The Q&A Archives: Pest Control

Question: We have a Japanese orchid tree infested with aphids. What do I do to get rid of the aphids? And what other advice do you have in the care and prunning of the tree.

Answer: Your Bauhinia is probably the Hong Kong Orchid tree, that's native to China. Flowers are shaped like orchids; colors range from cranberry maroon through purple, and rose to pink, often in the same blossom. The tree has an umbrella-like growth habit and will reach 20' feet at maturity. Prune to remove old branches that are bare, plus any crossing, rubbing, or broken branches. Then lightly prune to shape. The aphid infestation can be a problem to control if your tree is fairly tall, where spraying is impractical. If the tree is still small, an insecticidal soap will work against the soft-bodied aphids. Be sure to cover both sides of the leaves, plus the stems where eggs can be. If the tree is too tall to spray, try to invite beneficial insects to your garden to prey on the aphids. Do this by having lots of different kinds of blooms in your garden. Once ladybugs visit your garden and find the aphid population, they'll set up housekeeping and feed on the aphids. The ladybug larvae have voracious appetites. Until then, you can try spraying the aphids off the tree with a strong stream of water from the hose. When aphids are dislodged, it will take them some time to return to the feeding site (at which time they're not eating and leaving the sticky honeydew residue behind!)

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