Nature Girl throws up her hands and gets Marathon...

jane_in_bristol(5)May 4, 2003

Well, I finally did it. I was at the local AVSA Show & Sale and John from Cape Cod Violetry was there. Our Jon D has recommended Marathon, a systemic insecticide, available from the fine folks of CCV, and I finally just got some. I've had the unending mealie bug mystery since last fall. I wash the plants, I'm patrolling with alcohol and cotton swabs constantly, I've sprayed, cleaned, examined, soaked and repotted to no end. I've used soap, and alcohol, and lots and lots of elbow grease. But the sheer number of plants means I can't be everywhere all the time. I suppose it could be considered "under control", as its not rampant, just patchy. But each time I turn around, there are a few more of the beasties trying to settle in on something else...... I'm beginning to suspect they have a central command that gives the word.... "OK guys, she's eradicating everyone in the living room today, so we'll run covert operations in the kitchen..." I cannot spend this much time "patrolling". I need to work, and try to have a social life, too! The final straw came when I actually found some in a lesser known terrarium begonia (Do they know how to lift the glass? Or did they seize the opportunity when I had the lid off after rearranging a bit? It was not that long a time frame, how the h#&& did they get in there?). It never fully recovered, and I have now reached the point where I decided to give in and get a systemic. I have been SO resistant to any chemical controls in my household. I even get low-impact cleaning products, or use vinegar, etc...... I'm really peeved that I have to do this. I've always been sort of "nature girl", and I am reluctant to bring in powerful chemicals.

But, the guy with the Marathon was there, he gave me the spec sheets on the product, and it does sound like it has lower toxicity than most products out there. Jon raves about its effectiveness, and so I will use it on the plants that just seem to be magnets for it, and their neighbors.

*Heavy Sigh*. Wish me luck!


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scryn(z6 NY)

Mm did you try neem oil? you can use this to irrigate the soil.
Maybe your mealies got under the terrarium from the watering can you use or anything else you may use. I suppose maybe you should alcohol or bleach everything you can.

    Bookmark   May 5, 2003 at 11:54AM
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jon_d(Northern Calif.)

The good thing about Marathon is that it is sytemic and works on most of the biggies--mealie bugs, aphids, scale and white fly. It must be carefully applied and watered in, so that it doesn't just wash through the soil and end up in the saucer or down the drain. Also, it may not get into flower scapes or new young growth that comes along after treatment. But, it gives you the one-up with these bugs. They no longer are in control. Now, you can do battle, if you so choose. My hoya took a while to get clean, but now I am confident that when I next notice mealie bugs I just give it a treatment and not worry about the bugs slowly (or quickly) inundating the host plant and spreading to everything else. There are other insecticides that are more effective. But, they are often highly toxic and mostly banned. There is good old Cygon 2E, which needs to be mixed to make a spray/drench. It smells bad and has a very low LD number. There is Temik, a wonder killer of bugs but so toxic one would have to be nuts to ever use it. I think its totally banned now. Oh, and there is Oxymil, which is also very toxic and no longer sold. Going back in time, there was DDT and another great bug killer, I forget (was it Lindane?). All these old treatments were effective but at what cost to you, your pets, the environment?? At least, these newer insecticides are actually designed to be effective and low in toxicity at the same time. I used to read about these other insecticides in old plant books. In those days, getting rid of bugs was easy--you just mixed up some spray and went at it--indoors, and without any masks or other protection. People rarely died from their insecticides too. One friend would complain that Temik gave him headaches when he used it in his commercial greenhouse. And, another friend said that he had a very strange blood test, which he attributed to using Cygon to spray his plant collection. Those were the days.

PS: I forgot Nicotine Sulfate, once sold as Black Leaf 40. Its basically tobacco juice; and it is very toxic too.

    Bookmark   May 5, 2003 at 3:39PM
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Yikes, those indeed WERE the days! Wow, I know folks used to use things that we now recognize as highly toxic in a very different manner, exposing themselves to these things without a second thought .... Yikes.

Well, I certainly won't be using those other insecticides you mention, Jon! I'm hoping this will stop their mysterious recurrance. Its frustrating.

Thanks for the replies!

    Bookmark   May 6, 2003 at 8:17AM
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Welcome to the club, Jane. I started with the marathon last fall when the mealies got to my orchids. I still have one or two plants that I just treated a second time. Hopefully that will take care of it.

It's too bad that marathon doesn't work for thrips. I think I will be trying neem oil this year.

    Bookmark   May 6, 2003 at 1:16PM
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kathystanke(z4 WI)

Jane, good luck with the Marathon. I know its a hard decision to make. I, too, prefer not to use chemicals but you have battled long enough and have plants that you really care about. Its time, I think, to bring in the big bad guy (marathon). Just be sure to read the directions and wear whatever equipment it advises you to.....gloves, goggles, whatever.

Let us know how it turns out.


    Bookmark   May 6, 2003 at 7:05PM
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jon_d(Northern Calif.)

I know, just mentioning the big bad insecticides of the past can get me in trouble. But, I would rather use Marathon, from a safety standpoint, then spray with rubbing alcohol. Rubbing alcohol is toxic. I have no idea what the fumes do--whether they could have a deliterious effect on me or not. At least, with a granule like Marathon, there are no mists, vapors or odors. Just be sure that you minimize the run-off from the pot for about a week. If you water it in, with a saucer under the pot, you can pour back the run-off to make sure the insecticide stays in the soil. I mention this as an issue of frugality rather than toxicity.

    Bookmark   May 7, 2003 at 3:27PM
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scryn(z6 NY)

Mmm i just found some soil mealies myself. In my violets. I was thinking that I could remove them and wash the soil off the roots and repot with diatamaceous earth...but someone in the violet forum said that it doesn't work at all. I was going to wash all my plants, repot and then treat with Neem. The infestation isn't bad at all right now. Does anyone have thoughts on doing this?? and if it will work?

    Bookmark   May 9, 2003 at 12:02PM
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Gee, I guess I'm lucky I've not been hit with soil mealies or thrips... BTW, what are soil mealies, and how do they differ from "foliage mealies"??? Now I'm all worried.

And Jon, what was the stuff you mentioned, that you treated your friends plants with, when you discovered it was a microscopic mite infestation that was causing her plants to generally lack lustre and not thrive despite the best of care?

Thanks all!

    Bookmark   May 10, 2003 at 2:18PM
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jon_d(Northern Calif.)

Hi Jane, I'm still not sure if I was treating mites on my friend's collectionp; but I think I was--broad mites to be specific. Cyclamen mites are a more common AV and gesneriad type pest--and miserable to deal with, if one doesn't have a miticide. In this case, I used AVID, which I think one can also get from Cape Cod V.

Soil Mealies are found in the soil and on the roots. The way I always find them is when I unpot a plant. There will be a bit of a white residue sticking to the inside of the pot--as well as a few white cottony masses here and there in the soil. If you knock off all the soil you will see a few actual bugs on the roots. I find that when a plant is infected it does't just up and die, but stops growing and will sulk.

Meanwhile thrips are the one bug we haven't been discussing. "So many pests, so little time"..... I have another insecticide I used on them last summer. But, this one isn't being sold anymore--called Knox-out, an "encapsulated" formulation of diazanon. Thrips in my case were tiny bugs that eat the surface of flowers, leaving a disgusting white or dead patch on the petals of things like streptocarpus and achimenes. I had thought it was just weather damage, as these plants were outside. Finally I took off my blinders and realized it was just thrips. Marathon will have some effect, but thrips will wait it out, and since the marathon doesn't get into already formed flowers, the thrips infestation will persist. Encapsulated diazanon is a nice product. It is a bit milky but didn't leave an ugly residue. I mixed it up and sprayed. The encapsulated formulation means it is far less toxic to us and actually has a long residual action on the foliage, killing bugs that crawl over it.

    Bookmark   May 10, 2003 at 2:48PM
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scryn(z6 NY)

I have had awesome results with Neem spray to take care of thrips. Plus I use it about every other week, to prevent mildew and such. I love it. Haven't had a problem with thrips since!

    Bookmark   May 12, 2003 at 11:58AM
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I know how you feel, Jane! I really try to use non-toxic alternatives whenever I can, too. (I'm also a big fan of vinegar as a cleaner...that & plain hot water.) Last year I put up with fungus gnats; no biggie. This year, the Year of the Mealy, I got tough and went with a systemic as well. When you've got a lot of plants & no place to quarantine any, there just comes a time when you have to pull out the "big guns" or lose the war!

    Bookmark   May 13, 2003 at 2:31PM
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Yes, it sure has been the Year of the Mealy!

Thanks for all the information, and Jon, I'm going to paste your advice into my 'scrapbook' of things from GW.

Hmmm, I could have sworn I just saw Knox in this old-timey mom&pop feed store I happened across. (I LOVE getting lost, especially if its on the way home, when I'm not really "late" for anything.) That's why it was on my mind. Anyhow, I don't think I have soil mealies, so *knock on wood* I won't need that, but I'll keep the name on hand.

Well, Jen, at least I know I'm not alone in handing over the battle to the wonders of chemistry, *sigh*. Yeah, I used to have an area to "quarantine" - an unused back bedroom. But, then I started some propogations for the spring sale, etc...... and now its fair game "collection" space!

Thanks to all!

    Bookmark   May 18, 2003 at 9:20AM
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dolysods(5b OH)

I've had the soil mealies.. they are so devastating when they have gone undetected. I had to toss several plants. I now use the marathon every time i repot. I still have several that are looking sickly but there are no signs of the mealies.. i'm going to cut off the rootballs and restart them. Here is a helpful link to photos


Here is a link that might be useful: Pest pictures

    Bookmark   May 20, 2003 at 11:42AM
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irina_co(z5 CO)

Hello everybody,

I just want to pitch in with my own recipe for thrips fighting.
Conserve CS, spinosad - does them in for good. I tried Schults spray, lice shampoo (same-o, pirethrine), disbudded - they were back in a hurry. I got a bottle of Conserve from Muncy Rose Emporium for a reasonable price - by the way - they carry Avid too - 8 oz. - and now - I am not even nervous that these beasties will fly in through the windows (and they will, of course). I do not even disbud - just spray the whole plant well - one after another- and next day remove the wilted blossoms. Conserve is much less damaging to the flowers than anything else. And looks like fungus gnats went down too. I tried Gnatrol - bacillus thuringensis israelensis - supposed to keep gnats down - and ecologically friendly as well - I think it just makes them move faster.

Good luck with the mealies extermination


    Bookmark   May 20, 2003 at 10:48PM
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I have about 130 plants, and I write for AVSA magazine. My advise is to use the Marathon, and hit them hard. If you under-treat, they will come back. If most of the plants are cured, throw away the infected ones, after taking a few leaves to keep your collection intact. I've had thrips, mealy bugs and mites, and I've always won the final battle.

    Bookmark   May 21, 2003 at 10:22PM
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jon_d(Northern Calif.)

Over the years I have had many different insecticides. The vast majority of them have been tossed; while I have used just a tiny tiny fraction of the material treating plants. So, I am cautious and careful. To get rid of the backlog of dangerous and outdated items I filled two black plastic trashbags and hauled them up to the hazardous waste facility. I had to make an appointment and everything; but the disposal was free (thank you, current state law and San Mateo County). I felt really good after I had gotten rid of all those old toxic items; but, still needed something for each of my potential pests. My theory is that I need an appropriate treatment for each of the bugs that I am likely to get. Nothing works on everything anymore--the good old days of mega-powerful, mega-toxic treatments is long gone. So, for all those typical sucking insects I have Marathon. For insidious mites I have Avid. The hole in this theory then would be........(everyone, come on, in unison:)......thrips! I have heard great things about Conserve. But, before I heard about that one, I bought Knox-out, which was being discontinued. I had floral thrips on my outdoor growing streps last summer, and cleaned them up after two sprayings. Another reason for getting the Knox-out was that I have a couple of scale like infestations on some of my greenhouse plants and outdoors on my cacti. The inside pest is a dry white scale that gets onto orchids and bromeliads. Outside, the pest is a cactus spine scale (or mealie), that overwinters by making an unsightly white thingie on the spines. This spray, because it has residual action works to rid this pest. Since orchids are growing in bark, it would be difficult to get the Marathon into them. With the cactus the scale is on the spines, so I'm not sure how well Marathon would work on them though I am guessing that they have a more active phase when they are on the plant body, but I can't see them. I just remembered a fourth class of pests--catapillers and cabbage moth larvae, which eat holes in foliage and eat out the insides of flower buds before they open. For them, I use the bacillis spray (formerly sold as Di-pel). I guess I really don't deal with many fungal problems though--but I use Lysol on mildew. I think that covers just about everything.

    Bookmark   May 22, 2003 at 3:32PM
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wynswrld98(z7 WA)

Where can I find a supplier for Marathon? I've tried Internet searches and come up empty. I live in Southern California.

    Bookmark   July 9, 2003 at 5:09PM
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jon_d(Northern Calif.)

Several African Violet dealers sell it in small amounts. I know that Cape Cod Violetry in Mass. does. They have email but do not have a catalog on-line, as far as I know. But, you could email them and ask for particulars.

Here in California, Marathon is not sold for retail or home use. I bought a five pound container from a company that sells to commercial growers. They are in Half Moon Bay, but the size may be prohibitive unless you have others to share with or have a lot of plants--5 lbs for $125.

Here is a link that might be useful: Cape Cod Violetry

    Bookmark   July 9, 2003 at 8:42PM
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trailer_gal(z4 ND)

hello.....would Marathon also work for spider mites that appear on my impatience when I bring them in, in the fall. Usually by spring they are almost leafless because of the mites.

    Bookmark   September 25, 2004 at 10:36AM
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robitaillenancy1(zone 5)

Someone asked about Diatomateous Earth. These are skeletons of algae from the sea. The skeletons form razor-like edges and when insects in the soil run against this they are severly cut and die.

DE works in DRY SOIL ONLY. So when you make up a batch of soil less mix, mix in the quantity of DE you wish. I think the quantity is a teaspoon per liter of soil. I over do it and put in lots hoping it will really work. IT SHOULD WORK IN DRY SOIL TO KILL ANY INSECT IN THE SOIL.

However, as soon as the soil gets wet, and you know we have to water those plants, DE is nearly useless unless you let the soil dry out again. I wouldn't trust DE to kill all my soil insects but it will kill those in the peat moss you add to your new mixture.


    Bookmark   September 30, 2004 at 11:24PM
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jon_d(Northern Calif.)

I don't know about Marathon and spider mites. It doesn't work on cyclamen mite, so I would think that for spider mites, a miticide would be best. But, I know that spider mites can be killed by some insecticides that do not work at all on cyclamen mite. Marathon is used for mealie bugs, aphids, white fly, and scale. It only temporarily inhibits thrips or doesn't work at all on them. I suppose if your plants have fleas it would work on them too, since it is the same ingredient as in the pet flea treatment Advantage. (I know, plants don't get fleas ;))

Jon, pleased with all the interesting postings today.

    Bookmark   October 1, 2004 at 3:40PM
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The label gives info on how to handle the marathon when applying the granules to the soil. If the chemical is systemic throughout the plant and the insects die by eating the foliage, what precautions need to be taken when handling these plants?

    Bookmark   May 30, 2008 at 4:35AM
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irina_co(z5 CO)

Jx -

do your treatment in gloves, cover the granules with soil.

It is not the most poisonous stuff - so you can touch your leaves. But anything you do with soil - put the gloves on - keeps the nails clean ;-)).

I presume you do not have animals or toddlers who can chew on the leaves. It is a synthetic tobacco poison - and some people chew tobacco. It seems that it is much more poisonous to insects than to humans.

But in any case - any poison has the LD50 number - and it means how many mg per 1 kg of weight the animal needs to ingest to have 50% chance to die. The test is done on rats, not on humans - but it it quite representative. If you check imidacloprid - it is a generic name for Marathon - the number is quite high. Plus granular Marathon has actually only 1% of the active ingredient - so to do harm - you need too ingest - not touch the plant - but to eat the pound of granules to be in trouble.

So - do not worry. But wear gloves when working with soil.


    Bookmark   June 4, 2008 at 7:39PM
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