Tuesday, August 14, 2018

Mealybugs win, agave loses

Two years ago, I posted this photo of my Agave parryi var. truncata:


It showed the beginnings of what would turn into a particularly insidious infestation of mealybugs, the bane of my existence as a gardener. It also marked the start of a multi-year war against these little 💩💩💩.

Fast forward to August 2018:


Not too bad, you might say, aside from some dried leaves.

Look closer:



And closer:


And even closer:


Nasty, isn't it?

I did try. I alternated between spraying the entire agave with rubbing alcohol, applying a systemic insecticide, and hosing off the fluffy mess with a strong stream of water.

For a while it seemed like I was gaining the upper hand.

Then they came back.

So I repeated my regimen. Over. And over.

Eventually, I began to slack off, both out of frustration and inertia. Ultimately, that's what led to the massive infestation you see above.

I give up. The mealybugs have won, the agave has lost.

But the ultimate victory—that's miiiiiiine.

Why? Because I just heaved the agave into the yard waste bin. It required the use of a pitch fork and a cutting spade but I prevailed. Now the mealybugs are gone.

I'm tempted to go a completely different route and try something that will never be infested by mealybugs, or anything else for that matter. Something patriotic like this:


Of course I would only use the highest quality faux fleurs

Or maybe a more pest-resistant kind of agave:


What do you think?


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14 comments:

  1. Ouch! I remember your earlier discussion of this as I promptly checked my own agaves for signs of mealybugs and the ants that herded them. I regularly hose down the base of my plants now and, to this point, all is well. So thank you! As to you counter strategies, the metal agaves are okay but please, please stay away from those hideous collections of faux flowers!

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    1. What, no faux flowers? There's GOT to be people who like them!

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  2. Wow, that got bad! Sorry it was a goner. No fake flowers pleez! �� Last winter I brought a few plants inside, and that set off an infestation, I cleared it up with daily checks for a couple weeks. They even got onto a house plant that was near.
    Oh don’t forget the mealies can infest the roots too!

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    1. Considering how bad the above-ground infestation was, I fully expected to see a ton of root mealies. Nope. The soil looks clear. Still, I'm going to err on the side of caution and dispose of it.

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  3. Ugh. That was ugly. I am sorry. Thanks for the reminder though that I need to stay on top of this problem and check my plants for treatment before it gets late in the season. As for what to plant... don't you have something in your stash of "to be planted" plants that would be perfect?

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    1. I'm still mulling over various possibilites. Right now, I'm leaning towards planting my Euphorbia grandicornis in that pot. Since the spot is between the two garage bays, it would be very easy to move it inside on particularly cold nights.

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  4. You could have sprayed the whole thing with that fake snow fleecing and you'd never notice the little buggers! At least it's not a widespread infestation. I'm surprised the systemic didn't give better results.

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    1. Darn, I wish I'd thought of that. Of course it's probably pretty hard to find snow-in-a-can in the middle of summer!

      Apparently there are mealybugs now that are resistant to some types of insecticides...

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  5. I've taken to tossing anything I find those little sobs on. It seems like they always win in the end. I've never had them on an Agave-they seem to prefer the Echeverias at my house.

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    1. Yes, I've had them echeverias. Let's not even talk about sempervivums--those seem to be their preferred target.

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  6. Fighting them here on potted cacti. After seeing the pristine show plants at recent Intercity show, I'm convinced the systemic pesticides are freely flowing -- yet you say they don't always work --aaagh! I've been rubbing Burt's Bees insecticide oil on the rim of pots I've cleaned up, but the oil evaporates eventually and needs reapplication. For a brief time it does keep the ants out. The frequent tending to plants does help in memorization of names, like my infested friend Echinocereus reichenbachii var. albertii! I'm trying him as a hanging plant, yet the ants still find a way to crawl inside and herd the beasties.

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    1. I think we'd be shocked if we knew how much insectide is really used by home gardeners. I feel like a villain everytime I use even a drop of it--and that's a rare occurrence.

      Burt's Bees insecticide oil--I have to look that.

      Yes, we have ants everywhere.

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  7. Ants and mealybugs are a royal pain! In my garden, agave aren't usually a target, but ants and scale on the Abutilons is my personal nemesis. I'm surprised the systemic didn't work better for you.

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    1. I think the problem with agaves is that the epidermis is so thick that mealies may not eat enough of it to ingest the systemic--if it even makes it into the outer layer of the agave leaf.

      I have white flies on some abutilons. Same for tomatoes. But those I can live with. I haven't seen any scale yet. Another thing to watch out for!

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