Pests and Diseases

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This may seem to be an incongruous chapter for a book on carnivorous plants but, unfortunately, it is not. There are animals (insects, mites and scale) and fungi (plants without chlorophyll) that attack carnivorous plants and can eventually cause their death.

Fungus diseases can be devastating to a collection of plants, particularly to the succulent types such as Pinguicula and Drosera and to seedling plants of almost all species.

Prevention of pest infestation is usually the simplest, most economical, and the best path to follow. Some techniques for accomplishing this are:

1. Remove all the dead parts of plants such as old flower stalks and leaves. Fungus infection often starts on the dead parts of plants and later spreads to the rest of the plant. Not only will their removal help prevent infestation, it will enhance the beauty of the plants. Also do not leave plant debris on the soil or in the growing area as it provides a breeding site for pests.

2. When new plants are obtained, examine them carefully to determine if any pests or diseases are present. The plants could have a disease and its manifestations may take several weeks to become apparent. Or, there may be eggs or spores which require more time to develop. If possible, isolate new plants from the rest of your collection. One method is to place a new plant in its pot in a plastic bag of sufficient size, inflate the bag and seal it, thereby creating a small isolation chamber. Never place any plant in an enclosed container in direct sunlight.

3. If a pest appears in a pot or on a plant, remove the plant from the rest of the collection while treating it to prevent further contamination. Isolate the plant during treatment using a transparent plastic bag as an isolation chamber. Spray or dust the plant in the bag and seal it. This procedure not only prevents further spread of the pest but also confines the pesticide within the bag.

4. Provide the proper environment for plants so that they will be healthy and vigorous. Low light levels, high humidity, and poor ventilation provide excellent conditions for fungus infestation and development. Fungal growth occurs most readily when plants are grown in enclosed containers, particularly small ones and in outdoor greenhouses in the colder parts of the world during the fall and winter when the greenhouse is "buttoned up" for the winter. Ventilation windows are closed and, in many cases, sealed until the following spring. The resulting poor ventilation can be circumvented by using a fan to keep the air in the greenhouse circulating. Experience indicates that healthier plants are better able to ward off pests.

5. Knives or scissors used to remove infected plant parts should be disinfected after use. It is a good policy to not only disinfect all tools after using them, but also all pots. A satisfactory solution for treating tools and pots can be made by mixing 1 part liquid bleach, such as Clorox, in 6 parts of water. For example, mix 1 cup of bleach to 6 cups water. Soak the items in the solution for about 1 hour and then rinse thoroughly in fresh water.

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