NBF pest, have lost lots of bulbs :-(( !

holantinaOctober 30, 2009

I had hoped so much it was over!

First i lost Promise, Lemon Lime, Naranja and Aphrodite, and thought the others were fine. Novella was attacked too, but i managed to pull the larva out of her hole in the bulb. I have good hope she will recover. The larva was not so far yet into the bulb, so i think it will work out. I discovered the larvae on Promise, Lemon Lime, Naranja and Aphrodite when checking the bulbs to bring them in. At that time, i didn't know for sure it was NBF, but i was already suspicious. I thought they were dormant, since they lost their leaves. When i tooked out to check them out.... oh my God.... it was awful. But only the beginning :-(

After reeding your comments on the thread PROTECTING FROM NBF and checking out the website kindly mentioned by forum user e36yellowm3 i have no doubts anymore. This was all the work of the big narcissus fly. What i found into the damaged bulbs looked exactly as on the pictures. The reason i did not realize at first, was that the info i had found did not provide such good, explicit pictures.

So i checked all my bulbs and brought them in. Within three weeks, Red Lion had lost all of its 9 leaves (this is one of the signs, fast leave loss) so i thought it would go dormant. They are in a unheated room, so it made sense to me. Well, i got suspicious anyway and i use to touch my bulbs from time to time. You know they kind of feel firm to the touch when everything is OK. Well, i felt a soft spot.

To make the long story short, this huge Red Lion bulb is gone. Inside i found an even bigger larva than in the previous bulbs , but definitely the same kind (it was further in the season, so the larvae were getting bigger!). This one looked fatter and didn't move but it was alive, of course. I went through to my other bulbs. Well, my Blossom Peacock, four years old and with offsets almost reaching adult size is also gone. It managed to bloom just before dying. It bloomed with just two flowers this time, but i thought this was due to its earlier flowering in spring. Oh, my God, such a good bulb. It was very big and used to faithfully bloom twice a year! Gone also.... Inside the mother bulb, exact the same fat larva..... The hole in the basal plate too. The larvae make the hole from above in the basal plate and they eat their way into the bulb, preferably upwards. You can read this on and on in an article, but you won't beleive it till you see it for yourself (i hope you never will!) How a single larva can "take care" of such a big bulb....

My oldest Apple Blossom was gone too.... So far i've lost more than half of my bulbs. I'm devastated.... I've never had problems with NBF. My mind is working frantically trying to find solutions. I'll have to try with netting, eventhough it will not always work, But it should be better than nothing. Of course, one shoud have to check daily that there are no openings.

I'm desperated, has somebody tryied something that works to keep your hippies save from this disgrace.

I mean, look at these pictures!

Blossom peacock BEFORE

href="http://s386.photobucket.com/albums/oo301/holantina/?action=view¤t=DSCF2453.jpg"; target="_blank">

And this is AFTER:

Every single bulb of the Blossom Peacok cluster was attacked, except for one, which i have potted up. Red Lion had also a healthy offset. Is potted up as well.

Believe me, this is your worst nightmare......

I hope you guys neve have to get through this.... it's incredible.... most of my bulbs just gone in one season....

I'll really apreciate any advice, ideas, etc. on protecting bulbs from this nightmare....

What i've learned based on my disastrous experience so far: If your bulbs loose their leaves rather fast, but look healthy... get them out of the pot at once and take a very good look at them ESPECIALLY just above the basal plate (where the bulb curls into the basal plate) If you do not remove the dryed layers, you'll probably don't see it at all (it happened to me) So remove the dry layers.

I hope someone can help me with advice. This is terrible!

Thanks in advance.


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anna_in_quebec(z4 QC)

Oh my goodness - I do so understand - now you know why I started that post. I too am devastated and desperate. I too am looking for solutions - that may not be totally foolproof, but perhaps losing 2 or 3 bulbs is not as bad as losing 10 or 20 or more. . I have not even had time to repot and look very carefully at the close to 100 bulbs I brought indoors a month ago - into my basement. I simply have not had time, and I dread to see what I may find. Of course it's a drag to lose the investment, money-wise, but I find it is almost worse to see a lovely healthy bulb so horribly ravaged.

I plan to find a carpenter to build me something in the spring - some sort of simple all-enclosed structure - a cage basically. The last time I felt this bad was when I fell in love with lilies, only to discover the horrid red lily-beetle was destroying them all. I have pretty much re-focused on daylilies which are virtually pest-free (for now!).

    Bookmark   October 30, 2009 at 3:54PM
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bluebonsai101(6a PA)

I'm really sorry to see this, but it happens to many of us as I'm sure you know.....I have tossed out a few bulbs in my days with these nasties inside of them. My solution is simple, use systemic insecticides.......preventative 2-3 times per summer.......I use either Malathion or one with imidacloprid and switch them so that I am not always using the same thing......the product from Bayer is good and treats mites, fungus and insects. If you do not want to use systemics I'm sure there are other ways, but I will not risk my expensive bulbs :o) Dan

    Bookmark   October 30, 2009 at 3:55PM
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Jan Sword

I am so sorry to heard about lose of your bulbs. I don't have answer but I am going to use systemic on mine just have piece of mind.
Good luck!

    Bookmark   October 30, 2009 at 4:36PM
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bluebonsai101(6a PA)

I did some searching so I could improve my own control and it appears there is only one insecticide specifically labeled for bulb fly control and that is trichlorfon which is sold commercially as Dylox for control of grubs in lawns as a solid form or as a liquid form......if you look for Dylox you will see the label from Bayer as a pdf with instructions for application for NBF......I will buy some next spring for my various amaryllids......hope this helps prevent more damage :o) Dan

    Bookmark   October 30, 2009 at 4:39PM
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Thank you, guys, for the advice.

I have piece of mind using systemic insecticides. I just did not know they existed before coming to this forum. I've learned a lot here, you know. For this i'm very thankful and i keep learning more. I have taken note of Dylox and will look for it at once. I'll also try net protection next time they go outside.

I'm for natural gardening, but i realize these critters are not kidding. This is the real thing. When you get them on your bulbs is "bye-bye". So, be sure i'll have piece of mind using a systemic insecticide :-) I just have to figure out how to get my hands on it. Policy against pesticides is very strict in the European Union. For instance, Bayer's Nemacur systemic insecticide is not allowed here, just to give one example. I bet the ones who forbid these articles, never had NBF in their hippeastrums GRRRR!!!!

Of course, i know everybody has had this problems from time to time. But i wasn't talking about one or two bulbs. My best bulbs are all gone. The oldest, bigger ones. The most beautiful ones. More than half of my collection. I'm feeling very bad now...really. And i stil have to check four bulbs. I'm very affraid of finding more larvae...

Anna, check your bulbs as soon as you can. Beginning with the bigger ones. I've realized the flies prefer big, adult bulbs. My potted up offsets were left in peace. They were all very healthy when i took them off the pots and gave them to my mother (she had to travel by plane back home, so we dryed the bulbs)

The flies wanted the big ones, and they got them, unfortunately.

What a disaster.... But, yes, i get the experience.... My bulbs do not go outside unless well-protected!!!!

If someone has more ideas, i appreciate them as well as more recommendations, products that work etc.



    Bookmark   October 30, 2009 at 5:15PM
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Lourdes, you're in Holland, correct? You could ask some of the bulb growers how they deal with this pest. I think they would be your best source of information. They would probably be able to tell you exactly what types of insecticides and systemics they use, and what works best.

I've been very lucky, actually. I've been too paranoid to risk bringing my potted bulbs outside, so they've been kept indoors. But you don't know how many times I came really close to hauling all their pots outside to give them the sunshine and fresh air they need and deserve! I'm so glad I resisted temptation!

I feel terrible for you, Lourdes... I'm glad you were able to save a few offsets, and I hope you don't lose any more bulbs to this heinous pest!

A few of my bulbs did lose their leaves and die... but there was no indication it was due to NBF. Even so, I will be using a small amount of systemic in each pot... just in case. You never know what might slip through the cracks...

Thank you for posting your photos and story... if talking about your losses can help even one person to avoid this, it's all worth it.

    Bookmark   October 30, 2009 at 6:03PM
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kaboehm (zone 9a, TX USA)

Dear Lourdes,
I was wondering if you'd be able to use the systemics and then see that you posted. Here's an idea...one that might work if you can't get any Dylox. Do you think crushed bay leaves might be a repellent?? Or eucalyptus oil?? I'm just curious. It's used to repell other bugs, but the draw of the bulb may be too much when it comes to NBF. I am getting ready to repot in a few weeks and already have my 2 containers of systemic. Good luck!! I bet the growers in Holland have a solutions!! They can't afford to lose half their "crop".

    Bookmark   October 30, 2009 at 8:36PM
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Noni Morrison

Hollandia, I share your pain! I have always hated grub type insects who attack food crops...must have been traumatized by some in my childhood dinners on the farm, LOL. Well, I Can hardly stand to see these monsters in pictures let alone our prescious bulbs!

Did you think to try cuttage with the damaged bulbs. I am in hopes of saving some of my damaged bulbs that way. Jodi or Kristi or maybe both did some nice documentation on how to do it.

The only good thing is that this makes room to try more new bulbs....just while the old ones asre recovering of course.

I too use systemic insecticide but learned this summer that one application is NOT enough.

I suspect you will have to go to a spun polyester cloth meant for covering plants rather then a mesh. Some insects can squeeze themselves through really small holes. I think you will have to find a way to seal it off where it touches the ground or shelf also. That is why I am thinking of a poured concrete base with sill plates to fasten screen walls to to protect mine.

    Bookmark   October 30, 2009 at 8:58PM
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Yes... Kristi and I both tried cuttage, or twin scaling, to save precious bulbs. We were both successful, I might add.

I was forced to slice up my Emerald bulb when it developed a bad case of rot.

To make a long story short... I cut out all the rotten parts, cut what was left into pieces still having basal plate parts attached, dusted with Captan, placed in sealed plastic bags in moist vermiculite, on a heating pad, under a grow light... and mine grew tiny new bulblets! When the bulblets began to grow leaves, I potted them up.

The process took quite a while, but it will eventually be worth that effort... the bulbs continue to grow in size, and someday I know they'll bloom!

Lourdes, for all the information you've ever wanted to know about hippeastrum bulbs, you can't find a better book than "Hippeastrum, the Gardener's Amaryllis" by Veronica Read. I recommend purchasing a copy. It comes in mighty handy for looking up information, and it's chock full of the history of these bulbs. Amazon.com has it, I know... that's where my husband bought mine.

Lizalily, don't forget that silicone to seal up all the cracks! From what I gather, these sneaky little insects will find a way to get to your bulbs, and they don't mind working hard at it!

    Bookmark   October 31, 2009 at 8:54AM
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Noni Morrison

Ah, Silicone to seal the cracks! Thank you, Jodi! I Had not gotten there yet!

    Bookmark   October 31, 2009 at 12:54PM
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Weather and waterproof sealer... I'm sure they must make a type specifically for greenhouses or this kind of application. Those big home improvement center stores should have aisles and aisles of stuff for this type of building project.

I can't wait to see your finished greenhouse and screen enclosure, Lizalily!

    Bookmark   October 31, 2009 at 2:24PM
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Noni Morrison

I may have just spent my Bulb House money on my cat, 11 1/2 yr old Hairy who showed up after a 2 day absence with a broken jaw. Poor boy had lost a race with a car apparently, but otherwise was in good health, though a trifle dehydrated. I wasn't ready to let this old boy go yet and he is in excellent health otherwise. Already survived being half decapitated by a raccoon a few years ago.

    Bookmark   October 31, 2009 at 5:43PM
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I have that book. Really packed up with info, but i miss here and there some pieces. Anyway, what i was missing i've found in this forum. So, no problem :-)

V. Read recommends destroying all bulbs affected by the NBF. Of course, i could have tried cuttage. But in most cases, the basal plate was so badly pierced, i couldn't imagine a way to get twin scales of it :-O
I'm e-mailing several bulb growers this week. If someone comes with useful advice, i'll be posting it here. I'm curious....

Lizalily and Anna,
Yes, i think isolating the bulb is a case or greenhouse or whatever should keep the critters off your valued bulbs. As long as it is really very good closed. I know insects can be very creative and persistent when it comes to reproducing themselves. Unfortunately, i have no place for a greenhouse or little case in my garden. I have really a very little garden, around 5 meters long.
I think i'm trying net prottection next summer, along with systemic insecticide and crushed bay leaves, etc. Kristi could be right. It is possible that strong smells will desorientate the insects. I really hope so :-)

I'm not taking any risks next time!

Thanks you guys, for the support and the ideas!


    Bookmark   November 1, 2009 at 5:22AM
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Oh, Lizalily! I'm so sorry to hear that... poor little guy! I hope he'll be ok!

Cats are extremely resilient... my Mom once started her car, and then realized the poor cat was caught in the radiator fan! He was very cut up, but he healed in no time... and went on to become an old cat, the best mouser my Mom had.

This is one of the risks of cats living outdoors, as well as in... but it's almost not fair or right to keep them locked up, when they want so bad to do what they naturally do... to hunt and prowl! We've lost a barn cat or two to the road, or to other dangers, but I think it's important to remember that they die doing what they love best... being free.

Back to bulbs... yes, most books and garden pros recommend destroying plants when such things happen, but I don't think most of them worry so much about gardening budgets. If there's any way I can save part of a bulb through cuttage, or part of a plant through cutting propagation, that's what I'll do. I don't have extra money to buy all new bulbs and plants!

I'm very interested to find out what the professional bulb growers say about NBF and its prevention. They grow fields and fields of bulbs... how do they keep these grubs from destroying whole crops?!

    Bookmark   November 1, 2009 at 11:02AM
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chazparas(USDA zone 9 , San Jose, CA)

Lourdes, Jodi, and all,
Sorry for posting late on this one. I'm so sorry that you're bulbs are destroyed like that. I lost quite a few myself to the NBF as most of you know. I was able to actually save two Aphrodite, by performing surgery! Luckily the maggots were in an area that spared the bulk of the bulb and base. I cut, cleaned, and dusted with cinnamon to act as a fungicide. Then let the bulbs dry a few days and replanted. They fully healed and bloomed for me this past summer, no sign of damage at all. My cybisters and papillio were not so lucky. They suffered major damage and I lost most of them, complete basal plate destruction. One of the paps though had only basal plate remaining with no sign of roots, I cleaned it and planted it and now have 4 mini bulbs happily growing along. It'll be years before I see blooms I'm sure but this was my oldest bulb! Something to keep in mind, the maggot surrounds itself with its feces in the bulb, this has an antibiotic and antifungal quality to it, so it keeps the food source from rotting, most of what you clean out is not rot but feces. Your basal plates may not rot away so cuttage is an option.

If I were more than a hobby grower I'd have destroyed the bulbs via fire! But as a budgeted buyer I have to be frugal and save what I can, especially of the costlier bulbs. I believe the NBF was in my area a long time before I was here as there are very few Daffs in gardens except for extremely old stands of them, and these even appear to be disappearing. So sad to see.

    Bookmark   November 5, 2009 at 10:52AM
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anna_in_quebec(z4 QC)

You know, for the past 8-9 years, I've been planting daffs every autumn, and I was puzzled why they didn't seem to thrive, or even survive to the following year. I thought they were totally pest free, and the squirrels left them alone, so bought all sorts of lovely varieties. I figured I just had "bad earth" or poor growing conditions. But, through learning about amaryllis and it's biggest pest, I now realize what must be happening. You said it Chaz, "so sad to see".

Lizalily - I hope your little guy makes it through ok.

    Bookmark   November 5, 2009 at 11:34AM
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Noni Morrison

HAirry is hanging right in there. Today he is starting to eat cat chow out of the bowl in addition to his tube feedings. HIs pain meds keep him pretty doped up but his purr is back in order!

We kept him indoors for his first 2 years, then he just wanted out so badly he started busting out of all the window screens. Finally opened the door one day and said, HEre, spare my screens, go play! HE has been so much happier and healthier since and he loves to follow me around while I garden, follw my hubby when he walks the dogs, and waits for us by the driveway when we are out. SOme cats can adjust to the indoors but some are just "born free". Hairry was born in a flower pot after his mommy was abandoned. He and his family were rescued and we found his brother and him on Petfinders. They were such a beautiful pair of kittens! Fur-Gus did not make it past 2 but Hairry got all the hybrid vigor!

    Bookmark   November 5, 2009 at 3:59PM
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Lizalily, I hope everything will be fine with your cat and that he will recover soon!

Anna, NBF reduces daffodils to a shell when it attacks. You know hippeastrums are much larger bulbs and once the larva is done, you can hardly recognize the bulb. Basal plate almost gone, etc. You can imagine what the critters can do with a daffodil bulb. It's sad.

Chaz, i'm really sorry about your hippies.But you could save at least some of them. Me two. My Red Lion and Blossom Peacock had both produced offsets.

My hippies are not going outside if they are not into some kind of netting. I think i'll put each plant in sort of a "bag" of garden net. Or put them together and cover them. I'll have to buy net by the meter, but eventually it costs more (also emotionally, not only finacially) to loose so many bulbs.

    Bookmark   November 6, 2009 at 1:58PM
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chazparas(USDA zone 9 , San Jose, CA)

I wonder if the NBF eggs or larvae can get through pantyhose or stockings? I have an image in my head of a row of hippis bagged in pantyhose outside next summer. LOL, Chase would strangle me with them!

    Bookmark   November 6, 2009 at 6:50PM
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anna_in_quebec(z4 QC)

That's just what I was thinking of - pantyhose! Lord knows I go through enough of the stuff, and the "leftovers" after they're torn could serve a good purpose. But - I wonder if enough sunlight would get through - I somehow don't think so.

    Bookmark   November 6, 2009 at 7:23PM
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chazparas(USDA zone 9 , San Jose, CA)

Anna, There are no left overs in this household! LOL, I'd have to start with new ones!
There's gotta be a solution out there somewhere, my bulbs just don't get the size they should without being outdoors for the summer. :(

    Bookmark   November 7, 2009 at 11:38AM
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