Common Sucking Pests

Common Sucking Pests

Common Sucking Pests

Sucking Pests. Sucking pests are pretty much un-avoidable in the garden. At some stage in your gardening efforts your paths will cross, no matter how diligent or good a gardener you are.

Most of these sucking insects are undetected when in small numbers, but can very rapidly multiply until plants are over run with them and signs become evident. Insecticides are the usual response to infestations. But with some good planning, we can reduce our monthly bill on insecticides and the inadvertent impact it may have on beneficial insects.

The first step in controlling your undesirable pests, is to invite their natural predators (beneficial insects) into your garden. Ladybugs, Praying Mantis, Lacewings etc are all welcome beneficial insect for gardeners as they predate on these pesky bad insects. Companion planting is a great way to invite these insect into your garden and also lure the bad insects away from our plants. In addition to companion planting, Ladybug hotels and various other methods can make your garden more appealing to beneficial insects.

Sucking insects are not only destructive to plant structure in the leaf damage and growth point damage they cause, but also transmit disease from one plant to another. One of the main modes of transmission of fungal, bacterial and viral infections from plant to plant is from sucking insects. Another reason to get on top of these pests as soon as is possible!

Below are probably the 5 most common sucking pests that you will encounter in your chilli patch.


All of the above; Thrips, Aphids, Whitefly, Mealybugs & Mites are sucking insects that live off the sap of your plants. These insects will migrate to your plants or be brought to your plants by other insects such as ants (in the case of Aphids) and will start with just a few, but will very rapidly multiply. While easy to overlook and not noticeable when just a few, once they multiply into the thousands - will take over the plant and cause serious damage to your plants. They will also very rapidly spread to other plants.

Sucking pests usually congregate around the juiciest parts of the plant, the underside of leaves and the growth points of the plant. There, they will damage leaf and flower nodes preventing the plant from producing energy and setting fruit. In large masses and uncontrolled, plants will loose leaves and eventually die off.

For most of us, these silent pests present themselves when already well established and plants show signs of infestation. The best way to combat these at this stage is with insecticides.

There is a vast selection of insecticides available to combat these suckers at nurseries/garden centres, hardware stores and specialist growing shops. The first consideration is whether to go with a non organic insecticide or an organic insecticide. Arguably non organic insecticides are fast acting and organic insecticides are gentler on the environment and beneficial insects. Everyone to their own, but we only use certified organic insecticides.

Thrips

Thrips are tiny sap sucking insects that are just visible to the naked eye. They look like tiny green rice grain shaped objects on the leaves of your plant. These sucking insects will multiply rapidly and inhibit a plants ability to photosynthesize due to massive damage to leaf structure.

We recommend the use of BioGrow BioNeem™. It interferes with the insects breeding, feeding and growth cycle. It needs to be applied over and under leaf after sunset and may require several treatments as it takes longer to take effect... but it will. Harsher non organic insecticides will kill everything on site, but we strongly advocate the use of gentler organic insecticides that are specifically formulated to target the insects in question and not the good ones. Pyrol™ & Neudosan™ are alternate options from BioGrow, but these are contact insecticides which are more suited to flying insects.

Aphids

Aphids are easily visible to the naked eye. They are the easiest to spot on plants, although they are super at hiding when in small numbers. Aphids are sap suckers that can inhibit the plants ability to set flowers & fruit and will also interfere with the plants ability to produce energy due to massive leaf damage. Again, these usually only become obvious when plant damage becomes apparent, such as leaf and flower drop - by which time the problem has usually infested the plant in question and also spread to other plants either by Ants or due to developing wings when they reach maturity. Aphid infestations can be crippling to adult plants but lethal to smaller seedlings when uncontrolled.

Aphids have a very interesting symbiotic relationship with Ants as ants feed off the aphids sweet secretions and are well documented for farming aphids. In the case of Aphids, addressing ants around the plants is a key plan to limiting aphid outbreaks on plants. 

We recommend the use of BioGrow BioNeem™. It interferes with the insects breeding, feeding and growth cycle. It needs to be applied over and under leaf after sunset and may require several treatments as it takes longer to take effect... but it will. Harsher non organic insecticides will kill everything on site, but we strongly advocate the use of gentler organic insecticides that are specifically formulated to target the insects in question and not the good ones. Pyrol™ & Neudosan™ are alternate options from BioGrow, but these are contact insecticides which are more suited to flying insects.

There is a symbiotic relationship between ants and aphids. Ants feed off the honeydew / sweet secretions produced by aphids. It is well documented that ants farm aphids and will take aphids to plants if needed to farm them. As such, the control of ants around plants is also important as this will prevent aphids being brought onto your plants.

Whitefly

Whitefly are sap sucking winged insects that can be particularly fatal to seedling plants when uncontrolled. Whitefly can be found under the leaves of plants where they hide and suck the sap from leaves. Whitefly multiply rapidly and on mass will destroy the plants ability to produce energy due to massive leaf damage.

Whitefly are visible to the naked eye and look like tiny white fruit flies that sit under the leaf. When disturbed, whitefly can be found flying around the plant and will return to the underside of the leaves once settled.

The fact that whitefly can fly and are very difficult to catch can make these pesky suckers difficult to control. They also multiply very rapidly. Neem oil will work for whitefly as neem oil targets all sap sucking insects and will interfere with their feeding, breeding and growing cycles. We do however prefer to suggest that when dealing with whitefly to look at BioGrow's Pyrol™ or Neudosan™ insecticides. These are contact insecticides and much better suited to flying insects such as whitefly.

We recommend spraying plants at dusk with a very fine sprayer. Set the sprayer to the finest mist setting and start by misting the plant from a good distance to catch the escaping whitefly before zeroing in on the plant and spraying over and under leaf. This treatment will have to be repeated several times to get on top of infestations, but it will work.

Sticky traps are also an option for these flying and can be purchased from specialist hydro stores around the country.

Mealybugs

Mealybugs are not as common with chillies as the other sucking insects but can be an issue. Much like whitefly, mealybugs reside under the leaves where they multiply exponentially. Damage to leaves and plant structure is ultimately detrimental to your plant and must be treated as soon as is possible.

Spray infested plants with BioGrow BioNeem™, Pyrol™ or Neudosan™. The latter two are contact insecticides which may work slightly better for mites. Spray plant after sunset, ensuring to cover the entire plant - over and under leaf and a particular focus on the growth points of the plant. Being organic, improvements may take time to appear. Ensure that you repeat this process several times until new growth appears healthy and clear of any deformation.

Mites

There are various different varieties of mites. The most common are Spider Mites and Red Mites. Mites are tiny and the smallest of the sucking pests. This makes them particularly tricky, as they can not be seen by the naked eye. It would take a microscope to see these little suckers.

As with other sucking insects, these will multiply exponentially and take over a plant. Damaging leaf as well as growth points, bringing a plant to its knees.

There is however a tell tale sign that these pesky insects leave behind. Deformed leaves can be a sign of nutrient issues, but also a sign of insect damage. Luckily deformed leaves as a result of mite damage is quite distinct and can be seen below.

Leaves showing mite damage manifest as very slender leaves with a drawn in puckered appearance as shown above. Edges of leaves are usually irregular. Leaf shape can also be crescent shaped and drawn to one side. Deformed leaves first appear at the growth tips and will appear further down the plant structure if left untreated.

Mites should be sprayed with the likes of BioGrow BioNeem™, Pyrol™ or Neudosan™. The latter two are contact insecticides which may work slightly better for mites. Spray plant after sunset, ensuring to cover the entire plant - over and under leaf and a particular focus on the growth points of the plant. Being organic, improvements may take time to appear. Ensure that you repeat this process several times until new growth appears healthy and clear of any deformation.

Tips:

  • Most sprays contain carrier oils designed to cling to the plant surface. The sun will burn leaves coated in oils. We strongly advise that any spraying be done after sunset. This allows the spray to dry before sunrise the next morning and will safeguard your plants from frying in the sun.
  • Invest in a good sprayer that can be adjusted to give a fine spray if needed. Go for a sprayer that can take 5 litres and has a pump action and long spray nozzle. These are not too expensive and well worth the investment.
  • When spraying, use a very fine spray setting and mist the plant from a distance to catch flying insects and then spray the entire plant ensuring to cover over and under leaf as well as growth points thoroughly.
  • Repeat the spraying after 5 minutes to ensure the plant is thoroughly covered and any returning flying insects are caught second time around.
  • When using a organic insecticide, repeat any treatments regularly (every 3 or 7 days) until signs of infestation disappear.
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