Chrysanthemums and Aphids

December 22, 2014

I bought myself a bouquet consisting of several kinds of flowers for the birthday more than a month ago. In no more than two weeks, all the flowers withered away except for the two branches of white chrysanthemum. Surprisingly, these outlived not only their peer flowers, but also my expectation and lived vigorously to welcome a new neighbor – a dark red Betta fish. I scarcely changed water and never cut away the bottom bits, although I was instructed to do both everyday. They remained in their loveliest blossom, not showing any sign of weariness from day one. My boyfriend once joked that I had bought plastic flowers. But yesterday 🙁

As I was about to drink my morning water, a miniature bug floating in my glass caught my attention. I quickly realized that it must have come from the only plants in my room, the chrysanthemums. A close observation had me totally stunned and disgusted. Numerous small bugs similar to the one dead in my glass are found everywhere on the topmost flower of the four. The other three flowers adjacent were also speckled to various degrees. I straightened up and looked out of the window, not able to believe what I just saw. I moved my line of sight back again and confirmed this horrible scene. This time I noticed how these insects firmly remained static in their respective positions on the petals, unlike what I would imagine that they would crawl all over the place. I couldn’t give more description because I couldn’t stand it and trashed the flowers immediately.

After that, I gave much thought about it and felt sorry for the chrysanthemums. If only I had given them more attention maybe I’ll notice some early warning of the pest attack. How come that it seemed like it was all fine for over a month until suddenly there appeared such huge number of insects? The only possibility I could think of is there was already larvae when I bought it. They simply hatched at the same time suddenly and started their feasting.

Recently I’m reading Insect Plant Biology by Schoonhoven et al. The bugs I just saw reminds me of something I’ve read in the book. After some searching I’m convinced those belong to the common pest family of aphids. From what I read online it seems their usual place of appearance is the leaf surfaces. If the ones in my case also hatched on the leaves, possibly on the undersurface since I didn’t see them, and moved from the leaves to the flowers, that means they had been around in my room for much longer time, which makes me sick even more. Although I took comfort in thinking that usually monophagous species are very specific in their food choices. This means that they choose not only a particular plant but also a particular part on that plant. According to Wikipedia, aphids feed on sap rather than chew on plant tissues. This on one hand explains why they sit there motionless but on the other, it’s strange why they target flowers where I suppose there’re no phloem vessels.

Above all else, the biggest lesson that I learned is that there are actually home-friendly ways to kill the aphids and preserve the plants. If I had examined my chrysanthemums throughly thoroughly – petals, leaves and undersurface of the leaves, that would have given me hints on abnormalities and would have enabled me to take early preventive actions. This combined with the spray method that should have been used after the pest attack happened, could have saved my chrysanthemums. Sigh.


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