Pest Notes

  • Foliar spraying with Molasses  Some nurseries are finding that weekly foliar spraying with molasses mixed 1:1000 or stronger helps prevent pests/disease.
  • Aphids   Whilst visiting NZ, folk were telling me to spray Sunlight liquid soap to control Aphids.  Ref:  Sheryl
  • Ants 1 tsp fish catfood and 1 drop of Frontline (for fleas). Put it across their tracks on a flat piece of hard plastic under cover so rain does not get on it and they take it back to the nest.
  • Ants  Collect citrus bugs, put them into a jug of hot water then pour the brew down ant mounds or where you don’t want ants!
  • Ants   Was reading an old Organic NZ magazine where it said that they had tried all methods of getting rid of ants to no avail but they were told to try Aspartame (950) the artificial sweetener. “Research showed that it works on the human brain like MSG (621) exciting brain cells to death”. They bought some Equal tablets, powdered about 5 with the back of a spoon and put them in the path of ants. Within 24 hours there was hardly an ant to be seen and dead ones dotted about.
  • Ant Deterent mixture:  500 gms polanta - cook like porridge; 1 cup golden syrup, mix with Fipronil or other ant deterrent like Crawly Cruncher and put around trunk of tree when fruit is on the tree. Put out once a month. Fipronil is very effective against insect pests, and may be used in doses of less than 0.5 grams of active ingredient per hectare. At these low concentrations it is not harmful to reptiles, birds or mammals (including humans). Fipronil does not dissolve in water so there is no danger of it threatening  water supply.
  • Ants   Diatomaceous earth is also said to act like a barrier if sprinkled around ant mounds. To ants it's like crossing small pieces of glass and will encourage them to relocate mounds to a safer location
  • Ants   In terms of a broadcast bait for ants, you can make you own by mixing 1 cup of sugar, 4 teaspoons of boric acid and 24 ounces of water in a glass jar. Close the jar tightly and shake the mixture thoroughly until all the crystals dissolve. Pour 1 cup of this mixture into a smaller jar filled partially with cotton balls. Screw the lid back on, seal around the lid with weatherproof tape and punch a few small holes in the centre of the lid.
  • Ants  Though about 90% of insects are beneficial to us, they can still be annoying. Then there are those other 10% that eat our gardens, attack our houseplants, spread diseases, and sting or bite us. Good or bad, they are rarely welcome in our homes. Ants are mostly beneficial to man in that they mix and aerate soil, feed on small insect pests, and pollinate flowers. We still do not want them moving in with us. Ants bite. Some of them raise fungus as a food crop. Some tend herds of aphids, or less often, scale. These pests secrete “honeydew,” a sticky substance that the ants eat. In the kitchen, they eat anything we do. Technically, they do not eat, but instead, drink. They use their mandibles to squeeze the liquid out of their food and do not eat the solid part. Outdoors, it is often easier to control pest ants by killing their food. If the ants are raising aphids on your plants, kill the aphids. A blast of water will often take care of an aphid problem. Spray the plants including the undersides of leaves and the stems to knock off the aphids. Few will be able to crawl back up the plant. Repeat this daily for a week. This should get rid of both the aphids and the ants. It will kill the aphids and the ants will go away on their own. In the greenhouse, the legs of the plant tables can be wrapped with sticky tape to keep the ants from ever reaching the plants. The problem of ants in our home must be handled with greater care. Ants are often a problem in food preparation areas and poison should not be used indiscriminately. The homeowner may try sealing cracks through which ants enter with caulk or other appropriate material. It is, however, hard to seal every crack in the home through which a tiny ant may crawl. Certainly, good sanitation is the key. Make sure all food stuffs are cleaned up after meals. Keep counter tops and floor spills cleaned up too. Commercial ant baits can be purchased readily but it is easy and safe to make your own. These baits work on the principle that the best solution is to poison the nest. Ants will take the poison home for all to feed upon. The poison in commercial ant baits is often boric acid. Boric acid powder can be purchased at pharmacies. If this is used, be sure to wear breathing protection, a dust mask. I, instead use borax laundry booster. It is a white granular powder like laundry soap and can be found where laundry soap is sold. Borax powder is then mixed with anything ants like to eat. I usually start with fruit jelly. If that does not interest the ants, I switch to cat food of some similar meaty food. I use soda bottle caps to hold the bait. A teaspoon of borax with two teaspoons of jelly or cat food will make enough bait to fill three bottle caps. Place the filled caps where you see ants and check the bait periodically to see if the ants are eating it. Replace the caps, if needed, when the jelly hardens or the meat seems rancid. These traps are no problem at all in an all adult home. In a home with children young enough to eat the traps, they should be placed out of reach or in cupboards with childproof locks. As in any household with small children, the phone number of a poison control centre should be posted by the phone along with other emergency numbers. Also, do not place the traps where pets may eat them. These are the same precautions as should be taken with commercial traps, but you know exactly what went into the homemade ones. Because they generally help us in the world, a live-and-let-live attitude might be the right direction when ants are not actively hurting anything outside our home. By reading this article, you have learned some safe and easy ways to control ants when they decide to live where you do not want them. Ref:
  • White Ants  One cup of Phenyl in a bucket of water and pour over infected tree.

  • Bats/Flying Fox   The Royal Botanic Gardens in Melbourne had a major problem with bats and solved the problem when they discovered that bats didn’t like loud noise so by producing a variety of loud noises, the bats eventually moved on!
  • Protecting fruit from bats   I picked up a brochure from Downfall Creek Information Centre on Rode Rd, McDowell which is well worth a visit. It mentions that the proper way to protect fruit is to use 30% - 50% shade cloth pegged over the fruiting branches and this protects the flying fox from getting caught up in netting.
  • Bird Problem:  My aunt in Cairns uses black mesh or you can also use insect screen to put over your fruit. She just uses pegs to clip it into place and uses it on her pawpaws to stop birds, possums etc.. Ref: Sheryl
  • Note from Hawaii: Flocks of birds were raiding broccoli but was able to solve the problem by spraying with chili pepper. Did it only once and the birds never came back. Wonder if this method could also work on other pests as once the animal gets a hot mouthful they associate the pain with the crop.
  • Spoke to a chap from Brighton who told me that his way of keeping birds off his fruit was to install overhead fishing line about 450cm apart above your trees so depending what type of bird you are having problems with, then it would be less than a wingspan apart. Must visit him.  Ref:  Sheryl
  • Brush Turkey  is the correct name for this bird - not Bush Turkey.  Muriel Webb was telling me a good way to keep Brush Turkeys away from your garden. Put all your cut grass after you mow into a pile away from your vegetable patch. Make a well in the centre and put all your kitchen vegetable scraps in the centre. Worked a treat at her place!  You might have to put out rat bait though! 
  • Caterpillars  -  Use Dipel – BT  is specific to caterpillars, it won't kill anything else.  It kills a few days after it is ingested by caterpillars.  The specifity is dependant on an alkaline environment & receptors in the gut of the insect.  The receptor protein is only found in the gut of butterflies & moth caterpillars.   Ref:  David Popp
  • Custard Apple Book  Integrated Pest Disease Management Manual for Custard Apple by Dr Alan George, Roger Broadley, Don Hutton, Simon Redpath, Bob Nissen, David Bruun and Geoff Waite - Maroochy Research Station. This is a really first class manual and was funded by the Australian Custard Apple Growers Association in conjunction with Horticulture Australia Ltd. Highly Recommended
  • Use Diatomaceous Earth around some plants. This is a mixture of crushed seashells that feel coarse and jagged to beetles and slugs, but is completely safe for people and other animals.
  • I was reading that Pepper Vines deter insects in Sri Lanka and was wondering if that is the reason why Willie only has a minor problem with Fruit Fly as she grows Pepper.
  • Fruit Fly Traps   Interesting comment by Linda Brennan, a horticulturalist in Brisbane:
    I have made a number of different fruit fly traps using vegemite, beer etc and they collect more beneficials than fruit flies. However, making traps with the lure inside does work!
  • Frustrated male fruit flies, whose sexual advances are rejected by females, turn to alcohol to drown their sorrows, a study has revealed. Scientists at the University of California, San Francisco discovered that rejected male flies have a tiny molecule in their brain that pushes them to drink far more than their sexually satisfied counterparts. The levels of the molecule, neuropeptide F, were higher in sexually satisfied males than in those who got no sex, leading scientists to speculate that their work could shed light on brain mechanisms behind human addiction. A similar human molecule - neuropeptide Y - may also link social triggers to behaviours such as heavy drinking and drug abuse, according to the study published in Science journal. "If neuropeptide Y turns out to be the transducer between the state of the psyche and the drive to abuse alcohol and drugs, one could develop therapies to inhibit neuropeptide Y receptors," said lead researcher Ulrike Heberlein, a professor of anatomy and neurology at UCSF. She said clinical trials were under way to determine whether neuropeptide Y can alleviate anxiety and other mood disorders as well as obesity. For the experiment, male fruit flies were placed in a container with females flies, including both virgins and some that had mated. Virgin females were receptive to courting males and readily mated, but females flies that had mated lost interest in sex for a time because of sex peptide, a substance that males inject with sperm during the encounter. Rejected males then stopped trying to mate, even when placed in the same cage as virgin flies. But when they were placed by themselves in another container that had two straws - one containing plain food and the other containing food with 15 per cent alcohol - the rejected males binged on the alcohol. The scientists said the behaviour was predicted by the levels of neuropeptide F in their brains. "It's a switch that represents the level of reward in the brain and translates it into reward-seeking behaviour," said lead author Galit Shohat-Ophir of the Howard Hughes Medical Institute Janelia Farm Research Center in Virginia. Rejected flies had lower levels of neuropeptide F and sought an alternative reward through intoxication. The scientists found they could induce the same behaviours in the flies by genetically manipulating the levels of neuropeptide F in their brains. Activating neuropeptide F production in the brains of virgin male flies caused them to behave as though they were sexually satisfied, and thus they were less keen to drink. And lowering the levels of the molecule in sexually satisfied flies made them behave as though they were rejected, inciting them to drink more.
  • Fruit Piercing Moths  When near ripe fruit develops soft spots that cause premature ripening, fruit fly is often to blame. Breaking open the fruit will reveal larvae which help to confirm the diagnosis. When no larvae are present, suspect attack from the fruit piercing moth. As moths are active at night, few gardeners ever encounter them. Fruit sucking moths are large with a wingspan of up to 6cm. The wings are usually dark brown with distinctive orange markings. The moths pierce the skin of pawpaw, tomatoes, citrus, persimmons, bananas and other fruit then suck out the liquid contents. A black spot remains at the point of entry with flesh around this either becoming soft and pulpy or dry and pithy, depending on the fruit attacked. Spraying is not an option. Either pick the fruit before it is ripe, cover with paper bags. An outdoor light that attracts insects is an option but remember that it will attract a lot of other insects including beneficial ones.
  • Fruit Spotting Bug in Avocadoes  John Hatch says that if you keep your tree open ie cut out the centre, then you’ll suffer less of a problem. The tree needs white water-based paint on its trunk and as well as shade for protection in its early stages. Also use an anti-rot fungicide a few times a year.
  • Fruit Spotting Bug  One of the fellows from the Richmond Shire Council stand at Primex, Casino was telling me that Ribbonwood, Euroschinus falcata should be planted to attract the Fruit Spotting Bug!
  • The Bishop Museum in Hawaii has recently made Insects of Micronesia available online as PDFs at:           Photos of pests:
  • Snails:  Place your coffee grounds in your garden where you don’t want snails and slugs. Research funded by the Aust. Veg. Industry and Horticulture Australia has shown that caffeine achieved 100% mortality of adult slugs when used as a soil drench at rates as low as 0.5%
  • Macadamia Flower Caterpillar  To stop the Macadamia flower eating caterpillar, mix up some pyrethrum and pest oil according to directions on the packs and spray it on once a week while the tree is in flower. Pyrethrum is a contact killer – it is not residual or systemic and the pest oil is to make it stick. - Ref:  Paul Andrew
  • Macadamia - common problems in Hawaii
  • Copper seems to be best after the small fruit have formed and will avoid the black spots from anthracnose.
  • Mangoes   Note from member RM:  For your information we have been using school socks on our mangos for a couple of years with some success. It seems to reduce fruit fly and flying fox strikes. I am not sure if religious school socks are more powerful than state school socks! Worth some research though!
  • Monolepta Beetle  - Red Shouldered Leaf Beetle. Paul Recher says that the classic method of handling monolepta when you know they are around is to make a fire and the beetles fly into it. He was told this in 1977 when he worked as nursery manager at a farm for the handicapped with the big avocado plantation where a few trees were getting hit hard. I then read the same thing in a book about the fire thing being used in late 1890's early twentieth century.
  • Visited a property recently where the avocado leaves on the top of every plant were burnt and curled. This is caused by the Monolepta Beetle which attacks the flowers and leaves. Eggs are laid on the soil surface and hatch after 12 days. Adults emerge after rain. The beetle is orange with a red shoulder.  Have a look at this site:
    Citrus, macadamia, and mangos are also "favoured" hosts.
  • Moths   I use a black light to monitor the presence of moth in the area. When needed, I spray with a cheap insecticide in a 5 metre radius of the black light at hourly interval or so at night time. It is better than blanket spraying the whole area during the day time. I also spray vermitea and lime-sulphur. If you rely on insecticide and calendar spraying, you need to spray twice a week from pre-bloom to until the fruit has attained the size of a pingpong ball. Use the 40 watt fluorescent tube light by G.E.  Install it on ordinary outdoor type fluorescent lamp housing. You can also try hanging a white t-shirt under it. The T shirt will sort of glow in the dark and attract more moths. Ref:  Alexis de Manual – Philippines
  • Pinto Peanut by Jason Spotswood.  I use pinto peanut a lot around my orchard. Typically for the first year, it is slow growing to start off, but after that, it can take off rapidly. With my microbe trials, I have found that pinto peanut cuttings take off much more quickly (in about a month) when microbes have been used on the soil. Just be aware that rats and other peanut loving animals will work over your soil from time to time to eat the underground nuts.
  • Pesky Possums  Noreen Lehmann one of our members from Victoria wrote a lovely long letter to me and included some anti-possum tips:  As possums are vegetarians they hate chomped on old bones placed on the roof and strung along fences like necklaces. There may be something in this as some friends swear by little bags of Blood and Bone. Install security lights overhead and put teddy bears from garage sales (wrapped in plastic) among the greenery! Susan Guest says that her latest deterrent is to spray Indonesian fish sauce and a bowl of freshly chopped apple daily.  Noreen donated to the club some time ago a huge number of books on preserving and also preserving equipment so do borrow it and bring in a sample of your work on club nights.
  • Possums:  Saw this method used successfully on my trip to Mackay.
    To keep them off your trees, just tangle some old fishing net around the base of the trunk and they can’t climb!!  They had it to a height of about 750mm and was a 3 or 4 layers thick.
  • Possums  According to an old farmer I spoke to, to repel Possums, put a handful of Blood and Bone in a stocking leg and throw it up into the tree!
  • Terry says that possums hate the smell of blood and bone so get some ladies stockings, cut off the legs, put a handful of blood and bone in each leg, tie off then hang it in your Mango tree etc.  If your tree is really large, then you can swing it up into the tree!!  Terry puts about 3 in a large tree.

  • Snails:  Place your coffee grounds in your garden where you don’t want snails and slugs. Research funded by the Aust. Veg. Industry and Horticulture Australia has shown that caffeine achieved 100% mortality of adult slugs when used as a soil drench at rates as low as 0.5%

  • Termites   CSIRO has produced a detailed website on termite detection and eradication. Please read it but the following is a summary of the technique: Termites are common in all areas of Qld. Termites cannot survive without a continuous supply of water so irrigating your garden can support a colony that would normally not survive our dry winter. Termites build underground tunnels to control the moisture level of the nest while searching for cellulose as a food supply, to detect their presence, a bait is supplied so that you can easily check if they are in the vicinity of your house. Get a standard polystyrene box with a lid and using a bread saw or equivalent tool, cut some slits 30cm long and 2cm wide in the bottom. Scrape back the garden mulch and sit the box on the ground ensuring that the base makes good contact with the soil. Put some pieces of untreated pine timber or corrugated cardboard in the box (use the type that is only corrugated on one side as that is the best) sprinkle the bait with water, put on the lid and check at 2 day intervals. It may take a month for termites to find your trap but they may also be active enough to find the bait after a day. Having located termites, the technique is basically to coat some termites in a poison which they then carry back to the main nest and by their behavior of social grooming, eventually the termite queen is poisoned and after her death their colony will also die. The type of poisons used are usually arsenic trioxide but since this is a restricted chemical, it is only available to pest controllers so having discovered termites you are committed to pay a pest exterminator to eradicate them.   Ref:  Bob Backhouse

  • Grahame Jackson says that members might like to know about the new on-line diagnostic information of exotic plant pests and diseases available on the PaDIL website - the Pest and Disease Image Library. It has been developed by the Cooperative Research Centre for National Plant Biosecurity in collaboration with a number of organisations concerned with plant health in Australia.  Plant Protection News from the Office of the Chief Plant Protection Officer says:   A web-based toolbox to aid with the diagnosis of exotic plant pests and diseases is now available.  The Plant Biosecurity Toolbox provides plant health workers with a collection of detailed diagnostic information on exotic plant pests.  It includes:  information on biology and taxonomy of pests, diagnostic morphological, biochemical and molecular tests, images of pests, host symptoms and damage reference materials and links to related websites, with contact details for experts and accredited diagnostic laboratories. The functions and content of the toolbox will continue to evolve to ensure diagnostic protocols can be accessed in the field.  The Cooperative Research Centre for National Plant Biosecurity developed the toolbox in collaboration with a number of organisations concerned with plant health in Australia. 
    Sheryl:  Padil is a great website – check out the many varied photos of the Fruit Piercing Moths and also have a look at 

  • White Oil Recipe: Cup of oil, cup of water, a few lux flakes - mix in a vitamiser then dilute it 10:1 when you go to use it.
  • White Ants   Qld has a huge problem with white ants.  You must be ever vigilant.  Look out for the following:
    • Pencil sized mud tubes running across concrete or connecting soil to wood.
    • Bubbled paint
    • Termites are active at temperatures above 18ºC
    • Swarms of winged termites that die within a day or two but leave tell-tale signs of small piles of wings.  This could be an indication of white ants in the home but they need moisture to survive.
    • Do not have gardens right up against the footings of the walls of your home i.e., keep moisture away from your home, fix any leaking water pipes, drains, showers, sinks etc., and make sure      that water from air conditioning units is drained well away from the house.
    • Check that drain holes between bricks are not covered.
    • Don’t leave timber stacked against your house.
  • Two methods of control for Whitefly on your vegetable crops from the Pestnet website:
    neem oil 15 gr/ 5 l + 10 gr washing powder - spray it late afternoon
    methylated vegetable oil 700 gr/lt works well with white fly. Apply late afternoon.
  • I know someone who was having trouble finding scats in their garage and the usual traps not catching anything. The Pest Controller advised using sticky pads which you attach to the floor or other horizontal surface area. One brand is Tomcat Rat Glue Traps. Bingo: it was highly effective.
  • General all-rounder for controlling pests:
    1 dsp molasses
    1 tsp detergent
    500mls water
    If you double the concentration of the molasses, you can use it as a possum repellent on your roses says Annette McFarlane.
    The double concentration also works with nematodes.
    Animal repellent for possums, rabbits and hares from the TreeCropper Magazine in NZ - recommended by Eric Appleton from Appletons Tree Nursery.
    Mix 5 eggs, 600ml water and 150ml acrylic paint. Spray it on your plants – very good for seedlings
  • Weed Identification Tool on the Brisbane City Council website: