Seed pod failure

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.

By | 2017-10-13T11:26:07+02:00 January 10th, 2010|Categories: Flask babies, Projects|Tags: , , , , , , |8 Comments

About the Author:

Karma is a digital nomad graphic artist and writer, orchid nerd and long-distance hiker from Gothenburg, Sweden. Former editor-in-chief for the Swedish Orchid Society magazine, published internationally and held lectures on orchid culture.


  1. stefano January 10, 2010 at 19:08 - Reply

    Sorry to hear that.
    I did find 2 / 3 scales on my phaius and cleaned with rubbing alcohol q tip, then pulled out from pot – soaked in dishwasher soap water. repotted in coco chips. sprayed with mix of water, runbbing alcohol, dish soap, soybean oil insecticide.
    wiped leaves and then sprayed the area with pyrethrine based spray. hope it works because those pleated leaves can easily hide pest. but nothing noticed so far.
    I was thinking of using as a a profilactic measure a systemic. Bayer for roses but the label scared me saying just for outdoor use and it did not seem so safe to use on plants i keep in my bedroom. does your systemic has such warnings?

    maybe i would cut the seed pod of your plant if it hides bugs – also maybe would be better for the plant to use energy to recover stay alive than to produce seeds.

  2. Karma January 10, 2010 at 21:19 - Reply

    Thanks Stefano. Sorry to hear about your bout with scales. Sucks having to deal with this stuff, but it is of course all par for the course. It was rather depressing to loose the seed pod, but I have already done as you suggest. I cut the whole spike with the seed pod off and dusted the cut with cinnamon. I agree with you, it should focus on recovering now, not reproducing. I see nothing on my label about indoor use, I don’t really know anything about the Bayer spray either. Perhaps you can call Bayer customer support and ask? Good luck!

  3. Marius January 10, 2010 at 21:31 - Reply

    That’s what I call an escalating war! Very nice to hear that you try everything else before you pull out the heavy artillery – but very sad indeed that the seedpod didn’t survive! Alas, you will succeed next time, for sure!

    Question; do false spider mites have any natural enemies? Ladybugs?


  4. Karma January 10, 2010 at 21:46 - Reply

    Thanks Marius! Yes, next time I will make it for sure. As far as I know there are no predatory mites that go for false spider mites. There are some that specialize in red spider mites and the two spotted ones, but the false spider mites (falskt spinn) are tricky. They are sooo much smaller than the regular mites, they do not make webs and do not more very fast so they are incredibly hard to detect until you have a big problem on your hands. They are also very hard to get rid of. I feel lucky catching this early, I did not see very many of them so hopefully I beat it this time.

  5. stefano January 12, 2010 at 18:09 - Reply

    Are the false spider mites sensitive to Pyrethrin sprays? the one I have is said to be kitchen safe. Anyway if i were you i would probably spray the whole area just to be sure.

  6. Karma January 13, 2010 at 10:29 - Reply

    I am actually not that familiar with Pyrethrin sprays personally as I usually avoid poisons. All I know is that spidermites are hard to kill because they are not affected by poisons that kill most other pests since they are actually arachnids. I think Pyrethrin might work on spidermites, but I am not sure about the “false” spider mite. Those guys are tougher… But from what I read it looks like it would at least be safe to use indoors.

  7. Anika January 17, 2010 at 19:03 - Reply

    Oh Karma, I am so sorry! I hate those little buggers. We have been growing orchids only over a year, also indoors (and also in a 2 bedroom flat), and so far we’ve been lucky – I only have an occasional fruit fly. Well, not quite true – I bought a beautiful yellow oncidium at the orchid show last year completely infested with white scaly creatures. Yes, from a “reputable” grower. Carefully wrapped in cellophane. First and last “carefully wrapped” orchid I’d ever purchase. Needless to say, we had to get rid of it as the infestation was massive. It was the first orchid I lost and I was quite devastated. Funny how they find the way to your heart, isn’t it.
    Just to cheer you up, I uploaded some pictures on Flicker from this weekend’s orchid show in Ft. Lauderdale, Florida. I could not walk away without taking home 2 miniature phals – one of them all the way from Taiwan! Not sure if I am allowed to post a link but the Flick address is
    Bu the way, the Taiwanese growers were complaining about the “cold” – we had about 15 degrees here. When I mentioned I know people who grow orchids in Sweden they were AMAZED 🙂

  8. Karma January 18, 2010 at 09:50 - Reply

    Thanks Anika. Yes, it really sucks but I will get over it. If I were you I would have contacted the grower from which you bought the infested Oncidium and asked them to replace the plant. Sucks when you get disappointed with what you buy. Nice pictures from the Florida show, how fun that some Asian growers were there too. There are some really amazing Phalaenopsis growers down there and some also make some wicked hybrids… Oh yeah +15 degrees is really cold, lol. Temperatures here have finally mellowed here a little bit, but we’ve had an unusually cold few weeks. Night time temperatures have dipped into the -20’s in Gothenburg and much colder (-30 to -40 C) further north. Now THAT is cold… 🙂

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