Sunday, July 7, 2019

Not Mealy Mouthed about Mealy Bugs

I had an article come across my email a couple of days ago that, unfortunately, seems to becoming a more common occurrence.

A new plant pest has been found in Florida attacking Citrus trees and fruit. It is the Lebbeck Mealybug (Nipaecoccus viridis) a.k.a. the Spherical Mealybug. The original article can be found HERE

Lebbeck Mealybug (Nipaecoccus viridis) a.k.a. the Spherical Mealybug
Image courtesy of

The article goes on to say that the Lebbeck mealybug is approximately 4 millimeters (mm) long by 3 mm wide with body color black, purple to blue-green and covered by thick white, creamy, or pale yellow wax. Females produce an ovisac with a wax that is sticky when touched. In high densities, waxy secretions may appear as a continuous layer of wax, which will obscure individual mealybugs. Wax may turn yellow in older infestations. Specimens do turn black in 70% alcohol. This might be a good, quick field diagnostic, but species confirmation will require slide mounting.

I put those last few words in bold to bring me to the point of today's article. Yes, the last thing the Florida Citrus industry needed was another insect. My question is, how good do you have to be to tell the difference between one mealy bug and another?

If I had seen the above picture or the one in the article, I would have just assumed it was one of the ordinary mealies. I know I am not an Entomologist, and I knew there were a few different species, but just how many of them are there!?

So, I dug a little deeper.
While I could not find a total number of species in the world, there are over 170 species of mealybugs that occur in California alone!
And I also found this.

While adult females are wingless, which are the oval blobs in the above picture, the adult male mealybugs, which are rarely seen, are tiny two-winged insects with two long tail filaments. Personally, I had never even SEEN a male mealybug before this picture.

Many mealybug species can reproduce asexually without mating. The big fancy word for this is through a process called parthenogenesis. In this type of asexual reproduction, the female can generate an embryo without the help of a male's sperm. (Insert your own joke here)

Depending on the species and the environment, mealybugs may have anywhere from two to six generations a year. Where climates are warm or plants are growing indoors, such as a greenhouse, all stages may be present throughout the year.

Many types of perennial plants are affected by mealybugs. Among the fruit trees, citrus has the most problems, but mealybugs may sometimes be found on stone fruits such as peaches. I can tell you, I know full well that they like citrus fruit.

  I found this in the navel of my Cara Cara Orange once. 
Citrus mealybug -Planococcus citri

Mealies are piercing/sucking insects that suck the juices from a plant, reducing the plant's vigor. 

Many natural enemies feed on and kill mealybugs on fruit trees and woody ornamental plants in the landscape. These beneficial insects generally can be relied upon to keep numbers at tolerable levels. Natural enemies include a number of species of parasitic wasps that lay their eggs in or on developing mealybugs. Other naturally occurring predators of mealybugs include lady beetles (Lady Bugs), green and brown lacewings, spiders, minute pirate bugs, and larvae of predaceous midges.

If the natural predators are not controlling them well enough, then Insecticidal Soap is a good alternative. If you are not familiar with that product, Insecticidal soap is based on potassium fatty acids and is used to control many soft-bodied plant pests. Because insecticidal soap works on only direct contact with the pests, you must spray them directly for it to work. It literally dries them out to death. You can also use horticultural oil, or neem oil insecticides applied directly on them.

 The mealybugs’ waxy coating may repel most contact insecticides, and their habit of aggregating in hidden locations makes them hard to reach, so using a combination of predators and insecticides is a good idea. No, the soap does not harm most of the good bugs, just try not to spray them if you can.

A word of caution here, there are MANY, MANY homemade recipes on the Internet to make your own Insecticidal Soap. Most of them use some kind of dish soap. Read your labels carefully, if there is any kind of grease cutter in the soap, it could do more harm to the plant than the pest would have.

Mealybugs have a symbiotic relationship with ants because the ants protect them from predators and parasites. They also herd them around to different parts of the plant to "spread the wealth" as it were. 

You can find these pests on a wide range of plants, the most serious ones are that which feed on citrus; as mentioned earlier, other species damage sugarcane, grapes, pineapple, coffee trees, cassava, ferns, cacti, gardenias, papaya, mulberry, sunflower, and orchids as well as many other plants.

The good news is, you can limit their introduction into your home and garden. Mealybugs are often introduced into landscapes (and especially into indoor areas) on new plants or on tools or pots. Because adult females can’t fly and can’t crawl very fast, they don’t rapidly disperse in the garden on their own. Inspect any new plants thoroughly for mealybugs before bringing them home.

Hopefully, this has opened your eyes more to the world of mealybugs and for the fact that quarantines are in place for a reason. That Lebbeck Mealybug did not buy a ticket on its own and move to Florida, it was on something that either should NOT have been introduced into the area, or somebody didn't inspect a plant very well.

Either way, let's hope that this is an isolated incident and more will not be found.

If you have any questions about this or any of my other writings, please feel free to comment below or send me an email to

You can also follow me on FACEBOOK
Or check out my WEBSITE

Happy Growing!

Growing Citrus Video

It has been said that a picture is worth a thousand words and a video is worth a million!

The idea of writing a blog, writing articles for magazines/websites. and books are definitely worthy of anybody's time, especially if they have something important to say. Information is power and the more you have the better you are at anything.

I have written many articles on growing citrus over the years and it has helped lots of folks get their trees back into shape and producing again.

Well, today, I am going one step farther in my advancement to educate on citrus growing.

My lectures are always well attended. When I announce on social media that I will be speaking somewhere, inevitably, there are folks that will contact me and tell me they wish they could come but are working, they will be out of town, or just can't make it for whatever reason.

Will you be recording it?
That is a common question after the above statements.
My typical answer was, no, sorry, I don't have the ability to do that.

Well, times are a changing!

Through a chance encounter, some time investment, and the stars aligning themselves just right, I can now say, YES, I have one of my growing citrus lectures available online as a video.

I tried to keep the cost as reasonable as possible at $14.99
It runs 72 minutes and you will be able to see all of my Powerpoint slides plus hear my narration.
This was filmed in front of a live audience as well as remote audiences in different parts of the country. So there were some questions asked during the talk that I answered.

If you have ever wanted to hear me speak but lived too far away, were not able to get to one when I was in your neighborhood, or just like listening to things in the comfort of your own home, here is your chance!

Follow this LINK
The trailer link will give you the first three minutes for free, so you can decide whether the format is right for you.
If you have ANY questions that were either not answered during the presentation or you have a slightly different problem, PLEASE, feel free to contact me!

My e-mail address is
You can follow me on FACEBOOK
Or get all kinds of other information on my WEBSITE

I look forward to hearing from you, if you need help, have a comment (good or bad) about the video, or any questions in general about horticulture, you know how to get a hold of me!

Happy Growing!

Thursday, June 13, 2019

A Book About My Other Passion

Yes, I know, where the heck have I been?!
BUSY is not even a good word to use!

I have been writing for a new website, which I invite you to check out all of their cool stuff.
You can find it and my articles at You Had Me at Gardening.
I have been testing some products for them and they are working on a giveaway for some that were being tested, so check them out for that!

Well, today, I come to you with another of the reasons I have been absent, my newest book!
It is live and currently available on Amazon by clicking this link:

"Growing Camellias for Contemplation and Competition"

You all know me as The Citrus Guy, and Citrus will always be number one on my hit parade. Camellias come in a REAL close second. I only have 55 varieties of Citrus, but I have over 200 cultivars of Camellias.

I discuss in the book how I got into growing Camellias, pretty much by accident. It all started with the couple that the book is dedicated to. Let's just say it's their fault! LOL

But, honestly, it was a good fit for me. I am a competitive person by nature and this gives me a chance to burn some of that off, even if it is only friendly competition. I enjoy it completely!

Here is an excerpt from the Welcome Chapter:

Please know that this book WILL NOT be strictly about flower shows and competitions. I will cover as many aspects of actually growing them as I can. Even though I got into the whole camellia culture by mistake, it is really a good fit. I enjoy growing things and I have a very competitive nature, so the show circuit, which I will cover in Chapter 8, is something I look forward to. It is not at all cut-throat, the matter of fact it is really a friendly competition, but you will learn more of that later.

This book is going to be very straightforward, like all my other books, I tend to write as if we are talking one on one. Things come across much easier and with a little dose of humor thrown in. It will be very much like you are attending one of my lectures.
Let’s get started!

Chapter 1-Camellia History
There are tons of books on the market that cover this topic, so I will not try to rewrite history. There is really nothing new that I can add. I will cover a brief synopsis of the long history, just to kind of get your feet wet or give you a tiny taste so you will go and search out the Camellia History Buffet.

Chapter 2- Species
There are many different species of camellias, I am going to focus on the main four (with a little dabbling of a few other minor ones). Camellia sasanqua, Camellia japonica, Camellia reticulata, and Camellia sinensis will be my main fixations in this book. Here is a little tease about chapter 2, did you know you may be holding and drinking a product of one of these species in your hand while you are reading this book?

 Chapter 3- Flower Forms
When people think of a certain flower, let’s say a rose for example, they pretty much have one shape, form, and size in mind. I am not saying there are not different ones in the rose world, what I am saying is, the range of sizes, forms and colors in camellias are quite extensive and easily out number roses.

Chapter 4- The Basics
Luckily, most of the things that the different species I will discuss have the same requirements, fertilizer, water, and soil pH. The lighting will be the only minor difference, but I don’t want to let that shine through yet.

Chapter 5- Propagation and Pruning
If I have done my job well, after reading this book, you will be itching to go out and get a bunch of these beautiful plants. The rub is, they might be a tad harder to find than your average azalea. If you have patience, some camellia friends, and some time, you can end up with dozens, if not hundreds of camellias. If you are really lucky, you might even be able to name your very own camellia!

Chapter 6- Pests and Diseases
No matter how good a gardener you are, no matter where you live, you will end up with some kind of a pest or disease. The good news is, except for one of the diseases, all of the subjects in this chapter are easily thwarted. One of them might actually be your friend.

Chapter 7- Show Use Mostly
This is where I start talking more about competition and showing. The things in this chapter are mainly for folks who are going to start showing blooms in flower shows. They are easy to do, to some degree. They may seem odd. They can all be done even if you are not going to show blooms. One of them could almost be considered legal cheating, don’t worry, it really is legal. No, seriously, I promise, it is perfectly legal!

Chapter 8- Flower Showing
If you live anywhere in the lower third of the United States, up the east coast to Maryland, and up the west coast into Oregon, there is at least one flower show near you every year. This chapter will delve into some of the rules of the show, how to prep flowers, what kind of things you can win, and how much fun it really is to be doing this with dozens of your friends, which they will all become.

Chapter 9- Nurseries
Yes, I covered how you can generate your own plants in Chapter 5, but there will be times that you see the most beautiful bloom at a show, and you MUST have it now! These are some of the best nurseries around, though you may have to actually visit them, some do not ship.

Chapter 10- In Conclusion
A tidy little sum of what this whole camellia craze is all about, some interesting stories that really happened, and ways that you too can get hooked into this world.

All of that in 169 pages and dozens of photographs. If you think you might enjoy growing Camellias or know somebody that might like to learn, this book is for them.

It was a year in the making and a blast the whole time!
As always, if you have any questions about this article, my books, or anything garden related, please feel free to drop me a line to

You can follow me on FACEBOOK
Or get onboard my WEBSITE

Happy Growing!

Monday, April 15, 2019

Speaking of Education

Anybody that knows me knows I am big on education.
Learning is power.

Every Monday morning I get an e-mail from a friend of mine. She runs Mirelli Entrepreneur Training for Woman. They are a growing community of powerful, like-minded women who want to Learn, Connect, Grow and Prosper together.
Why do I get the e-mail?
I believe in what she is doing and we have become friends over a couple of years we have known each other. We have helped each other in business endeavors.

What has any of this got to do with plants and horticulture?
Well sit a spell and let me explain.
If you are reading this, more than likely you have listened to a speaker, either myself or someone else, talk about gardening, plants, or something horticultural.

Have you ever stopped to think what went into that talk?
The following is mainly the e-mail I got this morning, with editorial comments added by me in Italics.

What Do Public Speakers Actually Do?
Many people think they would like to speak more in public, but sometimes they don't realize everything that goes on before a speaker goes on stage. Here's a quick look at what a Job Description for a public speaker might look like:

Seeking a Public Speaker to deliver speeches and seminars to live audiences in an engaging way. Must be prepared to travel a significant amount of time, especially on weekends. Individuals with charisma, strong emotional intelligence, and excellent communication skills can do particularly well.

Duties and Responsibilities:

Perform Pre-Speech Research

The successful candidate will spend significant time completing in-depth research before making a presentation. They will research their topic to make sure they are well informed. The Public speaker shall also learn about their audience in order to present in a personalized and relevant way. They may also have handouts or giveaways.

Write and Outline Speeches

The Public Speaker shall spend time creating a speech that educates and motivates a crowd. They make sure that all talking points are sharp and concise. The most successful Public Speakers outline speeches that are engaging, informative, and persuasive. Or, in some cases prepare a powerpoint.

Rehearse Speeches

The Public Speaker does not speak off-the-cuff. Public Speakers rehearse. Practicing speeches prior to delivering them live is critical for Public Speakers. They prepare and rehearse to make their presentations more effective. Public speakers use rehearsals to simplify their message and find new ways to engage their audience through stories, analogies, and other interplay activities.

Give Public Presentations

The Public Speaker shall be expected to stand on stage and deliver live presentations and seminars. Their talks shall hold audience attention and encourage participation to be successful. A public speaker may talk to small groups of 10 or large groups of 10,000. Some presentations have a training and development component while others are more inspirational.

Promote Their Activities

Prior to any public event, the Public Speaker will assist event organizers in promoting the presentations, workshops, and seminars they will be delivering. The Public Speaker will provide the event organizers with requested materials for marketing, such as headshots, biographies, speech headlines and presentation descriptions. The Public Speaker will let their circle of influence know about ticket availability and event agendas.

Interacting with Audience Members

The Public Speaker, especially those who work in a training capacity, are expected to interact with audience members after their speeches. Through these conversations, they gain speech feedback, which they incorporate into future presentations. They also answer individual questions from audience members.

 Public Speaker Skills and Qualifications

The successful candidate will possess the following essential skills:

Clear articulation The Public Speaker must be able to speak loudly, clearly, concisely without distracting verbal fillers and rambling sentences

Good body language  The Public Speaker shall use vocal tone, facial expression, body language, and timing to communicate their points. Persuasive use of body language accents words and transforms presentations from boring to interesting and engaging

Sales skills  Depending on the situation, the Public Speaker may need to generate sales and add allure and interest to products and services

Teaching skills The Public Speaker shall use adult learning principles to create educational presentations that are easy to understand

Memorization The Public Speaker will not rely on reading from notes or a screen but will memorize the majority of their presentations

Audience assessment skills  The successful Public Speaker will evaluate their audience regularly and adapt their presentation content to crowd receptiveness and characteristics. Sometimes a crowd is very responsive and the speaker will feed off of that. If the crowd is quiet and the speaker is at least somewhat engaging, it can make for a long session.

Interpersonal skills  The Public Speaker will interact with people continually and needs a positive demeanor and relationship skills to be effective at this job. Please don't be afraid to answer questions when the speaker asks, or, if the speaker has said that it is okay to ask questions during the talk, go ahead, there is bound to be somebody else with that same one.

Are you ready to apply?

So why did I bring all of this up?
I want folks to realize that there is a LOT that goes into presentations. Some speakers charge a lot of money and get fussed at for charging so much. The person booking the talk may have no idea what is really involved. A garden lecturer has to know about many different plants, diseases, pests, and other issues that are encountered in any particular garden. They never know what is going to be brought up.

I also wanted to mention something about the cost of plants. Just like everything else, the cost of plants is going up. There is a LOT that goes into that too! In the industry, we still get folks that say something like, "it's just a plant, WHY does it cost so much?" Well, I wrote an article about that too!
You can read it here: Behind The Bushes

The short summary of this entire article is this, Please be considerate of other people's time, efforts. and energy. Yes, they may thoroughly enjoy what they are doing, but there is still a lot of effort put into a good product, it should be rewarded. If you enjoyed or learned something from somebody you heard, pass the name along to others so they too can learn.

If you have any questions about this or any of my other articles, Please feel free to comment or send me an e-mail-
Or you can find me lurking around my website

Happy Growing!