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Smart Gardening Tool: An LED flashlight

My indoor gardening "toolbox"
Photo: Julie Weisenhorn, UMN Extension

There are a lot of tools in my indoor gardening "toolbox" - rubber-coated ties, lighters for sterilizing, pruners, snips, meters, hooks, stakes, cotton swabs. I recently added another tool: an LED flashlight.

Mealybug lit up in leaf fold
As I've mentioned on the WCCO 830 AM Smart Garden radio show, like many of my fellow gardeners, I have been challenged recently with pests on a few of my indoor plants. Specifically, an orchid I added a year ago came with extra baggage: mealybugs.

Shine a light on the problem!

Shining a very bright LED light really helps spot mealybugs and other pests. Adult mealybugs are pretty easy to spot, but it's tough to see the young immature insects. Using a light to examine a plant helps to light up even young pests.

Mealybugs of all ages hide under at the base of buds and blossoms, undersides of leaves, and near the growing point of the plant where leaves overlap or unfold. Here, they can safely feed on plant juices unseen. Orchids like Phalaenopsis have thick, leathery leaves and provide the perfect hideout.

Mealybugs will also reside in the orchid bark and under plant stands, pots, saucers, trays, trivets, even clips (check your orchid clips!) Beyond the Plant: Mealybugs can hide anywhere)

LED lights last long, stay cool to the touch, and are easy to find in just about any store. My recent addition to my indoor garden toolbox came from the gift shop at the Minnesota Landscape Arboretum, brand name Nebo, for about $12. It's also covered in easy-to-grip rubber and has a magnetic clip.

P.S. Listen to our 'Smart Garden' show on WCCO 830 AM  radio at 8 a.m. every Saturday of the year, where we answer your gardening questions. Or check out the podcast!

--Julie Weisenhorn, Extension Educator, Horticulture

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