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Orchid Pollinators and Pest Eaters

March 4, 2010

We’ve told you about some orchid pest threats – mainly spider mites, mealy bugs and scale insects. We told you about some ways to combat these pests, but you also want to be careful not to harm insect friends of your orchid. So now we thought we’d mention a few friendly insects – that either help to pollinate orchids, or that might take care of the pests for you.

- and in particular their larvae, which are active between May and July in the northern hemisphere, are voracious predators of mites, and scale insects and small caterpillars. The ladybug larvae are initially small and spidery, growing up to 17 mm long with a tapering segmented grey/black body, orange/yellow markings and ferocious mouthparts. They can be encouraged by cultivating a patch of nettles in the garden and by leaving hollow stems and some plant debris over winter so that they can hibernate.

Green lacewings - A general predator that feeds on a wide variety of insects and may help suppress mealy bugs, scales and spider mites. Widely available from garden catalogs, often as eggs.

Bees and Moths - Many moth orchid (AKA Phalaenopsis orchids) named for their resemblance to moths are also pollinated by them. Orchids have the ability to only release their fragrance during the time of day when their common pollinator is out. For example, when one species is normally pollinated by bees, it is fragrant in the morning, as opposed to species that are pollinated by moths, which is fragrant at night.

One thing to remember is that nature is an intricate dance that involves all kinds of living beings, and when we take steps to eradicate insects that are detrimental to our beloved orchids, we may be harming friendly helper insects, which may in turn affect the balance of ecosystem. So do take care!