"Self-sufficiency does not mean 'going back' to the acceptance of a lower standard of living. On the contrary, it is the striving for a higher standard of living, for food that is organically grown and good, for the good life in pleasant surroundings... and for the satisfaction that comes from doing difficult and intricate jobs well and successfully." John Seymour ~ Self Sufficiency 2003

Saturday 22 March 2014

Gutless skiniving pests

I woke at 5.15a.m. the other morning.

Taking a solitary walk in the quiet calm and early morning coolness of an autumn morning that is a welcome change from the sometimes overpowering heat of summer, and, is, to me, the very best way to start the day.

But, that morning I discovered that we have been infiltrated by a gutless skiniving pest!
The start of our lemon orchard in December 2010
Some of you may have been following my blog back in 2010 - 2011.  And you may recall my showing you the lemon trees that I grew from pips.  Well, this pest, who lurks, hidden, beneath the leaves of the lemon trees, has invaded our citrus orchard.

It is called a Woolly Wifefly and I have no alternative - I have to eradicate it. Pronto!


Well, to quote from http://www.cals.arizona.edu/crop/citrus/insects/woolywhitefly.pdf

"DAMAGE: Woolly whiteflies suck phloem sap, causing 
leaves to wilt and drop when populations are large. 
Honeydew droplets collect dust and support the growth of 
sooty mold; large infestations where copious amounts of 
honeydew are produced, can result in the blackening of 
entire trees. This reduces photosynthesis, resulting in 
decreased fruit size. Honeydew and sooty mold can also 
contaminate the fruit. Although this contamination can 
be washed off at the packing shed, harvest is slowed in 
infested groves and harvest crews are hesitant to pick 
heavily contaminated fruit."

I know of a commercial orchard near the Peregrine Restaurant on the N2 between Grabouw and Bot Rivier that had to destroy an entire orchard a couple of years ago because of this nasty critter.  How that farmer must have bemoaned the careless domestic garden custodians and their lack of concern for our citrus / fruit producing orchards.

There are a number of commercial citrus orchards in nearby Buffeljags too - and I have a responsibility to them and their produce.

If anyone finds woolly whitefly on their lemon / orange / naartjie / grapefuit / lime trees in their gardens - please - start treatment immediately! Irrespective of where you are on this planet.
Here the black sooty mould, an accumulation
of the honeydew from the woolly whitefly,
is clearly visible.
I have not heard of any parasitic treatments available in this country, and, having experienced this once previously whilst we were still in our town house, I had taken a leaf to Starke Ayres nursery on Rondebosch, and, Diane, the very helpful manageress, identified the pest, and gave me this eco-friendly recipe - which is also available online at http://www.starkeayresgc.co.za/admin/upload/.../woolly_white_fly_leaflet.pdf%E2%80%8E
Unfortunately, the nearby bees are attracted to the lemon trees - they want the honeydew which is produced by the woolly whitefly. 
Ah - the bees...
We all need them, so I have to ensure that they
are not caught in the spray.  Thankfully, they are
not interested in the leaves with no honeydew.
I set to pruning - and pruning radically.  Yes, I know it is not the time of year to do so, but I had to try and save my citrus orchard from complete annihilation by these pests.  The link to the www.cals.arizona.edu... above, recommended pruning as the first option, as this will also open up the canopy and make spraying easier and more effective.

The pruned branches were immediately burnt in an empty, rusty 55 gallon drum the builders left behind, and which we keep specifically for the purposes of getting rid of nasty plagues - be they leaf mould on cucurbits, or woolly whitefly...

Nothing lost, nothing gained.
Before - the lemon trees have grown nicely, and
should start producing fruit next season.  If the
woolly whitefly will give them a chance...
Note to self: get a bigger spray bottle!
The next morning, being up and about early again, the bees hadn't arrived in any significant numbers yet, so I got to work with my trusty spray bottle slung over my shoulder. (note to self: buy a bigger spray bottle with a more effective spray head...)
There are enough of them that I am able
to photograph them with my very basic
Kodak camera
A close-up of the woolly whiteflies
Those little critters had the gall to fly about as I started treatment.
A close-up of the cotton wool appearance of the
woolly whitefly nest
With any pest control of this nature, it is important to find out if your neighbours have the same problem, because any infestation that you sort out, can be all for nought if they don't climb in and do their bit.  Unfortunately, our neighbour is not that sort...
After - the pruned and sprayed lemon orchard
I have too much invested in this orchard to let the woolly whitefly destroy it. And, most importantly, I have too many exciting long term plans for the fruit we hope to harvest.

I believe that perseverance pays - so I am going to have to prove that... :)


  1. Good for you, Dani. Everyone has a responsibility when it comes to damaging pests. I was so careful to destroy all tomato plants with late blight and picked up all the debris so I wouldn't get it next year. Alas, my neighbor just let his plants rot, left them in ground until next year and spewed spores everywhere. So I've been getting late blight for the last 3 years. Stupid people.

    1. Kris - If only mankind could work together to help this planet, and each other, then perhaps Mother Earth might not be in such a mess!

      Considerate, careful and compassionate - if only...

  2. Good luck, Dani - I hope your treatment and monitoring pays off!

    1. Quinn - Thanks. From your fingers, to The ears above...

  3. I hope your damage limitation works and you manage to save the lemon trees, it would be heart breaking to see your previous hard work destroyed. At least you are being responsible and thinking of the other growers many people wouldn't bother.

    1. dreamer - With the course which we have taken of action (pruning / spraying) it shoud prevent further damage. But, we will have to stay extremely vigilant and take action if and when the infestation re-occurs.

  4. Two years later.
    How are your trees?

    1. Diana - They are doing well. They are bearing lemons for the first time. Unfortunately our neighbours don't care about the fruit farmers and don;t take steps to address the woolly fruit fly problem on their trees, so ours just keep getting re-infected every year. There was an orchard near Peregrine Farmstall (Grabbouw) which was destroyed because of woolly fruit fly.


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