Bug eats local hedges

| 11/03/2009

(CNS): Ficus hedges all around the Smith Road- Walkers Road area are disappearing as a result of what one local expert believes is an outbreak of thrips rather than a disease. Over the last few months people in the area have been concerned about the rapid deterioration of local shrubs as the bugs tear through the foliage and strips hedges bare.

Kieron Hendricken of Pestkill said he is quite confident that the problem is almost certainly a type of thrip and he has already begun treating some hedges that were under attack, but that are now beginning to make a recognisable recovery. CNS contacted the local firm following concerned calls from gardeners worried about the rapid rate of attack and asked what it was that was attacking the ficus bushes.

Hendricken told CNS that he has been examining the situation for a few weeks and had identified the cause of the problem as a thrip rather than a disease. Unsure exactly which of the literally hundreds of thrips it is that is causing the trouble, he noted that the treatment method was similar in most cases with this particular bug.

“Amateur gardeners who are losing leaves on their own hedges or even indoor ficus plants can simply spray with a mixture of dish liquid and water,” he said, adding that the spread of bugs on indoor plants could be more of a problem as they tend to prefer the cooler temperature indoors that sitting in the direct sun on outdoor hedges.

However, he did note that this thrip was certainly enjoying the sun based on its rapid devastation through the Walkers and Smith Roads area as well as around Elgin Avenue.

“Over the years we experience different infestations of thrips but I have to say I don’t remember it being this bad before,” Hendricken added. “My main concern is that some local landscapers may not be aware of what the problem is and could start unnecessarily spraying chemicals and damaging plants when the treatment is quite simple.”

Hendricken added that once the thrip has its fill or runs out of the ficus bush it will most definitely eat other shrubs, and therefore it is important that people understand what they are up against in their gardens or commercial property landscaping and start dealing with it appropriately.

CNS has also contacted the Department of Agriculture, which has confirmed that it is aware of the loss of foliage around the area and what the problem might be. The DoA said it would offer comment as soon as possible regarding plans to address the problem within the wider community.

Thrips are tiny insects with fringed wings that feed on a large variety of sources, both plant and animal, by puncturing them and suckingup the contents. A large number of thrips species are considered pests because they feed on plants with commercial value. In the right conditions, many species can explode in population and swarm everywhere, making them an irritation to humans.

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