Sunday, March 6, 2011

Evil Little Mealybugs! / A Visit To Deep Cut Park

While out on a drive to the Asian Market yesterday, Lenny and I decided to stop by one of our favorite places to visit, Deep Cut Park. We always love to stop at the greenhouse, even though a lot of the plants have been in sad condition for quite a while. (Note: All photos in this post can be enlarged by clicking them)
Deep Cut Park's display greenhouse--Note the African violets, first table on the left.
Imagine our delight when we walked in yesterday and saw it looking so much better than usual! And the reason for that? For the first time ever we found a person actually WORKING at the greenhouse! His name is Natale and he is doing an incredible job whipping all the plants in the greenhouse into better shape. Not only that, he's doing it as a volunteer! Kudos to him for a job well done.

African violets "Before". Aww, sad.
But he hadn't gotten to the African violets yet. Now lemme tell you, I've been DYING to get my hands on those sad babies for over 2 years now. It took all my willpower every time we've visited not to pluck off those pale outer leaves and spent blossoms. (Not to mention all the shivers I've gotten seeing the infestation of mealybug in them) But I never did anything because I didn't wanna risk getting chased out by a park ranger, my name isn't Yogi after all! But after talking to Natale for a while, I got up the nerve to ask if Lenny and I could groom and repot them and he said, "SURE!"

I was so happy to finally fix up these African violets!
So Lenny and I wasted no time finding some smaller pots and getting our hands on them. We had been wanting to do this for soooo long!

White cotton-like webbing
Have you ever noticed this white cottony webbing stuff on your African violets or other houseplants? After you finish shivering and/or flailing around from having a good old-fashioned freakout, you may wanna order some Marathon to put in your soil at every repotting. John Cook at Cape Cod Violetry sells small quantities for reasonable prices. (Tell him Ann-Marie sentcha!) 
Or if you don't wanna go the chemical route, you can try rubbing alcohol on Q-tips, which is what we did since Lenny and I don't carry Marathon on us and Deep Cut Park doesn't have the funding for it.

Note the fuzzy white dot in the center between the leaf axils? That, my friends, is an evil little mealybug.
Here is one of the plants I did first. Note the nice loooong neck. It's nice and strait like a palm tree, we were almost tempted to try growing an African violet standard out of it! I didn't do the decapitation method on this long neck, I just took off part of the rootball and buried it deeper in the pot. (Yeah I shoulda maybe taken pics of how to do that too, but I forgot--No wait, the bugs made my brain foggy!)

Here it comes, you little jerk! Anyone wanna read him his last rites?
Anyhooz, back to the mealybug stuff. We took Q-Tips (sorry "cotton swabs") and dipped them in isopropyl alcohol (aka "rubbing alcohol, you prolly have some in yer bathroom medicine cabinet right now) and then dabbed the white cotton-y bits with it. 

Somewhere in the distance, I can hear Taps playing...
When the alcohol hits the cotton-y stuff, it kinda melts away and then you are left with the actual bug body which is orange and now the best kind of evil little mealy bug--A DEAD evil little mealy bug! You can see him stuck to the Q-Tip there.

"Help me!"
Here is another plant, with a more winding/curly long neck and a much worse infestation. This one took lots of Q-Tips and alcohol!

Here's a closeup of what's going on in the leaf axils... I mean it took lots and LOTS of Q-Tips and alcohol!

Mealybug Massacre!
And here's a closeup of after all the first round of dabbing, you can see all the orange dead evil mealybug bodies here. Then I took another Q-Tip with alcohol and kinda wiped all the bug bodies out of the crevices. I also swabbed down the backs of the leaves where I saw tinier white cotton-y dots that I suspected were eggs.

"Ahhhh, much better. Now about this neck...?"
And here is the long winding neck plant all cleaned up. Then I broke off some of the bottom part of the root ball and put it in fresh soil, making sure the neck was all buried in nicely.

African violets "After". Hooray!
And here is our job well done! Happy African violets with only the nice green foliage, and fresh blossoms, and best of all: mealybug free! For now, anyways. Not really sure how effective the alcohol-on-Q-Tips method will be in the end, especially considering there are surely more evil little mealybugs on a ton of other plants in the greenhouse that will more than likely just make their way over to the African violets again. But if they're kept up with, maybe that will help. Natale is certainly doing his best, and now that we got to know him we will be more than willing to help out when we can. 
 And even if a million evil little mealybugs eat all the plants tomorrow, we're still proud of our work nonetheless!


  1. Great job, Ann-Marie and Lenny. The park greenhouse looks lovely and now a bit healthier too.

  2. That was such a great job you did, thanks for sharing the tips to get rid of those mealy bugs! I hate them too!

  3. p3chandan--you're very welcome, good luck in your battle with them!


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