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anna_in_quebec

Protecting from NBF

anna_in_quebec
12 years ago

Having lost 3 bulbs this year from Narcissus Bulb Fly, I am already trying to think of ways to prevent losing more next year when I bring them outside. Assuming that the larvae usually enters from the bottom along the basal plate (most of the time?), might it be a good idea to spread a 1/2 inch layer of perlite over the soil? Might that be somewhat of a deterrent? Thanks for all your advice.

Comments (31)

  • kaboehm (zone 9a, TX USA)
    12 years ago

    I use a systemic insecticide. Had hoped to avoid it, but decided as long as they were outside, it was ok. I was going to try and get away from chemical warfare, but have to make an exception in this case!
    K

  • jodik_gw
    12 years ago

    I'm not sure I have advice to offer... I was kind of paranoid after seeing the damage done to some bulbs and reading about these pests and how destructive they can be... I kept all my hippeastrums indoors, and I solved the light issue by installing more lighting.

    Honestly, I don't think a layer of anything, besides sharp gravel or the use of diatomaceous earth, would deter the little buggers. But of course, I could be wrong. A systemic insecticide could work, or perhaps covering your group of potted bulbs with something like mosquito netting...

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  • Noni Morrison
    12 years ago

    Systemic insecticide works for me. I do not use it on anything else, but I will protect my investment in bulbs this way, seeing as they are not edible anyhow. I use a systemic rose formula and mix it in the soil I plant them in. They are repotted in fresh soil when they come in for the winter and I do not use anything in that, but give them a careful check over and clean up before chilling and replanting.

    That is what I am just geting started on now, due to 3 weeks off with bronchitis and pnuemonia. Thank goodness I have my Maguires Amies to tide me over!

    Oh my gosh! Just looked up at my display shelf and that beautiful Emerald Star that opened the color of a lime peel 2 days ago is a huge lime tinted white with ...yes, a green star in the center! And Whispering Wind should open today! And goodness me...Elaine Grace is developing a dark pink star in her gorgeus center! Camara time, when the sleeping dog in my lap wakes up..(Priorities right?)

  • anna_in_quebec
    Original Author
    12 years ago

    Well, with animals around, I would feel very hesitant to use chemicals - if something happened to any of them, I'd wonder, "was that the cause?" I lost my beautiful Tim just last week - a sudden respiratory decline, and even so I fear what may have caused it. He was my little garden helper:
    {{gwi:335709}}

    (Sigh) - he's on my mind a lot.

  • salpal
    12 years ago

    Anna- so sorry about your Tim. How old was he? I have a kitty garden helper too and would hate to lose him.

    Liza and Kristi- Do you guys use something like a systemic for house plants, small pellets of Imidacloprid? If so, wouldn't that seem safer than a spray or something Anna? If it is mixed into the soil of a potted bulb, wouldn't just the soil and drain water be poisonous?(And if your kitty doesn't dig in the pot or drink the water from the bottom, wouldn't it be pretty safe? to the kitty anyway?)

    I had obtained some systemic houseplant pellets, thinking I could try use them on mites- they turn out not to- it's for insects- duh! I haven't had any issues with NBF but am curious in case I ever do. Kristi and Liza, when you use the systemic when do you first apply it? Does it kill the NBF larva when they try enter the bulb? Have you two had NBF before using the systemic but not after?

    Anna what a bummer to have those danged bulb flies! It does seem to me a systemic might be safer for your cats than some choices. Kristi and Liza- please tell us your methods! I won't use it unless I have to, but I'm interested in your methods. Thanks!
    Sally

  • e36yellowm3
    12 years ago

    Anna, so sorry to hear. I know it's painful to lose pets. I agree, with kids and pets you have to really be careful with how you use pesticides, but with this nasty bug there doesn't seem to be much choice. From what I've read at the site below, the fly lays eggs on the leaves and the larvae crawl down and into the bulb. I'm not sure any change in the soil would help. Alana

    Here is a link that might be useful: Bulb fly info

  • anna_in_quebec
    Original Author
    12 years ago

    Thanks Alana and Sally.
    Yes, I've read that article, but note that "The larva crawls down the leaf to the bulb where it normally enters through a hole it makes in the basal plate and begins to feed on the bulb. Although less common, the larva can enter the bulb through a hole it makes in the side of the bulb or through the very tip." IN THE BASAL PLATE - which makes sense because each time I found hole in or very near the basal plate. So I figured if I make at least that route inaccessible or close to, I may be ahead of the game. Or might it keep moving til it finds a "weak spot". Damn - I was so pleased to see the size of the bulbs after summering outdoors, and then I heard about the darn NBF - so depressing.

  • jodik_gw
    12 years ago

    Oh no... dear Anna, I'm so sorry to hear of your loss. Your beautiful Tim reminds me very much of our little helper, Harry. They have the same coloring and the same intelligent eyes. I never know exactly what to say... I know you must miss him very much... (Hugs and silent support)

    Before I bring in my Crinum and other potted tender plants, I un-pot and check for pests and damage... then, I add a bit of granular systemic once they're potted again... just in case.

    You can never be too careful with insecticides... we used a poison to help eradicate some of the mole over-population here, and I got sick from just touching my husband's sleeve, and he was the one handling the poison with gloved hands. I can't recall what poison it was, but it comes in the shape of worms, which moles like to eat. You place the worms in their tunnel system, and they ingest the poison. None of our dogs can get to the areas we used it in, and I would have preferred to not use it... but we are overrun with moles.

    Even cedar mulch or bedding can harm animals... there's something in the cedar that damages their liver and kidneys, and eventually, their systems shut down and they expire. Cocoa hulls are not good mulch to use where pets are present, either. Unprocessed chocolate is poison.

    I wish I could get by without using any type of chemical... but some things require a little help. There's just no way around it.

    In any case... I hope you will feel better in time, Anna... the cycle of life is sometimes very hard to accept... (Extra Hugs)

  • kaboehm (zone 9a, TX USA)
    12 years ago

    Dear Anna, so sorry to hear of Tim's passing.

    I put the chemicals more or less under the surface. I sprinkle them on, work them in and then top with some fresh soil. Like Lizalilly, I repot anything that comes into the house without and chemical additives. I too hoped to eliminate chemicals in my home, but the bulbs are the one exception. I use the Bayer product (I think it may be for roses).

    Hugs from Spring Anna....
    Kristi

  • Noni Morrison
    12 years ago

    I sprinkle a layer of Rose and Flower Systemic on the bed before planting out my bulbs for the summer. I then top it with several inches of fresh potting soil, and plant the roots down where the systemic is available to them. I did have NArcissus fly damage the year before I started doing this and have had none since. I loosely cover the bulbs with Insect protective summer weight garden fabric to protect them from the change in sunlight and other insect damage until they get the the systemic absorbed by their roots. Oh yes, I do water the bulbs in to get the process started as soon as possible. I beleive the systemic lasts about 3 months which is about how long my bulbs stay outside, so there is no detectable smell left when I dig them up. THis year I did have some slug damage so guess it had worn off. I guess the slug did not know the plant itself was toxic! But that was just one of the slimy fellows who had climbed the cement block edges.

    I dug 5 nursery flats piled high with bulbs this year. Just finished cleaning the first one tonight. Bulbs looked pretty good, though some had sections of rot, but no insect damage. Did have to cut one into 2 pieces because the center had rotted, but no sign of insect damage, and 2 of the sections had roots and the other had a bit of basal plate. I think my mix let them stay too wet this cool summer. I need to find big bags of a soil mix that does not retain water. (also, we had a malfunctioning sprinkler on a timer that inadvertantly soaked the amaryllis a few times so I am not surprised at a little rot, just saddened by it.

  • jodik_gw
    12 years ago

    We were supposed to have our little greenhouse erected and functional by now... but it didn't happen. There were other issues around here that needed addressing first... like the septic system, some electrical work, etc... so the greenhouse got pushed aside. But once that goes up, it will make a great place to summer over my bulbs.

    I use the Bayer Rose and Garden systemic, too. I like the granular form, and once watered in, it seems to work well. I try to grow things outdoors as organically as I can, but our roses are too precious to leave without protection of some kind. Early in spring, I sprinkle the required amount at the base of every rose we have, and it protects them from aphids and other pests, which we have an abundance of!

    Next year, we'll be trying something different... using companion plants to help keep pests off the roses. Certain plants either repel or attract certain pests, and those will help keep a good portion of the roses from being devoured... I hope!

    The systemic also contains plant food, so the roses get a nice boost as well as being protected from insects.

    For the remainder of the growing season, we rely on composted manure from the horses and goats and foul, duck poop soup from the ducks' used swimming pool water, and the natural breakdown of the mulch. We also throw banana peels under the roses, and shovel some compost from our piles into the gardens.

    We also use a bit of fish emulsion on certain garden areas... we try to be as organic as possible. But that's outdoors, in the gardens... organic fertilizers do not work well in a container environment.

  • salpal
    12 years ago

    Liza and Jodi, what is in that rose systemic... since slugs aren't insects- mollusks- it might be an insecticide. Since I grow in pots I would probably not take mine out of the soil when I bring them in.

    Speaking of pets, I had one friend this year lose a cat to lily ingestion and another lose a dog to mushrooms. Both went into renal failure, isn't that weird.

    I would be depressed to have NBF it's bad enough to realize this year that I MUST not do any more breeding. My plants I'm bringing in are taking up as much space as I would leave for my spring plantings. No more wild pollination for me, for now.

  • jodik_gw
    12 years ago

    I'd have to go out in the rain in my pajamas to read the label right now, but if Liza doesn't have her bottle handy, I'll bring mine in later today and read off the ingredients.

    I read it all when I first began using it, but I can't recall what the active ingredients are. I just know that it works great at getting rid of aphids on tender rose tips!

    I'll check this thread later today... and if no one has answered, I'll post the active ingredients.

  • Noni Morrison
    12 years ago

    BAD NEWS!

    I have found 8 bulbs so far with larva in them and the middles rotted! I have to take back everything I said about the systemic. Either my bottle is too old (Probably 8 or 9 years, or I needed to reapply it mid summer. SO far I have been able to save halvess or at least a section of roots of each damaged bulb, but I am not even half way through cleaning them. I still have 3 trays left (About 18 bulbs per tray.) IN several cases it was my biggest most healthy looking bulbs too, Like Lady Jane and Elvas.

    Now, with the bulbs I have cut away the damage from, how do I treat the rooted pieces that are left? SO far, I have them air drying. My thought would be that once they are calloused over, I powder them with fungicide and replant them in an extremely well draining mix, and keep a close eye on them for rot?

    So, my plans for next summer are totally up in the air. I think I should not plant them back in the dedicated bed for another 3 years to make sure the NBF does not live on in an undetected bit of bulb. I am thinking maybe of building a screen room addition on the greenhouse I hope to have, with entry only through the green house and a screened door. I think I would still use the systemic as back up.

  • anna_in_quebec
    Original Author
    12 years ago

    Sigh. SO sorry to hear that, Lizalily. Somehow, for next year I hope to "construct" something using floating row covers (see link). Apparently they let in rain and sunlight, but serves as a good insect barrier. Even if it doesn't keep out ALL NBf's, it may serve to protect from severe damage. I am thinking a simple wooden structure (or 2), attaching the row covers on all sides. Please, don't anyone tell me this won't work, as it's my only idea!

    Here is a link that might be useful: Lee Valley's Floating Row Cover

  • jodik_gw
    12 years ago

    I didn't get a chance to read the back of the systemic bottle yet... but I wanted to say how bad I feel for your bulb losses, Lizalily.

    After I heard my first story of bulb loss from this particular pest, I got a little paranoid. I've been keeping all my bulbs indoors, and bumping my light situation with more fixtures. I would be rather devastated with such loss... I do love my bulbs, and I've invested a lot in having them... money, time, and all the extras.

    What I need to do is find out more about this pest, and what actual chemicals can help... before I risk a summer outside.

    Anna, I think if you're really careful with its use, that covering might just work. It's worth a shot.

  • salpal
    12 years ago

    Anna- I think that sounds like a good idea, as long as the little SOB's can't get in under the wooden thing. You must let us know if this works.

    Liza- so sorry!!! What a pain! Plus I've heard they try to get into the greenhouses too. I battle cucumber beetles, Japanese beetles, slugs (not all of these on hippeastrum- thankfully) but I get this nasty killer instinct going- DIE BUGS DIE!!!(smashes slug with stick)

    We try so hard to have beautiful plants and it just doesn't seem fair to have these rotten pests.

  • phoenixryan
    12 years ago

    Liza, so very sorry about your NBF problems. I use the liquid concentrate form of the Bayer systemic. I've not had NBF problems, but using the liquid concentrate has worked very well for other pests. I even use it indoors, where once you've saturated the soil in the pot, you don't have those pesky fungus gnats.

    Because I have cats, too, I am leery of using the granules, as I could just see one of the cats batting a stray granule across the kitchen floor. With the liquid stuff, I don't let overflow accumulate in the saucers and drip pans for the plants.

    Anna, I'm so sorry for the loss of your Tim. My kitties are all reaching their 'golden' years and I know that it will happen sooner rather than later, but I so dread it. My heart goes out to you.

    Phoenix Ryan

  • anna_in_quebec
    Original Author
    12 years ago

    Thanks so much everyone for you input. For a long time I've been worried about the pollen from the amaryllis which is very toxic to cats. Ryan - how do you handle this? The ones with "ripe" pollen are always well out of the way of the cats' areas, but I've recently read that snipping off the anthers is safer for those with cats, and also prolongs the life of the blooms. I realize such talk to hybrizers is blasphemy, but maybe you, Ryan, can chime in, or anyone else. Does anyone else remove these?

  • phoenixryan
    12 years ago

    I actually hadn't heard that, Anna. But fortunately my cats just aren't interested in them in any way. I don't really leave them anywhere the cat's spend time, mostly because I don't want the cats to knock them over or break the scape. My little boy isn't always the most careful about where and what he does, and at 17lbs he's a literal bull in the china shop.

    But going forward I'll think less about the preservation of the plant, and think more about the preservation of the cat. :-)

  • jodik_gw
    12 years ago

    None of my bulbs are where the dogs can get to them, and there are no cats indoors, so I'm pretty safe. If I did have to worry, though, I'd clip off the anthers... but the pollen can be saved, so breeding wouldn't really be an issue. And actually, it would be 100% clear who the parents were, always... no flies or bees or buzzing insects could help... an occasional bee or fly does get inside!

  • Noni Morrison
    12 years ago

    I finished cleaning and trimming my bulbs on Friday. I think it was only a total of about 10-12 bulbs...3 smaller ones lost but they were ones that had never done well. (This was out of a total of 130 bulbs) The others were big enough to cut in 2 or 3 pieces and had roots on each one so this week I will plant them up and see if they can go ahead and grow new bulbs. The only two I could cry for are my Lady Jane and one of the beautiful "Not Lilac Wonder"s (Probably Amigo). THose bulbs were huge and had beautiful flowers last year. I may have to break down and buy a new Lady Jane but I have a couple of other ("Maybe Amigos"). I hope to get over to the city this week where I can get some other options in growth mediums to pot my bulbs up in.

  • jodik_gw
    12 years ago

    I know it must be very disappointing to lose any bulbs to Narcissus Bulb Fly, but on the plus side, you now have room for a few new choices, maybe? I've been starting to look around at what is available this year, and I've run into a few new varieties that I simply must have!

    I lost an Apple Blossom... get this... it was growing indoors! How do you lose a bulb that gets taken care of the exact same way as all your other bulbs, you might ask? I'm not really sure... it was a weak bulb, is what I'm thinking. It never gained size or recovered from the first bloom it gave me. It just got smaller and smaller... and I checked the roots, and they never amounted to much, no matter what I did. I tried almost everything. I used rooting hormone, the heat mat, changed medium, gave it more light... nothing. It just withered away.

    So... I'm on the lookout this year for a new, and strong, Apple Blossom bulb. I had two, but one withered away and died, as I described above, and the other one is on its way to doing the same, I think. It's not doing much of anything, even though all my other bulbs are doing fine.

    Has anyone else noticed a particular bulb variety, or place of bulb purchase, where the bulb doesn't seem to thrive?

  • Noni Morrison
    12 years ago

    Ah Jodi, I have 47 new bulbs on order. No way I can keep the numbers down! I buy most of them in 3 each from Van Engelen and Colorblends. THe new bulbs bloom for the Christmas season bouquets, then the older bulbs kick in just about the time the new purchases finish. I have no doubts that I will find more I have to have before the end of the season too! White FLower Farms has a Peach Parfait I would love to get except their shipping is so high on top of their high price in bulbs that it would cost me close to $40 for one! If they ever have free shipping I will bite fast! Got an order in to RC also for their "new this year" ones. THere is nothing that cheers the winter like a new set of bulbs arriving to watch!

    My Garden Pal got her order from Van Engelen with her amaryllis. She asked for it to be sent as soon as possible, where as I just ordered last July and have not received anything yet. Now I know what to do next year.

  • beachplant
    12 years ago

    Sorry to hear about Tim. I have 3 cats of my own that follow me all over the garden, one gray like Tim but with white toes. And one of the neighborhood strays follows me outside of the fence. The only problem is they all seem to think I'm out there to pet them!

    I don't use any pesticides, systemic or otherwise because of environmental issues, my bulbs all end up in the garden. We saw 3 different types of caterpillars out in the garden on Sunday including monarch and Gulf Coast frittal...(how do you spell that butterfly?). Plus lots of lady bugs. I owe it to them, and future generations, NOT to use anything toxic.
    And EVERYTHING is toxic to cats, they have a weird metabolism. Things toxic to nothing on the planet are toxic to cats. I lost one of mine to the tainted cat food a few years ago.
    Tally HO!

  • chazparas
    11 years ago

    Regarding the NBF...
    floating covers will not work. The mature fly will crawl around on the ground to find a way in! I see them landing on the screens to my sun room looking for a way in to my bulbs. If you are going to plant the bulbs in the ground they have to be completely encased with mesh of some kind dug down into the ground around them! I'm still looking into building a screen box of somekind to protect mine so I can once again put them out for a summer. The problem is the box has to be attractive or Chase will never let me put it where I'll remember to water! It's october 27th and we've only had light frost up till now although it has snowed already and the damned NBF are still active! I've seen them on the asters along with honeybees and bumble bees. Thankfully it's cold enough that the wasps have been knocked down though. Neem did not work on the NBF, I'm moving on to stronger chemicals, thankfully my cat does not have any desire to enter the plant room it's a little too cold for his comfort! LOL

  • anna_in_quebec
    Original Author
    11 years ago

    Oh Chaz, don't depress me! I was thinking of creating an "all-around" enclosure - so the fly cannot come in from the bottom either. I may need to have something custom-made, as I realize that I have close to a $1000 investment. Just this weekend, checking over my bulbs in the basement, I was saddened to see my beloved Orange Souvereign a victim of the NBF and a goner. This season I have lost 5, and there may be more, although I did a basic "squeeze and feel" around the base of the bulb with my fingers for most. . But how does one easily distinguish the honey bee from the NBF? They look so similar - is there a quick sure-fire way to tell?

    You know, I had never heard about this pest when my obsession began - and I never realized I'd have to take the bulbs outside to ensure subsequent blooms. Had I known of both these "obstacles", might I have sought "treatment" for my affliction? Hmm...

  • chazparas
    11 years ago

    Anna, when they land it's pretty easy to tell the difference. The head and legs are very different from the honey bees and bumble bees, they can look like either depending on which NBF you have, I'm lucky enough to have more than one kind, ugh. The also often will fly low to the ground or circle slowly around hyacinths, daffs, or other members of the amaryll family even when there are no flowers and only foliage. Very different from what you would see a bee doing. They seem slow and clumsy until you go to swat, then the buggers are damned quick!
    I think burying the mesh or screen a couple of inches into the ground would do fine, but if there is any space for them to get in they will. And I'd have to make sure they were safe when opening to handle/check/groom the plants.

  • Noni Morrison
    11 years ago

    I don't know if this will work financially, but I am thinking when we pour the pad for my greenhouse we should extend it out a ways and bolt down a framework for an attractive little screenhouse on the end of it. I could then build sets of shelves up the walls and leave the bulbs to grow over the summer, with a hose right there for watering.This would also make a great place to harden off my garden starts when the amaryllis are still inside, and if I could just make it big enough for a lawn chair or two it would make a great place to spend the summer evenings, since we have no covered porches to screen. I would make it with entrance through the greenhouse I think which would help keep out the bugs. Chaz, whould Chase approve of a nice little attractive screenhouse where you two could sit out in the evenings in summer? You could make it quite ornamental I should think! Maybe like a tropical hut of some sort?

  • chazparas
    11 years ago

    Anna, I was thinking a temporary "all-around enclosure" thing for now. Screened at the bottom as well as the top and sides.

    Liza, right now we have a screen house but it is like a fancy tent that has zipper doors and no bottom, way to easy for the flys to get into. To put something more permanent we have to get a permit from the town and I don't want to deal with them until I can get Chase to agree to a greenhouse with an attached screen room like you talk about, that has been on my mind for quite sometime! But mine would be at the back of the house and not the entrance so the bugs wouldn't get in when I enter and I'd have a chance to stop them in the greenhouse if they did. Hitting the lotto would be a good thing for me about this time in my life...LOL

  • jodik_gw
    11 years ago

    This is the one thing that prevents me from giving my bulbs what I know they really need. I'm so paranoid about this insect, which is surprising, since not that much bothers me!

    I'm not really sure if Narcissus Bulb Fly is prevalent in my area of the country. I see all sorts of bees and bee-like things flying around all summer, and I would hate to take a chance, only to find out that they're here in droves!

    I do have a few potted bulbs that summer outdoors... Society Garlic in both plain-leaf and variegated types, Crinum, and some Glads... but I'm not sure if the NBF like those plant types.

    We have taken some bulb hits in the gardens, but I don't know if squirrels or other critters are responsible for that, or if it's due to the NBF, or something else. I wish I knew.

    We've had this Harbor Freight greenhouse kit sitting in the garage for almost 2 years, but the plans keep changing. Now, there are plans to build a larger greenhouse at the same time the new horse barn goes up. It's not my property, or I'd already have a small greenhouse, and there wouldn't be any horses. They are nice, but they're also money pits.

    Once we finally get a greenhouse, it will afford me the opportunity to get my bulbs outdoors, sort of... at least they will be able to get more sunshine. And we'll probably keep the greenhouse pest free with some sort of insecticide regimen.

    Until then, my bulbs remain safely closeted indoors. They might be lacking in the sunlight department, but at least I'm sure they're not housing NBF!

    I wish everyone good fortune in their quest for protective bulb housing. Screen houses with closed bottom and edges would help immensely, I'm sure.