohol or ethyl alcohol. If you are in Ireland or the UK it is apparently known as "surgical spirits".

      I hope this helps, and thanks for visiting my blog!