Category Archives: Pests

No Mice But Plenty of Bugs

As I bring my plants inside, I always seem to bring in a plentiful collection of small knat type bugs. Rather than try and kill them off with poisons, I’m trying out mouse glue traps and they seem to work very well. In only 24 hours the trap above has captured 31 little critters. Note that I have it above water as they seem to be attracted to water by the many corpses I see in the water also.


My Drosera also does a great job of attracting these insects and provides the plant with plenty to eat.


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Aphids on Milkweed – what to do

One of the truths when growing milkweed is that you not only get milkweed, but you also get other bugs which love milkweed – besides monarch butterflies.

Aphids are the main pest, but also you may get quite a few of the milkweed bugs.

Here are some possible solutions:

  • Do nothing – aphid populations will rise and fall. In nature this is just part of the natural process of life. They will eventually draw predators to their location.
  • I have found that most aphid populations die off around July 4th in St. Louis. One theory is that the aphids get infected with a disease that kills them off. The aphids are all clones, so if one is infected, the others will should get the same infection. The other theory is that the predator population has built up by this time and controls the population.
  • I have taken to spraying the milkweed with water when I have aphids. My theory is that it might encourage viruses and disease which might kill off the aphids.
  • Inter-planting with cover crops is another solution I have found which worked well. The aphids have a harder time finding the milkweed when it is surrounded by other plants.
  • Flaming the plant bed is another solution I have heard of. You obviously do this before you plant. It should kill any eggs which may have over-wintered.
  • Before you do anything else check for monarch eggs and larva. You don’t want to injure them.
  • If everything is clear, you can try a simple blast with a garden hose. They will cling on, but with persistence you can get some of them off your plants. Unfortunately, they seem to find their way back.
  • You can then try a soap and water spray – I’ve tried it and it works. I’m using about 1T dish soap in one quart of water. Most sites say not to do this in hot weather as it hurt the plant. All of the black spots are dead aphids. I have noticed that while the leaves don’t seem to be affected, the blooms whither away with this soap spray, so soap is not quite innocuous as I’d like.
    I won’t do this again.
  • If infestations are terrible, you can simply clip off the infested area and dispose of them.
  • My final solution is to use an oil spray made for plants. Again check for monarch eggs and larvae. This will definitely kill the aphids, but will also kill other insects. Having an oil spray on the leaves and flowers where monarchs will lay their eggs is questionable, so I avoid doing this.
  • I generally don’t worry about milkweed bugs unless I get a lot. You then just use a soapy water solution in a container and knock the beetles into the container.
  • It’s interesting to me the many bugs you will find on milkweed. (click here)

Note – as I was writing this I noticed one Monarch egg and one lady bug which just goes to show that you have to be careful when working with pests.

If you want to learn more about aphid reproduction, watch David Attenborough’s Natural Curiosities – Season 2 #1 – Virgin Birth. It’s available on Netflix.

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Carnivorous Plants During the Winter

One of the problems I’ve had in the past is that when I either bring plants or cuttings inside and grow them under lights during the winter, I get an ever increasing population of small flying bugs. My son has the same problem in San Francisco as they have fruit flies around their organic waste container that they are mandated to keep for the trash. His solution is to grow carnivorous plants, Drosera, right next to the organics and it does attract and catch the small pesky flies.

I just bought two Drosera from and hope to duplicate his success.

Update – Dec. 11 – I received two plants yesterday and placed them next to my bug infested plants. This morning I counted 17 bugs captured. Drosera capensis seems the most attractive with 16 of the bugs on this one plant. Note – Drosera spatulata also has plenty of bugs a few weeks later.

You do need to use distilled water for these plants. Keep their container submerged up to an inch or two.

I’m growing these in the basement under 24 hour fluorescent light, but it’s a bit cool – around 68 degrees. They still seem to be doing fairly well.

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Ladybugs in the Garden

While it’s definitely a possibility that ladybugs might attack small butterfly larvae, in general they probably are much more beneficial than a problem. This year my Red Honeysuckle is infested with aphids and these ladybug eggs and larvae are certainly welcome to help control them.

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Deer Resistant Plants

Rutgers University has put out a list of plants showing which are deer resistant. If the deer are a problem in your area, check the list closely before investing hundreds of dollars at your local nursery. I was glad to see that Buddleia, Rue and Dames Rocket were on the list of “rarely damaged” plants.

Another nice site I found on the topic is:

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Baptizing Spider Mites

Lately, I’ve been infested with Spider Mites which I probably brought in with my cuttings in the fall. Using an oil spray is recommended to help with the mites, but I decided to baptize my plants in an oil solution for a couple of seconds. Hopefully, this will keep them under control.

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Vole Killer

Almost every Blazing Star that I plant is eaten by voles.

Finally after years of frustration, I’ve found a solution – Poison Peanuts Pellets.

They do work and also seem to be work on mice.

Now I can finally grow Blazing Stars again.

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