• Post Reply
  • Bookmark Topic Watch Topic
  • New Topic

White fluffy moldy looking thing on my orange tree

 
sonny gonza
Posts: 13
  • Mark post as helpful
  • send pies
  • Quote
  • Report post to moderator
hi, I have recently noticed my orange tree to have these white fluffy looking things on the underside of its leaves. Ants seem to be drawn to it and i have a couple of ants on my orange tree now aswell. what is this and why does it occur? it looks just like in the picture attached
orrr.jpg
[Thumbnail for orrr.jpg]
 
Marco Banks
Pie
Posts: 293
Location: Los Angeles, CA
20
books chicken food preservation forest garden hugelkultur trees urban woodworking
  • Likes 3
  • Mark post as helpful
  • send pies
  • Quote
  • Report post to moderator
Looks like whitefly. It starts with larvae on the underside of leaves. They have scale-like bodies. As they mature, they leave this sticky web-like mass of white stuff. Eventually, they'll completely defoliate the tree if their population gets big enough and if you let them. There are a couple of ways to take care of this.

If there are not very many, you can pluck those whole leaves off and drop them into a bucket of water.

I've seen some people use a little hand-held vacuum cleaner like a Dust Buster to go around and suck the little guys off. Never done it myself, but it sounds interesting. I wouldn't want to treat a whole orchard this way. If your neighbors raise their eyebrows at you vacuuming the tree, just smile and wave.

A strong stream of water will blast them off. You need to do this regularly. It really doesn't take care of the adults, but it's a way of knocking the larvae off. If you do it every couple of days for a couple of weeks, you should take care of the problem. Once they establish those sticky webs, however, its hard to wash that off.

Some people hang sticky insect traps to catch the adults. I don't like this, as it catches both good and bad bugs, and I want all the good ones I can get.

For long term prevention, plant cosmos and Queen Anne’s lace nearby. These flowers encourage the presence of natural predators, such as lacewings, bigeyed bugs and minute pirate bugs. I've got stinging nettles and dill also under my citrus. Ladybugs like those, and I like to eat them as well. Ladybugs won't take care of whitefly, but they do a number of the aphids. As with all things permaculture, the more diversity you can grow in your ecosystem, the more good predator bugs you'll attract and keep in your garden. I used to have terrible problems with leaf-cutters and aphids, but now there are so many good insects out there, it's not a problem.

Good luck.

 
sonny gonza
Posts: 13
  • Mark post as helpful
  • send pies
  • Quote
  • Report post to moderator
thank you for your awesome post, I appreciate it. Still curious about a few things.

what part do the ants play in this drama?

and, I didn't use to have this problem, it just came about out of nowhere, I want to know what the root cause for this is. am I to be blamed for this? too much water, too little maybe?

according to the principals of permaculture, a plant that thrives in ideal conditions will be healthy enough to fend for it self by synthetizing toxic alkaloids into its leaves protecting it from pests, correct? so with this in mind, my plant is not thriving. I'm not as interested in treating the symptoms as I am to figuring out the root cause of the problem to prevent it from ocurring at all.
 
M. Korsz
Posts: 21
  • Mark post as helpful
  • send pies
  • Quote
  • Report post to moderator
You may want to look into Neem Oil for them. It is an organic alternative that is supposed to be pretty good. I don't know a ton about it yet and just found out about it recently. You mix it with water and a little soap and spray it on the leaves. It takes a few days, but there is a natural chemical in the neem oil that reacts with the insects which inhibits them from eating, flying and reproducing. One thing to look out for is make sure you get the real stuff....get cold pressed 100% neem oil that has not been processed. I just got a 12oz bottle from amazon for about $16 and you only need a few tablespoons to mix in the water. Just an idea you can look into. Do your own research to see if it will work on your problem, but it seems to be a good product to use. Good luck!
 
Marco Banks
Pie
Posts: 293
Location: Los Angeles, CA
20
books chicken food preservation forest garden hugelkultur trees urban woodworking
  • Mark post as helpful
  • send pies
  • Quote
  • Report post to moderator
sonny gonza wrote:thank you for your awesome post, I appreciate it. Still curious about a few things.

what part do the ants play in this drama?

and, I didn't use to have this problem, it just came about out of nowhere, I want to know what the root cause for this is. am I to be blamed for this? too much water, too little maybe?

according to the principals of permaculture, a plant that thrives in ideal conditions will be healthy enough to fend for it self by synthetizing toxic alkaloids into its leaves protecting it from pests, correct? so with this in mind, my plant is not thriving. I'm not as interested in treating the symptoms as I am to figuring out the root cause of the problem to prevent it from ocurring at all.


Ants farm other insects. They pick up aphids and carry them to tender young leaves, where they attack and begin sucking fluid from the leaves. The ants, in turn, suck the aphid butts. I'm not making this up. They get nectar from the aphids. Ants are pretty bright in this regard. I don't know if they do this with whitefly, or if they are just opportunistic and will find where they whitefly adults lay their eggs, but I would assume that the ants are doing the same thing—tapping into the nectar being pulled from the leaves.

Yes, a healthy plant will fend for itself, but sometimes environmental conditions are out of balance and it takes a bit of intervention for a while until things get into balance. Just a little bit of intervention will keep the whitefly from overwhelming the young plant. It's not just the plant producing chemical defenses for itself, but its also the presence of companion plants in the guild around it, as well as a healthy population of predator insects living nearby as well. All three will assist the tree in fending for itself. So until it gets established (as well as the greater ecosystem is established) it may need an occasional help.

Mark Shepard's STUN method not withstanding, a little bit of TLC when the tree and guild are young will go a long way toward helping it establish long-term health.
 
sonny gonza
Posts: 13
  • Mark post as helpful
  • send pies
  • Quote
  • Report post to moderator
thanks for your reply. I have been doing lots of researching on the matter and am now 99% sure that its not whiteflies but mealybugs that have infested my orange tree, it is said that ants protect the mealybug from predators inturn they feed on the gooey sweet nectar that is secreted from the mealybug AKA honeydew. it is advised to prevent ant access to the tree while also planting plants that attract predator insects that feed on the mealybugs, like the green/brown lacewing, ladybugs and others.
 
  • Post Reply
  • Bookmark Topic Watch Topic
  • New Topic