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In lice, also called lice or root lice, it is a subfamily of scale insects, which includes about 1,000 species. The animals can grow between one and twelve millimeters and are found worldwide. Woll lice excrete a waxy substance, which wraps the pests as small, white cotton balls. The most commonly found species in Central Europe is the citrus louse (Planococcus citri), but the long-tailed louse (Pseudococcus longispinus) is also common.
Since mealybugs are able to multiply sexually, female species are more common than males. In a suitable environment, females may lay up to 600 eggs approximately every two months. The clutches of the wool lice are located on the leaves, in the substrate and in leaf axils or bracts, which is why an infestation is often overlooked initially. In addition, the wool lice are well protected by the waxy sheath against chemical and physical influences. After about ten days, the first larvae hatch and spread very quickly. At the latest then you should urgently take countermeasures.
Female mealybugs are so-called phloem suckers and therefore occur in all parts of the plants. After the animals have sucked on the host plant, they usually stay in one place. The lice of the genus Phenacoccus, however, remain mobile and change the place of infestation for food intake, oviposition and hides and wintering.
Wolllaus infestation early recognize
Adult mealybugs and their offspring weaken the plants by sucking on leaves, stems and roots. At the same time, lice excrete poisons with their saliva, which impairs the vitality and growth processes of the affected plant. The small animals are easy to recognize by the small white webs, but because of their small size you have to take a closer look. As a waste product but wool lice honeydew, which may favor an infestation with the Rußtaupilz. The leaves of the plants attacked by mealybugs turn yellow, curl up and eventually fall off. With a strong lice infestation it often comes to the death of the plant.
An infestation is usually recognized by the small, white webs surrounding the pest
Woll lice, which occur predominantly at the roots of the affected plants, are also called root lice. They always live underground and therefore are discovered quite late. An infestation of potted plants can be seen here, for example, when repotting the typical white smears on the inner walls of the pot.
Frequently affected plants
Preferred plants of the mealybugs are herbaceous natural and indoor plants. Especially grasses, daisy family and legumes, but also cultivated and ornamental plants such as orchids, gum trees and birch figs are affected. Yuccas, passion flowers and cactus plants are not spared either. Mistakes can also affect the popular poinsettia.
So that it does not even come to an infestation with lice, you have many prophylactic methods available. So you should carefully examine new plants for possible pests before purchasing. An infestation of the plants is mostly due to care mistakes that weaken the plants and make them more susceptible. Another important criterion is a location with sufficient light. Also, an excessive nitrogen fertilization favors infestation with wool lice and should therefore be avoided. A dry and warm heating air provides ideal living conditions for lubricating lice. Therefore, regularly ventilate rooms in which susceptible plants are located. In addition to a tailored care, the constitution of indoor plants can be improved by regular fertilization with a self-made Horsetail or Nettle.
In the case of an infestation with wool lice, you should immediately isolate the affected plants and free them from diseased parts of the plant. The "quarantine station" should be as bright and cool as possible. Once this has been done, a mixture of fifteen milliliters of spirit, one liter of water and fifteen milliliters of curd soap or paraffin oil is recommended. The mixture is sprayed on the sick plant. For sensitive plants such as orchids, the solution is applied with a brush. Repeat the application at intervals of two to three days.
Thanks to their thick plant skin, cacti can even tolerate treatment with pure methylated spirits.The methylated spirits permeates the bodies of the birds and quickly kills the pest below, but the cacti are not damaged. However, a quick repot is recommended. This rather complex method is particularly suitable for low infestation in the early stages.
Infested cacti have a rather thick skin and can therefore be treated with pure methylated spirits
If the pests are at the roots of the plant, you should repot them immediately. Also carefully rid the roots of the substrate. To prevent the lice from spreading, you should dispose of the substrate residues in the organic waste and not on the compost. Then the roots are rinsed off with a sharp jet of water. Disinfect the planter with alcohol or use a new one. Now you can potted the plant in fresh substrate and pour. To make sure that no germs, viruses or insects are present in the new substrate, you can put the soil in the oven for about twenty minutes at 200 degrees before repotting.
Also useful animals such as the larvae of the lacewings, the Australian ladybug or parasitic wasps help in an infestation with wool lice. Lacewings, for example, make their way through the mealybugs within fourteen days, but rarely all specimens are destroyed. Therefore, a repetition of the application makes sense. Build up diluted honey as a food source for the lacewing, so with a bit of luck, a next generation of beneficial pest controllers will hatch. The Australian ladybird is used from twenty degrees Celsius. The area of application is limited to closed rooms. The females of the beneficial insects lay their eggs in the midst of the louse colonies. Since ladybirds need drinking water for survival, it is important to spray plants regularly with lime-free water.
The parasitoid species Leptomastix dactylopii can also be used to control the lice. Their use is similar to that of the Australian ladybugs. Amateur gardeners, who want to attract parasitic wasps in their garden, take a piece of wood and drill several holes about three millimeters in size. Designed in the garden or suspended in trees, it provides an ideal habitat for the beneficials.