*UPDATE* Please do NOT use Levington Plant Protection Compost, as it contains a pesticide which could be a contributing factor to Colony Collapse Disorder in bee’s*
At this time of year I’m largely busy creating winter planting schemes and hanging baskets/window boxes for clients. Its not hard to create a bit of colour through the bleak winters (see my top ten plants for winter) but over the past couple of years a growing prevalence of vine weevil’s has caused complete destruction to multitudes of Cyclamen and I’m afraid it’s fallen to chemical control. Much as I hate to use chemicals within the garden unless it’s completely necessary, creeping around clients gardens at night in search of beetles might lead to an arrest or two. In addition, the lack of natural predators to this weevil plague means that, unless you’re willing to lose a few ‘sacrificial plants’, the chemical’s have to come out.
You have to admire these beasts in some way. There are no males, yes, that’s right, its a fully female world for the vine weevil. Reproduction is through producing eggs without the need to fertilise, and some 1600 eggs can be laid over a two month period by ONE female. Additionally, the adults feed at night, are quick witted and hard to spot. The larve spend their entire life underground, stripping plants completely bare of all roots until it’s too late to save most. And with very few naturally occuring predators, vine weevils are having a ball!
One sex only, Female’s rule the weevil world
Eradication can be difficult. The normal nocturnal pest collection regime is particularly hard as they are difficult to spot and drop to the ground at the slightest disturbance. ‘Sacrificial plants’ can be used, i.e. those that are more preferable to the little darlings, which entice them away from favourites. Polyanthus, Primula’s and Cyclamen are particularly tasty, but if, as I am, you’re actually trying to grow these species then you have to take further action. ALL compost the plant was in MUST be thrown away, with the roots being thoroughly washed and all grubs removed. Levington Plant Protection Compost can be used to kill grubs as they hatch and begin to feed. Alternatively use Provado, a chemical insecticide which will kill the grub army in their tracks.
Grubs have all but destroyed this Cyclamen’s root system
I’m afraid I’m now truly at war with these critters, I can’t even tolerate them in small doses. However, it does remind me of a funny story from a friend about pest control of aphids. Having a very bad infestation of the sap sucking insects, my friend’s husband got terribly excited when he ordered, from eBay, pest control. £20 spent and a few days later, the mysterious parcel turned up which was going to prove to be the turning of the tides in the aphid battle. Intrigued, my friend opened the packet, shook out the ‘biological control’ only to find that her husband had spent £20 on, wait, LADYBIRDS! I could have died laughing. For that price, I might start selling Harlequin’s and become a multi-millionaire!