Hand-Picking the Bugs Out

by Kevin

I'm attempting to grow specimen roses and I'm not doing too badly as it happens - thanks to your good advice here. However, during my regular checks I have noticed some very tiny white bugs. You could fit maybe 3 end-to-end to 1mm. You can't see their legs although you can see them move.

Now, where I saw a little grouping of more than 6 of them, I simply took the whole leaf off. I guessed they might have been breeding on the underside of the leaf with eggs I cannot see, so off the leaf came.

Where there were only one or two bugs I squashed them between my fingers without stress to the leaf. But there were some bugs that I couldn't get to so easily; between the main leaf vein (what's that called?) and the leaf itself. I don't want to use the detergent and fat bug killer, as that really seems to make the plants suffer; it takes them some time to recover.

So do you have any ideas how I can thoroughly hand-pick/clean each leaf safely. I thought about a wide artists brush sprayed with something or a pressurized water sprayer, but I don't know how the stomata will cope with such an assault.

My filters are good - I think the bugs have come in through the compost, which was cheap but came in first in an independent trial. Any thoughts, please, J?

Answer: Kevin- good to hear from you again. The key to battling garden pest successfully is proper identification. I learned this the hard way. After four weeks of treating some garden plants with neem oil, thinking I was up against a mite infestation, I finally purchased a 30X magnifying scope (relatively cheap) and was able to identify the pests as thrips. Turns out neem works on many pests, but not on thrips. My plants had already experienced quite a bit of damage by that point, from all the sap-sucking thrips as well as from the neem treatments (which tend to clog some of the stomata).

I tried to research your pest, using the "1mm" estimate and description as being "white". Unfortunately, I wasn't able to pin down any possible identification without actually seeing the bugs myself. My gut feeling is that you probably have thrips, but you MUST identify them positively before you proceed. The bad news is that thrips can be just as difficult to get rid of as mites (nearly impossible without shutting down the whole grow room and starting fresh).

Hopefully, this is not the case. Picking off individual leaves may remove larger groups of the bugs, but chances are they are already over much of the plant. Plus, you really don't want to be pulling too many leaves from your plant---if you can't get rid of the bugs, the leaf pulling will never stop!

Once you have a proper ID, it will be much easier finding out what will be most effective against your particular pest. Diatomaceous earth, SM-90, and "Bang!" are are all non-toxic, non-systemic, organic pest control options. They are all very easy on plants, and could be used to keep the problem in check until you can figure out a more permanent solution (after you ID).

Another very promising product using silver nano-particles and essential plant oils has just come to may attention recently. You can read all about in this post here if you are interested. Apparently the silver nano-particles make the essential oils much more effective. If is works as well as the indications I am getting suggest, it could be an effective new weapon against spider mites, powdery mildew, and a laundry list of other pests.

Just one final suggestion before I leave you. At least for mites, the grow room temperature is critical to controlling them. At 70 degrees, they do not reproduce fast enough and are manageable. But at 80 degrees, they multiply fast, establish fast, and are nearly impossible to keep in check. It's possible your current pest would respond in a similar fashion, and keeping your grow room temp in check (if it isn't already) may give you the upper hand in this battle.

Hope all works out well Kev, and Happy Growing!

Comments for Hand-Picking the Bugs Out

Average Rating starstarstarstarstar

Click here to add your own comments

Apr 05, 2010
by: Kev

Thanks for your time, Jason, I appreciate your efforts on my behalf.

It's great to have a buddy like you alongside any grow, because when a grower like me is "too close to the trees (to see the obvious)" your comments come as a reality-check- which is great. When my roses mature and are sold, I'd like to make a donation to your website/time. Additionally I'd like to make you the offer of my time, should you need it.

I bought a 200x magnifier for only £6 from a well-known electronics store. I had a look at Google Images and it's not Thrips, and I'm still trying to identify the bug. For now, until I know for sure I'm going to go for a pressure water spray to physically clean the leaves. Do you imagine the stomata will cope? Thanks, J.

Answer: Kev- a little pressurized water will certainly reduce the populations....and if done every day the extra moisture may also slow down their reproduction. Out of all your options, the pressurized water will be the most gentle on the stomata of your plants. If using a hand pressurized sprayer, I have one more suggestion....put two or three drops of dish soap and one cigarette into a gallon of water and let it sit overnight. Strain it, and use that to spray off your plants. The nicotine from the cigarette kills, and the dish soap breaks up the surface tension of the water (making it coat and penetrate everything more effectively)- it's very mild as far as pest solutions go, and will be more effective than the plain water. You can also add a few cloves or a stick of cinnamon to the soaking water if you like (both of which also contain mild natural insecticides).

Don't worry about a donation, lol. I find this all very rewarding (but thanks- much appreciated). Hope all works out well! -JW

Click here to add your own comments

Join in and write your own page! It's easy to do. How? Simply click here to return to Misc Hydroponic Gardening Q&A.

All of the items that I personally use and recommend!

AffordableGarden Design&Setup

(10 week update below)

Find out the cheapest and easiest ways to garden productively in this article.

Hi everyone, Jason from Jason's Indoor Guide here. When I got started with hydroponic gardening more than 24 years ago, my first garden used rockwool cubes and B.C. Nutrients....and I remember thinking to myself yeah, sure, there may be a lot of advantages to gardening with hydroponics, for example there are very few pest problems, therefore very little pest control, no weeding, no plowing or tilling the soil, no soil testing or having to add things into the garden soil, no watering the garden....but for someone who just wants to grow their own vegetables and have more control over their food supply and the quality of the food that they eat, the cost of constantly having to buy grow media and hydroponic nutrients makes this an expensive hobby for most people...

Epic Nutrient Change

I suppose when you take into consideration how much money you save NOT having to buy food at the grocery store, it is surely cheaper to grow your own food hydroponically even with the cost of high quality nutrients. Nevertheless, I didn't have a whole lot of money to work with and I needed to make my efforts as affordable and effective as possible....and in the last 24 years I HAVE learned a thing or two!

As you browse through Jason's Indoor Guide, you will notice all of the systems that I use personally are homemade systems. As I got 3 or 4 years of experience under my belt, I quickly adopted a preference to standing water systems and systems that use expanded clay pellets or lava rock, because the media is re-usable and it eliminates a huge operating expense. So once a hydroponic system is built, garden maintenance is minimal- check and adjust the nutrient solution daily, and to change it completely every 2 weeks....and the biggest operating cost is the hydroponic nutrients. (and the electric bill, lol)...

Homemade Cloner

And, regarding the cost of the nutrients....I experimented for about 3 years with making different compost teas and nutrient teas, but there is still a lot of expense $$$ associated with making high quality nutrient teas....like kelp meal, liquid seaweed, rock dust, bat guano, un-Sulfured molasses, worm castings. You can eliminate a lot of this expense by becoming an expert at making high-quality colloidal humus compost, and use your properly made compost as the basis of your hydroponic nutrient solution.

Unfortunately, I have been gardening for over 24 years and I have only just recently mastered this difficult skill....and even then, only because I happened to find a very easy to follow, high quality technique and decided to follow the instructions to the letter. I produced more high quality compost in just one week than I was able to use in a whole year! If you can master the technique, I highly recommend it. It is one of the top 3 things you can do to increase the productivity of your food production efforts, while at the same time decreasing the amount of effort required to grow all of your own food, and decreasing the total cost of operating your food production system.

And when I say decrease operating costs, I mean decrease them to almost ZERO, especially if you are producing your own nutrients...

High Efficiency

The ultimate solution to eliminate the cost of your hydroponic nutrients: Imagine a hydroponic system that does not require you to buy any nutrients, does not require you to make your own compost, and does not require you to brew your own nutrient tea. Seriously! No cost and no effort as far as providing nutrients to your plants! Plus, at the end of the gardening cycle you harvest all of your garden vegetables, PLUS YOU HARVEST FISH from the system--->


Click Here to learn more!

This solution is aquaponics. If you are serious about producing all of your own food and being self-sufficient, this is the ultimate solution for reducing expenses (as much as possible), reducing the total amount of work required, and maximizing the productivity of your gardening efforts. I have been gardening for over 24 years, and it is the perfect food production solution in my opinion.

Produce garnden vegetables AND fish together. Eliminate fertilizer costs!

Besides mastering how to make high quality compost, learning aquaponics is one of the top 3 things you can do to increase your garden productivity, reduce your total costs, and reduce your total work. The product that I learned from is called Aquaponics4you. With all of my hydroponic gardening experience, the first time I came across the Aquaponics4you product I knew immediately that it was something very special! Place an aquaponics system outdoors and use the sun instead of grow lights, and you have reduced every garden expense to nearly ZERO!

The Same System/ 10 Weeks Later!

If you've found this site helpful at all, I would really appreciate it