Rent Shop Volunteer Join

Q. Who is Mr. Smarty Plants?

A: There are those who suspect Wildflower Center volunteers are the culpable and capable culprits. Yet, others think staff members play some, albeit small, role. You can torture us with your plant questions, but we will never reveal the Green Guru's secret identity.

Help us grow by giving to the Plant Database Fund or by becoming a member

Did you know you can access the Native Plant Information Network with your web-enabled smartphone?

Share

Ask Mr. Smarty Plants

Ask Mr. Smarty Plants is a free service provided by the staff and volunteers at the Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center.

Search Smarty Plants
See a list of all Smarty Plants questions

Please forgive us, but Mr. Smarty Plants has been overwhelmed by a flood of mail and must take a break for awhile to catch up. We hope to be accepting new questions again soon. Thank you!

Need help with plant identification, visit the plant identification page.

 
rate this answer
Not Yet Rated

Monday - April 21, 2008

From: Georgetown, TX
Region: Southwest
Topic: Pests, Herbs/Forbs
Title: Insect infestation, identification and treatment
Answered by: Barbara Medford and Joe Marcus

QUESTION:

help! I have an infestation of small flies in my flower/vegetable beds. They seem to be eating the leaves of just about everything. I've tried to find out exactly what they are, but haven't had any luck. They're not white flies, they look like common house flies, only much smaller. I can't see anything else that might be munching on the plants. They especially like my okra, eggplant and celosia leaves. I've tried spraying with insecticidal soap and dusting with sevin...no luck getting rid of them. Please help before they eat everything!

ANSWER:

Since Mr. Smarty Plants is pretty much a gardener, and not an entomologist, he may be the wrong person to ask this question. We attacked the problem by trying to discover what insect pests can cause problems to all three of the plants you mentioned: eggplants, okra and celosia. Eggplant originated in southern and eastern Asia, okra in the Ethiopian highlands, and celosia in Africa and India; so, since the Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center specializes in plants native to North America, we might use that as an excuse to beg off this question, but we are made of sturdier stuff. The three plants you listed have in common a possibility of being invaded by thrips, mites and aphids. We have found websites of pictures of the little monsters and of descriptions of their life cycles and possible causes of their demise. Follow the links and see if you can figure out which you have visiting your garden. Unfortunately, we are of the opinion that these insects, whatever they are, are a symptom and not a cause. The flies are not actually eating your plants, but rather they are either attracted to what IS eating them or to some by-product of the predation, such as honeydew. We would strongly recommend that you contact your county extension agent (see below) to find out what is going on. You may have a serious problem that is just getting started.

Images of thrips. Discussion of thrips, from the University of California Integrated Pest Management Program.

Images of mites. Discussion of mites, from the Tree of Life Acari project.

Images of aphids. Discussion of aphids, also from the University of California Integrated Pest Management Program.

And, just in case....

Images of whiteflies. Discussion of whiteflies, again from the University of California Integrated Pest Management Program.

For more information, contact the Williamson County Extension Service. You are probably not the only one being annoyed by these insects, and the Extension Service should have some publications or information on what to do next.

 

More Herbs/Forbs Questions

Evergreen for sunny, dry area under a maple in Connecticut
October 10, 2015 - I have a sloped, very sunny, dry area under a maple. I was wondering if Sweet Fern would be a likely candidate for this area. I would like it to be evergreen and to be able to survive under mounds of...
view the full question and answer

Container plants for Yakima WA
May 11, 2013 - My condo complex has purchased large, pottery pots for around our pool. I need to choose low maintenance plants. hopefully something that takes limited water, etc.
view the full question and answer

Gaura dying from Townsville, Australia
September 14, 2012 - My passionate pink Gaura appears to be dying. It had a beautiful blooming period & now is going backwards. What is happening? I have pruned it, but don't know how to save it.
view the full question and answer

Standing Cypress Plants in San Antonio, TX
June 26, 2013 - I purchased seeds for standing cypress 2 years ago and this spring they look beautiful. What is the best way to harvest the seeds? Also, will the current plants come back next spring or will I have to...
view the full question and answer

Need to stabilize a south facing slope in Henderson, NC
April 30, 2010 - Hi, I have a south facing slope that is heavy clay with rock under it. It gets a lot of sun. I have planted a few bushes and some ground cover, but with all the snow and rain we had this past winter, ...
view the full question and answer

Support the Wildflower Center by Donating Online or Becoming a Member today.