Bugs and insects on plants
It is not always smooth sailing in our little balcony garden. While the plants are happy with the wet waste inputs and show it in the profusion of flowering, there are insects and bugs that are attracted to such healthy plants.
Some of these that have visited the plants:
· Mealy bugs – these are white oblong shaped and appear to be soft and fluffy. They latch on to the plant in clumps, and probably suck the juices. Plant dies if neglected.
· Tiny black flies- seen these for the first time this year. Once infested, the leaves begin to wilt, crumple, and then die. Experienced this with my once blossoming chilli plant.
· Tiny snails with screw shaped shells- these are in the soil, and boy, the rate at which they multiply would give the hamster and rabbits a complex.
· Ants- from very tiny ones to large ants. They come to generally live in the soil, on the plant, lay their eggs, etc.
· Tiny spiders- these too cause drying and wilting of leaves.
(The operative word is tiny, to distinguish them from the large varieties.)
· For the spiders, flies and mealy bugs, spraying a dilute solution of Neem oil (say 1/4 teaspoon for 2 liters of water) is effective. Neem oil is strong so you may dilute it even more for repeat spraying. Keep a gap of few days to a week between two sprayings. I have also found that puffing turmeric powder on the mealy bugs discourages them.
· For the snails, sprinkling salt on them while they are moving seems to be the best remedy I have used. When salt comes in contact with their soft parts it kills them instantly. Once several are dead, you can scoop out the salt and the dead snails so that the salt does not seep into the soil.
· To kill ants, the anti-ant powder commonly available with chemists is effective. Neem oil spraying also seems to work.
A note of caution here: Do verify that the insecticide is safe for humans, especially if you are going to apply it to vegetable or fruit plants. Take precautions accordingly.
Occasionally, the odd caterpillar of a moth or butterfly might turn up on the plants. Unless they are eating up the leaves or doing any other kind of damage to the plants, it is best to ignore them.
You might also find earthworms in the soil. That's good news. Please keep them (unless their numbers are overwhelming). They are the useful fellows, and keep the soil turned and aerated.