The other day I was wondering if readers in America could obtain my books, if they were deluded enough to wish to.
I checked on Amazon. I know many people may not wish to shop there, but it is an indicator for authors.
And what I discovered shocked me – I have been accused of Copyright Infringement!
I do know why. My publishers, for some reason that I have never understood, bought the rights to the title and maybe the cover from the publishers of an American book. And then asked me to write a very different book. It’s about garden pests, not just squirrels. (I’m afraid it somewhat undermines the notion that house plants always give pleasure…)
So I slaved over all the pests and produced my very own book. And you have all been thinking I’m a thief!
You can’t even get it on Amazon in the USA unless you start by searching for me. But here it is. It’s a best seller in the UK.
You might enjoy the story of the Launch (on the river Wye)
So, feeling sorry for you poor deprived people who have not felt able to buy a copy and have a good read, I thought I’d give you a free chapter. I studied the index..
And decided you might like:
Red spider mite
There is not a lily pad floating on the river but has been riddled by insects. Almost every shrub and tree has its gall, oftentimes esteemed its chief ornament and hardly to be distinguished from the fruit. If misery loves company, misery has company enough. Now, at midsummer, find me a perfect leaf or fruit. Henry Thoreau “The Writings of Henry David Thoreau” (1893) (Note – the publisher removed all my carefully researched excellent quotes)
If you find cobwebs on your precious greenhouse or conservatory plants, don’t think kindly thoughts about spiders generously weaving webs to catch houseflies and keep them off your sandwiches. Closer inspection will tell you that disaster has arrived in the form of the dreaded red spider mite. Try a spray of clean water in one of those ubiquitous plastic hand sprays and you will probably find the whole plant is covered with webs, suddenly and horrifyingly visible.
If you have a hand magnifying glass – an essential tool for those gardeners who wish to be well and truly scared by what crawls and flies around the world looking for trouble – examine the leaf, especially where the leaf meets stem. You may see a little – er…- red spidery thing. (That’s why it’s called that). It has eight legs, I understand, (I haven’t stayed around counting) and does come in other, collectible colours. It likes it warm and dry, just like we do.
I fought this creature for years. I no doubt started by just trying to wash it off, first with plain water then with the addition of washing up liquid, which is always worth a try. All those webs do look as if they would be readily displaced by a fierce spray of hose pipe and it’s very satisfying to imagine the devastation you are causing in red spider land. Not a bit of it. They clearly put on their swimming costumes and have a great shower, washing themselves vigorously if you happen to have also sprayed with washing up liquid.. This is sometimes suggested as effective if you keep at it every other day. That’s just about right for the spider’s shower and I’m sure they are very grateful for the hotel quality service. I wouldn’t count on it to encourage them to pack their bags.
I think you could leave a plant under water for a week and the bugs would just take the opportunity to learn to swim. I did try plunging the plants in their pots into the garden pond, only to find that compost floats. I then had to spend time trying to fish the resulting muck off the surface of the pond, feeling an idiot, and also finding no sign that the mites had minded.
Insecticides! (BAD: sorry. I was desperate)
I then tried all the insecticides I could find, from legal and benign to illegal and smuggled home from a friendly and sympathetic nursery person who had a shed load of now forbidden goodies. Desperation leads to desperate acts. As if it made any difference. It didn’t – just scared me to death. You are told, cheeringly, that they may become immune to any effective insecticide, should you ever find one, so don’t do premature rejoicing if you do manage to zap them with a poison.
It’s useful to know too that some insecticides only kill them at particular points in their life cycle. So the escapees may cheerfully pop up again just when you thought you’d got them..
I then tried the once much vaunted biological control. You used to hear an awful lot about this, but it seems ominously quieter of late. Perhaps the pest eaters have been discovered by eaters of pest eaters. I have had other, extensive experience of pest eaters (see whitefly) without much success. On this occasion I discovered, after some correspondence with pest eater providers, that I may have an very unusual monster red spider mite, indigestible to all known pest eaters. Lucky me – you now know why we call certain glasshouses ‘conservatories’ – they are conserving precious and unusual pests.
I examined the plants again. And, yes, truly I did not need a hand glass, though I am short sighted which always makes seeing close to somewhat easier. But I could see my precious charges quite clearly. They didn’t try to hide, so unafraid of me they were. I’m sure one of them used two of its eight legs to give me a V sign.
I next had the bright idea that they might find a steam bath a bit much. I bought a steam cleaner – persuaded by the notion that I would then be able to clean the house with absolutely no effort, as advertised. It didn’t remove the glued on grease from my cooker, but, hey! It might frighten the mites. I dragged it upstairs and filled it up with water, heated it to steaming and poked it out of the windows into the conservatory, to get a good angle on those critical meeting places of leaf and stem where the mites appeared to hide. I wondered if my plants would mind being steamed, but reasoned that they would thank me if it rid them of sap sucking insects.
It was quite a satisfying exercise, spraying visible ultra hot steam everywhere where I could imagine the nasties lurking. I didn’t imagine I would like it if it happen to me. And it must surely penetrate those protective spidery webs?
The results were not instant. There were some days when I was able to go and examine and imagine an absence of little lurking spiders. Long enough indeed for me to repeat the treatment, imagining that the reappearing pests were simply ones I had missed. Fat chance. They loved it. They had checked themselves into a sauna – what’s not to love?
Well, let’s assume that you have the common or garden red spider mite. The bad news is that there are garden versions, but I have not yet encountered (or maybe not noticed) them. It must be possible if you have, that biological control control might work? In this case, you purchase a nasty little thing called Phytoseiulus persimilis that eats the eggs and some version of the hatched mite for breakfast. Ominously you are told you need it to be kept warm – over 21 degrees centigrade, which is happy room temperature for us mortals too, though often quite unaffordable except in summer.. – or it won’t eat enough or reproduce quicker than its breakfast. After all, one mighty spider mite can produce 13 thousand babies a month, and each egg becomes a breeding adult within eight day at that temperature.
That there is discussion of what insecticides may be used with it has to make your heart sink. But it’s worth a try, if only because it is such a pleasant fantasy that your pest is being eaten up by a voracious predator.
So what did I do? I gave up. I discovered succulents, which appeared (and still appear) to be immune. I do, now and then, try a flowering plant and I do discover that the bloody things are still somehow surviving, as ominous signs begin the reappear. So it’s a short term thing, flowery plants in the conservatory. Bulbs are that, wintering elsewhere then flowering fairly briefly, so I do do tulips. I freed myself from the notion that conservatory plants have to be tender some time ago so various cheerful additions make their way in and out. Keeping them mobile is the trick.
And garden versions? Well why not go and look? They can infest roses, daylilies, chaenomeles, apples, blackberries, box, juniper and – as we have noticed – ‘any plant grown indoors’. (wikihow) And in case you think you might get vicious with them and do some revengeful squashing, they do stain fabrics and your wall decoration.
Advice you’ll like
Don’t get the larger variety of spider mite.
Advice you could do without
Use a professional pest controller. Oh?
Most broad-spectrum insecticides will control Red Spider Mite. (not)
Keep a generous space between plants to stop mites jumping from one plant to another. (we all do that, don’t we?)
Make sure that you really clean out your conservatory properly.
They hide in cracks and crevices in walls and greenhouses in winter.
Spider mites can sometimes give the plant hypertoxic shock. Blimey.
Well, that’s it folks. If you want any more you will just have to hunt it down.