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Wednesday, September 24, 2014

Trees in Trouble!

The orchard on the farm hasn't been maintained for a couple years.  The trees are fighting off blight, scale, whiteflies, and aphids.   The common denominator in all of these is Ants.  They farm the whitefly,  scale, and aphids.  These insects secrete honeydew which is sweet to the ants, and they use it as food, and in return will protect these insects.   Its a symbiotic relationship which is good for the ants and insects, but not so good for the trees.   The trees can usually fight off these insects if they are maintained properly and watered.    This winter, I will spray the trees with dormant oil with will smother the eggs and over-wintering adults which will give the trees a good start next spring.

Here is a orange tree badly infested with scale.   This is an insect that will create a waxy covering to protect is while is sucks nutrients from the tree or plant.  

Aphid are also a big problem in the trees.  Lady bugs will eat aphids but when you have a robust ant population, they will protect the aphids and the lady bugs don't stand a chance.   The aphids suck the nutrients from the leaves causing them to become curled up and deformed.   They especially like new growth.  Here are a couple pictures of aphid peach and orange tree leaves with aphid damage.

White flies are another common pest that attacks trees.  The ants will also farm and protect whiteflies.  The larvae and adults feed on plants, but they also spread disease from plant to plant which makes them more of a problem.     They will feed on the underside of a leave and heavily infested trees or plants my die.      This is a difficult insect to control organically.   Lacewings and lady bugs will feed on larvae and adults, but the ants need to be controlled first.   You can see the ants busy on the next picture.