Prosthechea cochleataIt has been quite exciting to follow the development of the Prosthechea cochleata seed pod over the past few weeks. It has been swelling rather quickly and it has been a thrill to watch as it is my first pollination attempt. Then things started going wrong… The new bud forming on this years new bulb started turning brown, I did not see any reason for this to happening then, and I was a bit confounded as to why. To save the bud inside the protective sheath I had to cut it out, and so far I think it might have worked, the bud is still developing. I thought all was well, but then – disaster!

Prosthechea cochleataProsthechea cochleataFalse spider mites! Darn!!  I think this is why the sheath turned brown and now I noticed a few mites on my precious seed pod. My heart just sank… I know how hard it is to get rid of false spider mites, and the prognosis for my pod was not looking good. I quickly quarantined the cochleata and started going over the rest of the orchid collection, plant by plant with a magnifying glass. Four hours later I had identified one Dendrobium hybrid, and four Paphiopedilum. The Paphiopedilum were not that bad actually, I saw one, maybe two mites per plant, but the Dendrobium was worse. Since it was not a very valuable plant, aside from the fact that my dear father had given it to me, it went straight into the trash (sorry dad). The rest I decided to fight for.

I do not like using poison unless absolutely necessary, so first I pulled the orchids out of their pots and rinsed them thoroughly under a heavy stream with water. First line of defense really, you can usually wash a lot of them off. Then I let them soak in a heavy soap bath bare root. The idea is that the soap breaks the surface tension of the water and the mites simply drown. I discarded the growing media and washed out all the pots well too with soap just to be safe, even though these guys usually do not go down in the media. I let them dry on newspaper over night, but since I still saw a few mites on the cochleata under the magnifying glass the next day the whole lot went into another soap bath.

Third day inspection. One mite discovered on the seed pod of the cochleata. Damn persistent little fu#!”ers… Time to employ another method. Some people have success using a product used for fruit trees, but the ingredients for this product is primarily natural oil. So I soaked paper towels in canola oil and wiped down all the green parts of the plants, then let them rest over night. The idea here is that the oil suffocates the mites.  The next day I rinsed off the plants really well under running water. Mainly to get rid of excess oil so the leaves could breathe and not suffocate. No mites seen on inspection.

Fifth day inspection. One darn mite still seemed to linger on the seed pod of the cochleata. I probably should give up on this plant, but I did not have the heart to do it with the seed pod and new bud coming. It is such a faithful plant too, blooms almost constantly. Time to raise the bar and actually use poison! I placed all my quarantined  plants in a large plastic bag then sprayed them all with Provado Plus, a systemic pesticide specially developed to also take out spider mites. Then I sealed the bag over night, hoping that the fumes would take out any stragglers.

Big surprise, the poison worked. Sixth day inspection – no mites. Seventh day inspection – no mites. Unfortunately it worked a little bit too good… the seed pod is history. It is really sad, but hopefully I can save the plant. There are good days and bad days when you are growing orchids, this is one of the latter.