Friday, 4 July 2014

Scales (on Plants, not in the Bathroom by the Mirror!)

Trout got his tuxedo out of the trunk and he put it on. [...] It had a greenish patina of mold. Some of the growths it supported resembled patches of fine rabbit fur. [...] He dabbed at his tuxedo with a damp rag, and the fungi came away easily. “Hate to do this, Bill,” he said of the fungi he was murdering. “Fungi have as much right to life as I do. They know what they want, Bill. Damned if I do anymore.”
This quote from Vonnegut's "Breakfast of Champions" came to my mind this morning when my husband came in and told me the potted oleander had scales. Yes, scales know what they want, and yes, they do have a right to live. But not on my houseplants, thank you very much!

I went outside to check, and sure enough, all the lower branches and leaves were infested. 

There are many different types of scales or mealybugs, but what they have in common is the waxy coating they use to stick to a plant that makes them quite resistant to many common insecticides. I've read recommendations to spray oil under the leaves to suffocate them, or to use specific insecticides, but it wouldn't be practical in my case when the oleander is not too huge (about a metre high) and I can deal with the problem in a more direct way. One popular suggestion is wiping the leaves (especially the undersides) with some alcohol. Basically any alcohol (not beer or wine though) that dissolves fat, or, in this case - wax. I have to say - it worked like a charm! The only alcohol I had at home was my husband's shaving lotion, but it worked great. I dabbed some lotion on a cotton pad and gently rubbed the scales off of all the infested leaves. The scales came off easily on the cotton. Now I just have to check the oleander in a couple of weeks and see if I've missed any. Here's to hoping the beasts won't like the smell of my husband's soft and sexy chin after shaving!

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