Free orchid has scale. Do I trash it?

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Morja

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Location
Montana, USA
*Edit to add, my sister volunteered to take it as she has the space to heal it and keep it separate. Yay!*
I asked for help with mounting a brassovola of mine and the person helping me also helped me mount an extra dendrobium to take home. I almost didn't want it as I have extremely limited space and regretted saying yes, but the person was being very nice and helpful (and has a ton of dens they want to get rid of) so I took it.
I got home and was inspecting it and felt icky about it- I noticed a few brown scale bubbles and didn't know what they were, just thought "bugs" and decided to douse the leaves in 70% rubbing alcohol and wipe the bubbles off- just felt right. I also put it pretty close to, but not touching, other orchids. I'll be moving it to solitary confinement right now, it's only been there maybe two hours, probably less.
I just found out what scale is. I'm worried about crawlers infesting everything. It's on a piece of wood too, which will be really hard to totally clean. It's newly on the wood, but still, I'm eyeing the roots and the moss on the mount that I DIDN'T douse in alcohol and wishing I had left space for another phrag anyway and wondering, is it really worth keeping? I already have another very healthy dendrobium start also... it's just hard for me to throw a living plant away. I live in a tiny space with a toddler and pets, so giving it its own room isn't really an option and trashing it may be what I have to do.
 
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If it just is the armored brown scale, then I have had success in the past controlling it. I always keep a spray bottle around with half 70% Isopropyl alcohol and water. Stronger then that has killed some plant tissue for me. What you really need to remember is that scale breeds like crazy, "worse then rabbits"!!! I would suggest three sprays or treatments, 7-10 days apart. In heavy infestations, I have used an old toothbrush to gently nudge those 'brown bumps" to one side letting the alcohol to do its work. Things like scale and mealybug have a very short life cycle, just 10 days to 2 weeks maybe. Some one once told me that the first spray gets the exposed crawlers, the second gets the hatchlings and the third is for good measure. Good luck!
 
To add on to @big923cattleya reply, I concur that the life cycle is about 10-14 days in the cooler months especially. So, if you choose to keep the dendrobium know you will be on watch for at least 6-8 weeks for reoccurrence of scale. Another important thing with scale is to remove them when possible. You are on the right track with wiping them off the plant when spraying with alcohol. Scale egg will continue to develop after the mother is dead, which is why removing them is important. I am leery of the toothbrush approach, as I have seen folks get too aggressive with brushing and damage the plant. By the way, I am not implying that @big923cattleya has done this. To the contrary, I am sure he is a pro at this approach. If you feel you need to do this, use a soft bristle brush and be gentle. Scale come off easily. Also brush them off away from other plants and ideally away from the infected plant. Try not to brush them onto the growing media or the mount. Pests are inevitable in the orchid hobby; that does not make dealing with them any fun.

If I were doing to keep the plant I would try to isolate it, which is an ideal practice with any new plant coming into your collection. I say ideal practice because it is not always possible. With a shared space, harsh pesticides are not really an option for you. I would stick with an alcohol mixture, horticultural oil, or insecticidal soup. These all kill on contact and require observation and continued treatment until the scale are gone. As stated above about 3 treatments or a couple more.

Now is it worth it for you? Is this plant special? I appreciate that you are thinking this way. It is a good habit to have when your collection is small, and a good habit to keep as your collection grows. A free orchid is great, but when time and space are at premiums, you have to evaluate things differently. Is this a dendrobium that you are excited about adding to your collection? Is it worth the time to get it healthy? Would you rather spend your time and space on something else? Even taking the pest situation out of the equation, are you excited about this plant? Us orchid folks are excited about sharing our passion. I have even been guilty of 'gifting' plants to others. The general thought in my head is, "This person is nervous about killing the plant. I want them to know that's part of the process. Gifting them this plant will help them practice and become a better grower" I rarely thought otherwise unless they straight out say, "I don't grow this type of orchid." or "I don't like those flowers or growth habit."

There are no criminal charges for tossing a plant you don't want or love. Still, I get it. It does not feel good to throw out a plant, especially not an orchid. I work, have a toddler, have pets, and now am a care giver for my mother. Time is worth more than a free orchid that I don't love. Based on what you are saying, the scale might not be that bad to get rid of. But... if you don't have to why deal with it. Unless you are excited about the potential of this specific dendrobium or know someone willing to deal with the scale, tossing it is not a bad thing.
 
Well, that is why I said “an old toothbrush” and “gently nudge” the scale insects. It is a method that has worked for me for decades.
But I have been around long enough to know people can get aggressive when treating problems.
I just know that both the brown armored scale and the white Boisduval scale are not difficult to get rid of, at least in my experience. But they do require diligence.

I hate to throw any orchid away, even more so with species.
But like Dj, I have had kids around, freshwater fish tanks, cats and my wife around so I simply refuse to use insecticides. No orchid is worth making us ill.
 
Having spent my life mostly on the chemical industry, I take the opposite approach and am not fearful of pesticides - some, I refuse to consider, but most are quite safe if properly used.

Systemics are really the way to go for such armored bugs like brown scale. If I'm dealing with plants isolated from living spaces, I find acephate to be a very good product. It stinks to high heaven to warn you to stay away, but after a day or two, it's safe to be around. This time of year, however, my plants are in a window in my kitchen nook, so that's not an option. Instead, I use Azamax, which is a concentrated form of azadirachtin, the active ingredient in neem oil, but without the pitfalls of oils. It is a rather unique pesticide, as it "attacks" the critters via several contact and systemic routes and affects eggs and immature insects and mites, which most pesticides don't. In it's diluted form, it is perfectly safe around you, kids, and pets.

Another alternative is OrganiShield, which is not a toxin at all, but a "super surfactant" that strips protective waxy coatings off eggs, immature- and mature insects, quickly leading to desiccation and suffocation. It will be ineffective on the armored hard scale adults, but if you keep at a regular treatment regimen, it will eliminate the population by preventing the maturation of a continued population.

No matter what regimen you choose, be thorough in your treatments, treat on a regular weekly cycle for three or more treatments, and the insect will be eradicated.
 
Thank you all for your excellent replies! One detail I forgot to mention that is actually pretty significant- we will be moving cross-country again (WV back to home state of MT) next week and it will be extremely difficult if not impossible to keep this plant separate from the rest if I keep it. While I am encouraged that the treatment regimen doesn't sound too bad under normal circumstances, I simply will not have the space or the mental capacity to do a good job of it over the next couple of weeks. It will be a struggle enough not to freeze my healthy plants. I will likely be grouping them together either stuffed in a vehicle with us if it's very cold, or in our shower in the travel trailer (where they usually travel).
I've come up with a plan that is better than trashing it- my sister is a budding orchid enthusiast with a massive house. She is happy to take it. I'll ship it overnight and hope it survives. A better chance at life than my trashcan!! And I really hate to waste a plant.
 
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@Djthomp28 I want to be clear that I and many others love free orchids! You are guilty of nothing but kindness! It was on me for giving in and taking it knowing I had an impending move and little space, and not taking the time to inspect it there. Under more normal circumstances I would try to do more for it in my care to honor the gift!
 
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get rid of it if you don't care for it...but if the plant is going to stay, I would take Ray's advice--systemic insecticide...
 
I am not going to chip in at the moment, but scale are insidious little mothers that can also spread disease from plant to plant. I have had success eradicating these, but do not underestimate their ability to persist. I have a step by step process, treating, observing and quarantining before I deem them safe. I also feel that they can make the difference in whether a plant flowers, as they rob nutrient and can damage new eye growth hidden under the rhizome sheathing. Not keeping score but have had scale arrive here in Toronto from Hawaii, Florida, Venezuela and Colombia. Yes systemic treatment is most often necessary. Cheers.
 
I actually just ditched a good size houseplant that had scale. Wasn’t doing what I wanted it to anyways so not as important for me to keep. My question is, best way to make sure the decorative outer glazed ceramic pot it was in is clean so I can reuse it? Will it be enough for me to run it thru the dishwasher on sanitize?
 
I actually just ditched a good size houseplant that had scale. Wasn’t doing what I wanted it to anyways so not as important for me to keep. My question is, best way to make sure the decorative outer glazed ceramic pot it was in is clean so I can reuse it? Will it be enough for me to run it thru the dishwasher on sanitize?
Bleach it to sterilize it. Why take a chance?
 
I actually just ditched a good size houseplant that had scale. Wasn’t doing what I wanted it to anyways so not as important for me to keep. My question is, best way to make sure the decorative outer glazed ceramic pot it was in is clean so I can reuse it? Will it be enough for me to run it thru the dishwasher on sanitize?
Since it is an "outer" decorative pot and it is not for your orchids, it should be enough just put it through the dishwasher with soap and hot water, and go through the dishwasher another time if you wish. My dishwasher is very hot, so any insects will be cooked... the virus will be gone(99% if not 100%). If they are used for orchids or old(pot), then soak them in a bleach solution first(mainly to get rid of some marks/cleaner looking).
 
Since it is an "outer" decorative pot and it is not for your orchids, it should be enough just put it through the dishwasher with soap and hot water, and go through the dishwasher another time if you wish. My dishwasher is very hot, so any insects will be cooked... the virus will be gone(99% if not 100%). If they are used for orchids or old(pot), then soak them in a bleach solution first(mainly to get rid of some marks/cleaner looking).
Just curious hot hot does a dishwasher get?
 
When I repot I always move the plant into a clean pot. All used pots are first scrub washed, and then immersed into a bucket containing at least 10% bleach for a minimum of 7 days. I use large river stones to hold plastic pots below the water level. Similarly, all used medium is washed to remove debris and then goes into a bucket and is soaked for at least 7 days with fungicide and then safers soap.
 
Just curious hot hot does a dishwasher get?
hot enough to burn my hands...and for that reason, I can't empty my dishwasher right away. Many dishwashers have a sanitizing cycle and it increases the temperature quite a bit during that time.
 
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