After the invasion of oak processionary moths in Kew Gardens grabbed headlines earlier this year, there has been much talk of enforcing stricter plant passport regulations in the UK. The “potentially deadly” moths (that can cause serious asthma attacks) were brought into London via a shipment of Dutch-imported oak trees. Kew Gardens employed a team of professional arborists to spray over 400 trees in the effort to rid London of the harmful pests. While government organizations work to prevent the spread of dangerous insects outdoors, there are steps you can take yourself to avoid interior plant infestation when selecting plants for your home or office.
How do insects like aphids and other pestering critters infest indoor plants? The most common cause of plant infestation is when one insect-infested plant is brought into an interior outfitted with insect-free plants. The insects will then spread plant-to-plant causing a plethora of annoyances for everyone utilizing the space. Should you purchase a plant at a garden center, make sure you closely inspect it for any signs of pests. Most plant-damaging pests are clever and quite adept at hiding from humans. Examine the top and bottom of the leaves as well as inside the plant. Take note of any signs of insects or anything that looks like it shouldn’t be there.
“Look for feeding damage – areas of the plant that appear to have been fed on. Sometimes you will notice leaves that have been wrinkled or distorted and that may mean an insect has been feeding on the plant,” said Matt Kostelnick, Senior Horticulturist at Ambius.
Common plant pests include aphids, fungus gnats, mealybugs, slugs, spider mites, and ants. To avoid the risk of infestation, place new plants in your interior in a space isolated from other indoor plants for at least 30 days. This will reduce the chance of insects spreading to multiple plants. If you notice that parts of a plant are dying due to the pests, it is a good idea to keep the plant in quarantine and prune the effected leaves. However, to the degree that you prune the leaves will vary depending on the plant. Plants that are easily replaceable and extremely infested should be thrown out to reduce the risk to other plants.
Spraying plants lightly with water may help rid plants of bugs like spider mites. Clean the plant from time to time but be careful not to damage the plant by rubbing the leaves too roughly. If you need to use a pesticide, protect yourself from exposure to the chemicals by spraying the plant outdoors and double check the label to confirm that you have purchased a pesticide that is specifically intended for indoor plants.
If you have any further plant related questions, feel free to contact the Ambius Plant Doctor directly.
Blog written by Sean Hefferman, Ambius.