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Bugs on my camellia

Can anyone tell me what these bugs are on my potted camellia bush?


Sorry for the poor photo--I had a hard time getting my phone to focus well enough on the tiny insects. I only noticed their presence this evening, and thought at first that they were aphids. But upon closer inspection, I noticed a few of them had wings, which I'm not sure is a trait that aphids possess? Correct me if I'm wrong.

Some background: I live in Sacramento (9b, I think) and bought this plant from a Home Depot.  When I first bought the plant, it was pretty twiggy but has grown noticeably over the month since I've owned it. It's growing in a pot on the balcony and receives some partial sun in the mid-morning, though the last few days have been overcast/rainy. In addition to the bugs, I noticed that some of the top leaves have developed a thin, sticky coating near the base, and the leaves that have the bugs are newer growth and curly. Aside from this, however, the rest of the plant looks fairly healthy.

photo (2)

In addition to this camellia, I've got an Asiatic lily, bougainvillea, and hydrangea that share the sunny/partly sunny corner of the balcony, along with some hellebores, a fern, an unknown woody plant, and some unknown yellow flowers I keep in a window box in the shadier parts. The only noticeable issue I've had with pests was a lone snail that nibbled on one of the hellebores (not sure how it got up into the balcony), and a couple of caterpillars that plagued the yellow flowers (and I am certain came with them when I first purchased the plants). I've picked those off, and otherwise everything else is doing well enough.

Are these bugs something I should be concerned about, and if so, does anyone know how I can get rid of them?

Thanks for the help! I haven't owned/grown plants in forever... partly because I don't seem to have a talent for keeping them alive. However, it's my dream to one day grow a large garden (I can dream...), so I'm trying to start somewhere. :)

x-posted to plants; edited for cuts


( 9 comments — Leave a comment )
May. 9th, 2013 03:16 am (UTC)
Those are aphids. They can be green or brown or grey, and the adults do often have wings.
May. 9th, 2013 03:18 am (UTC)
I made the mistake of bringing a plant into my sun porch that had maybe one aphid hiding on it, and it spread like crazy. I fought them all winter. It finally got warm enough to bring the plants outside and give them a good rinse, and now we're finally aphid free!
May. 9th, 2013 04:24 am (UTC)
Thanks for the confirmation! The wings threw me for a loop--I thought they might be gnats or something and didn't want to be too hasty about getting rid of them. I ended up doing as another commenter suggested and rinsed the leaves off in the shower. Good thing it's still a tiny plant. :)
May. 9th, 2013 03:18 am (UTC)
Definitely aphids
May. 9th, 2013 03:35 am (UTC)
Yup, those are aphids.

Rinse off as many as you can, gently without hurting the plant - I bring mine into the shower when they are attacked this badly. If you aren't squeamish, you can squeeze them - as many as you can - between your fingers, as well. Then you could make the following recipe (I got this version from here), and spray it on any remaining aphids. You can make it from lemon, as well, and if you grate the rind you get an even more concentrated spray - and don't skip adding 2-4 drops of soap! In cases of lighter attacks you can use only the spray without rinsing the plant first (it will keep 5-7 days in the fridge, by the way):

Orange Peel Spray
Oranges and other citrus fruit contain natural occurring pesticide compounds called limonene and linalool. These compounds can be used as a treatment for soft bodied pests such as aphids, fungus gnats, mealy bugs and as an ant repellant.
To Make: Pour 2 cups of boiling water over peelings of one orange. Let this steep for about 24 hours. Strain the mixture into a glass jar and toss the peels into the compost. Use this liquid as a spray mixing in a few drops of castile soap on target insects or on ants and their nests. Smells nice too!
May. 9th, 2013 04:33 am (UTC)
Thanks so much for the suggestion! I did as you said and rinsed the leaves off in the shower, brushing along each leaf and stem to make sure I got off as many as possible. Then I sent the boyfriend to the store for some oranges... Though come to think of it, I think I still have a couple of habanero peppers in the fridge to make the pepper spray version. (It probably doesn't smell as nice though.)

Do aphids prefer certain plants to others? I checked around and none of its neighbors seem to be infected, though perhaps I should spray them as well just in case...
May. 9th, 2013 07:09 am (UTC)
Has it really been 24 hours allready!? If you let it steep shorter time than that the solution will be too weak to do its job properly. Well done on giving the baby a shower in any case! That helps much, and she'll adore you for it!

Some plants are more aphid prone than others, but almost any plant can get them. I can't remember getting them on my camella, but my roses get them often.

The active ingredients work best if the solution is sprayed directly on the aphids, though, since it enters their bodies from all sides then, but you probably have lots of spray left, so spray ahead! Especially any kind of young shots or buds and the joint where a leaf meets the stem should get some.
May. 9th, 2013 07:29 am (UTC)
They are an extremely large and, according to this article, a highly successful group of families of organism.
It's worth reading all the way through, but "Effects On Plants" and "Control" are the last two sections of this article.

"Do aphids prefer certain plants to others? I checked around and none of its neighbors seem to be infected, though perhaps I should spray them as well just in case... "

They do. It may vary, too, by type of aphid (which in addition to green, brown and gray, also come in red, black, pink and nearly colorless) relative to the type of plant. Aphids are also sometimes called plant lice.

I had asked nearly three years ago on this comm what the soft-bodied red insects were which show up on my stand of goldenrod every spring:

In that entry, I stated that until that year, there had been no problem with aphids. Today, I think I just hadn't noticed them before. (It's goldenrod. Around here, the stuff grows wild. It flourishes in grand abundance any place it isn't rooted out. My goldenrod came with my house; I suspect a prior owner was growing it for either dyes or tea, or both. I keep meaning to harvest the flowers, myself, for dye. Meanwhile, I'd go past that stand of goldenrod uncounted times each day without actually looking at it.)
As soon as I read the word, "aphids" in response to my query, I began inspecting every other plant and shrub, and came up empty: only the goldenrod had these red aphids.
I do want to mention, though, that the aphids appear right before the lacewings hatch out---and lacewings eat aphids. Nature always has a plan. (And the one and only year I waged war on the aphids, I found scores of dead lacewing bodies still clinging to the window screens, window sills, painted siding....) As long as those red aphids---and it is always red aphids on that goldenrod---stay there and don't get into other plants, and since they don't seem to be causing the goldenrod any distress, I'm not going to interfere with Nature's grand plan for them. The lacewings can gorge on aphids.

It is said aphids prefer nasturtiums to virtually any other and every other plant here in North America, so some gardeners use nasturtiums as a trap plant. The nasturtiums, leaves, flowers, stems and seeds, are edible, too. Just wash the aphids off, first.
Interestingly, nasturtiums seem to be completely untroubled by the presence of aphids. (I've only ever seen black aphids on the nasturtiums I had in the garden where I was living at that time; I have nasturtiums planted this year, so we'll see what happens. Black aphids on nasturtiums, and red ones on goldenrod.)
I should mention, however, that aphids can and too often do spread plant diseases, which is another reason in addition to their sucking life out of plants for wanting to keep them under control.

And let me be clear about this: If that camellia of yours were mine, I'd be doing everything I could to keep it free of aphids and any other pest. They're such gorgeous plants! I wouldn't be taking with that camellia the more casual attitude I've had with my goldenrod or with nasturtiums, neither of which I would feel too bad about just ripping out and discarding if I had to do that. Losing a lovely camellia plant like yours would make me heartsick.

May. 9th, 2013 02:50 pm (UTC)
I don't know much about camelia's but I suspect that you can use Safers Soap on them to get rid of the aphids.


I use it on my Miniature rose, the boston ferns, and my wildflowers successfully.
( 9 comments — Leave a comment )


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