UACES Facebook Insects
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(December 2012)

QuestionI have a ten year old ficus tree indoors that is oozing and dripping a sticky substance on my floors. I suspect that it is caused by some sort of insect or parasite. It looks like it is very healthy and still putting out new leaves but the sticky stuff is quite a nuisance. Some leaves have small dark scale type things on them. If this is the cause is there anything I can do to rid my plant of them. I've tried spraying with insecticidal soap and removing what I see with rubbing alcohol . Maybe something systemic would work better?


AnswerYour ficus tree could have scale, just like the azaleas in the previous question, but ficus trees are also notorious for a process called guttation—where they basically sweat—they have built up too much moisture in their leaves and it has to come out somewhere. It typically occurs when there has been a major change in the plants environment-often when they are moved back indoors in the fall. They ooze excess moisture typically out of the leaf where it is attached on the stem. It is very sticky and it can stain, just like the honeydew that comes from sucking insects. If you determine that insects or scale is the culprit, there is systemic houseplant insecticide that comes in a pellet form of imidacloprid. You put the pellet into the soil and it slowly releases the insecticide and fertilizer into the soil to be absorbed by the root system. They are safe to use indoors.


(January 2012)

QuestionI always repot my plants in the fall to bring around 4 in my house. I repot because my brother brought 11 baby copperheads in the house one fall. Anyway, I always get gnats, several hundreds of them come out of my plants so therefore I have to move them to the garage and cannot enjoy my plants in winter. Do you know what I can do to avoid the gnats? I always buy good soil.


AnswerWow! And I thought the snake story was an urban legend! If you have gnats every year, I would say you are overwatering. Fungus gnats multiply more rapidly in moist soils. Especially during the cooler, winter months, houseplants would benefit from being on the dry side—usually no more than once every two weeks for most plants. Timing of course will vary by plant, plant and container size and how hot you keep your house. Top-dressing the soil with sand, using a mild insecticidal soap drench when you move them inside can also help.


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