Saturday, May 30, 2009

Plant Doctor

I was walking around the yard this evening checking to see what plants were ready to bloom next, when I noticed the tall garden phlox was looking sickly. The leaves were an odd shade of pale green with splotches of yellow. The edges of the leaves were sorta curled as well. I gave the plants a closer inspection and to my horror, discovered these tiny orange and brown insects covering a large portion of each plant. I immediately came in and searched on the internet for "phlox + insects" and the first thing that pops up is a photo of the nasty things out in my garden! Now you may think I'm silly for being shocked at finding insects in my flower beds. But I can honestly say in my twenty-five or so years of gardening I have never had a pest problem. So this was a bit of a shock.

The "phlox plant bug" aka. lopidea davisi Knight.

Species in the genus Lopidea are fairly species-specific plant feeders. They tend to feed on leaves, stem terminals, and flowers and seeds. The bugs often form dense populations and cause spotting and death of the foliage. Lopidea davisi is considered a pest on cultivated phlox in the eastern United States. As early as 1925 it became a serious pest of cultivated phlox in Arkansas, Missouri, Minnesota, and West Virginia. It breeds on wild phlox, but it may fly to cultivated varieties nearby. Unlike most other Lopidea species, it has two generation per year. The phlox plant bug passes the winter in the egg stage in dead phlox stems. A spring generation appears in May and June. The summer generation appears in July and lasts to late September. The bugs suck sap from the phlox foliage, causing the leaves to turn brown, curl, dry out, and drop.

The phlox plant bug is known to occur in the eastern United States from Maryland and West Virginia in the east to South Dakota, Minnesota, Arkansas, and Mississippi in the midwest. This insect is about 5.5 mm long. It's black and orange aposematic (warning) coloration suggests that it might be toxic or at least distasteful to predators.

Luckily for me and unfortunately for the plant bugs, insecticidal soap (1-2 tablespoons of liquid soap to 1 quart of water) is quick & easy to make and should take care of the little buggers! I gave them a good shower tonight and will keep a close eye out for any survivors.

1 comment:

Twix said...

Looks like a good thing you notice them before it was too late! Hopefully they will all be gone this morning. ~Twix