Monday | July 25, 2016
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Not all bugs are bad

Some gardeners do not want to see bugs of any kind on their plants. Yet, this condition does not always spell disaster. Consider the following situations:

1. Some bugs found on plants may not be feeding or causing damage to the plant. They are merely there for other reasons.

2. Not only might they be benign, they may be a good guy, a parasite or predator looking for pests to consume. Two well-known good bugs are preying mantis and lady bird beetles.

3. The insects, of course, may be a pest, but one that will not cause damage. Occasionally, bugs will stop and feed on plants, but no real harm is brought to bear.

4. On the other hand, some bugs may be inflicting damage, but it is only cosmetic. This means that the leaves or fruit may be scared or misshapen but there is no real loss of yield.

Cosmetic damage should be tolerated. This type of damage on fruit does not affect the internal quality.

5. The last possibility is an infestation of an insect pest which will cause yields to be significantly lowered. In this case, you will have to decide whether to wait a while and see if biological control will work (if parasite/predators can control the population) or to spray. If spraying is the choice, consider first a biorational pesticide, such as soap, oil, Bt or sulfur. These are less injurious to the environment including the predator/ parasite populations.

Aloha. This year, my lychee tree has produced about half a tree’s worth of fruit (a good year and I’m in Hilo). The birds are eating all the fruit before it is fully ripe and ready for picking. The tree is too big to put bird netting over. Is there anything I can do? Also, a friend mentioned that the lychee tree at his family’s house is more like a bush — a bunch of stems coming up from a common base, rather than a tree with defined trunk. Could I cut my lychee tree off near the base and have it resprout with a bunch of lower stems (like is done with coffee trees)? That would allow me to get netting over it in the years I get some fruit. Thanks! — M.J., Hilo

For your pruning concerns, older trees can be severely pruned. However, as these trees regrow, the goal would be to develop a tree with one main trunk and four well-spaced scaffold branches. In the long run, this type of tree will be more productive, as well as easier to prune. The size can still be limited by the amount of pruning; this will also allow for bird netting to be placed over it. I direct you to a CTAHR publications, Lychee and Growing Lychee in Hawaii.

Now about the birds: there are commonly three birds that are a menace to lychee trees, the Red-vented bulbul (Pycnonotus cafer), red-whiskered bulbul (P. jocosus) and Mejiro, the Japanese white-eye (Zosterops japonicus). All of these birds will attack both the immature and the ripe fruit. In addition to netting, different types of shiny objects and streamers along with plastic owls, snakes and balloons, will often repel birds. But frequently, the effect is temporary. Note:

These birds are protected by State and in some cases Federal regulations.

l Orchids: There are more than 25,000 described species of orchids. Moreover, the first hybrid orchid was created in 1852. Today, there are more than 50,000 hybrids of orchids.

These beautiful flowers exhibit a stunning array of colors, shapes and sizes and can all be seen Friday-Sunday, Aug. 2-4, at the 61st Orchid Show and Sale, “Orchids Around the World,” at the Edith Kanaka‘ole Multipurpose Stadium. The event is sponsored by the Hilo Orchid Society. Donations $5. Come and have your senses awakened by this magnificent display of flowers.

Hilo resident Nick Sakovich is a professor emeritus of the University of California. He has worked in the field of agriculture for 30 years. Email your questions to Sakovich at


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