Bugs/larva INSIDE leaves

Lamora(4)November 25, 2012

Hi, My daughter is at a loss, she just caught me on FB and said she has something eating the inside of her Holiday Cactus. She seen a few holes/chew marks from what she thinks was Scales. She kept it in water for 2 days to wash off the bugs,(even the roots) repotted with new soil, that seemed to take care of the outside.

She says there is a clear larva or worm like something sucking the moisture from the INSIDE of her plant. She looked under a microscope to see. Nothing new outside since the soaking. She can't see anything in the soil or the roots.

Does anyone have any idea what this is and what can be done for it? She really loves this plant and would like to save it if possible..

She thanks anyone with any advice.

Marjie~~ still a mom :)

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Is it inside of leaves? - it sounds like a leafminer (I don't know if they attack cactus).
They leave visible 'tunnels' on the leaves. Google it & compare photos.


    Bookmark   November 25, 2012 at 12:28AM
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There are caterpillars (larvae of moths) that will eat out the inside of cactus leaves, tunnelling all through them. This can introduce fungus inside the leaves and eventually destroy the plant. It's been successfully used as a biological control of cactus. You'd need an insecticide to get rid of the caterpillars, unless they can be seen and reached easily.

    Bookmark   November 25, 2012 at 2:41AM
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It is not likely she saw holes in the stems of her cactus from scale insects. They do not actually eat the plant tissue, they suck the juice out. So holes in the stems is not scale. Flat spots, maybe, actual holes is something I have never seen, and I have been visited by most scale species that destroy cacti.

Putting the plant in the water for 2 days does not cure scale unless the water has something in it. If she sees something inside the cactus stem, I would recommend skewering it with a wire or an awl.

Moths that eat the cladodes are just about limited to Opuntias. Unless the insect is a leaf miner, as illustrated by Rina above (Thanks for the great pic!), I think your dau. sees a part of the plant and thinks it is insect life. To be sure, a dissection would be the way to go.

In 30 years of keeping jungle cacti, and putting them out each summer, I have never had anything suck moisture out from the inside. The fact is, the insects here are not likely to attack a plant from another hemisphere with no relative living within a 1000 miles of me. My guess is something else is going on. Slugs make lots of holes in these, sometimes crippling the plant. Birds have been known to eat my buds, ditto the chipmunks. But if your dau. found something eating her plant from the inside, then she should dispose of the plant before it gets out and eats the rest of her plants.

    Bookmark   November 25, 2012 at 10:00AM
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Tiffany, purpleinopp GardenWeb, Z8b Opp, AL(8B AL)

Ugh, sorry to hear! If she put it under water for 2 days, it's likely that it's rotting and unable to obtain moisture from ruined roots, hence the dehydrated appearance. Can she take some pics? Speculation could be endless...

    Bookmark   November 25, 2012 at 11:04AM
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Thanks everyone. She is going to try to send me a pic of it, but whether or not I can get it to here? That is a whole other matter.

She said it doesn't look anything like the pic of the Leafminer tho, she's been looking it up and can't find what she has,, so far.

She thanks you all and said you have been very helpful so far. Will try to post pic of it when I can.. Thanks again


    Bookmark   November 25, 2012 at 4:10PM
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lets try this again, pics are not loading right. 3x is a charm?? lol
but this is what she is dealing with. Sorry about not seeing much of the bugs. She couldn't take it with this camera.

Why one is huge and the other small is beyond me.. but you can see in the second one where she opened it up some to see. The top on is what was going on first, but that is solved now.

I can't tell what it could be, can't really see anything, maybe someone can?

Any ideas?
Marjie~~ Thanks again :) From both of us~~

    Bookmark   November 25, 2012 at 5:00PM
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I had no idea Leaf Miners infested plants other than Citrus, but after researching, apparently they do.

Other than the bugs/larva, do the leaves have trail markings? I don't see any...


    Bookmark   November 25, 2012 at 5:30PM
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flora_uk(SW UK 8/9)

I have had slug/snail damage on Christmas Cactus which looks just like the first picture. Has your daughter tried looking at her plant after dark? That's when they come out. Also useful to check under the pot and under the rim.

I can't see anything wrong with the second picture other than the normal lumps and bumps these plants have naturally, especially if they've been knocked or scratched.

I'm not sure submerging a cactus in water for two days is going to have helped the poor thing. Has she repotted it yet? I would suggest giving it a break from extreme loving, undertaking a snail hunt and just keeping a close eye on it.

    Bookmark   November 26, 2012 at 5:17AM
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Sorry, having major internet problims on this end, wasn't able to get on sooner.

She has repotted it, fresh soil. She took these pictures when she did that, so they weren't out of soil for long. When she had it sitting in water for 2 days, that was recommended by someone she knows. She said it took care of the bugs outside, but they are still inside. Haven't talked to her since I posted the pics. Hope to today sometime for an update.

Thank you all for the input on this, hope it helps her some.

    Bookmark   November 27, 2012 at 3:12PM
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Tiffany, purpleinopp GardenWeb, Z8b Opp, AL(8B AL)

The things I circled in black I would wonder if they are scale, don't know.

I think you are asking about the red circled area? It does look like there could be something in there. I might just cut/pinch it off. Then it wouldn't be there, and would satisfy my curiosity upon dissection.

    Bookmark   November 27, 2012 at 3:59PM
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flora_uk(SW UK 8/9)

Purple - I don't think the black circled things are scale. Apart from anything else, scale would come off easily with a finger nail. I think they are just the natural bumps these cacti get. I still think the red circled thing is natural healing after slug, snail or other physical damage. Mine has similar from when it was left out in the summer.

    Bookmark   November 27, 2012 at 4:12PM
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Tiffany, purpleinopp GardenWeb, Z8b Opp, AL(8B AL)

Good to hear!

    Bookmark   November 27, 2012 at 4:59PM
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Last night she said it was getting worse. She has taken some of the segments that fell off and planted them, and they just die. She wants to now, take some unaffected segments (not too many left) and plant them and see what happens... other than that, she's thinking of tossing it. She hasn't yet tho, really wants to save it.

I really wish I was there to see it, discirbe it better to you, but I'm not... so this is all third hand. So for now, it is up to her..

Thanks again for all your help, very much apprecieated from both of us. :)

Marjie & Teri

    Bookmark   November 28, 2012 at 9:29AM
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Tiffany, purpleinopp GardenWeb, Z8b Opp, AL(8B AL)

Awww this is a bummer, no matter the cause. It might help to remove the root ball from the pot and let it air out for a few days. Just sounds like it's rotting to me but the pic looks like a pretty healthy plant.

    Bookmark   November 28, 2012 at 11:53AM
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thanks purple~~ I feel bad that I am not there to help her out, just her telling me doesn't work, I need to see it. I will mention the airing out thing to her. If it isn't too late.. poor thing, My daughter and plant, I feel bad for both, I guess that is the "mommy" in me? lol

    Bookmark   November 29, 2012 at 1:44PM
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