Hippeastrum and lily borer: treatment tips for the tropics?

I think it’s a Hippeastrum not an Amaryllis, but it was gorgeous.

There I was yesterday morning quietly eating my breakfast while perusing the garden. First I saw that the possums had been wreaking havoc on my new tomato bushes…nothing new there. Need a new strategy.

All of a sudden I realised my pot of beautiful Hippeastrum plants looked like a plague of phytophthera had hit it…the leaves were like mush and wilted and in short the whole thing looked on the brink of death. Porridge forgotten I shot into the pool area to see what was going on. As I pulled one leaf after another from the plant, landing mush-like on the ground I had images of my Irish ancestors checking each potato tuber after the Blight had infected their food source. At least I was only obsessing about some flowers, not my food and sustenance. But I wasn’t happy!

You can see the borer track and how it’s turned the bulb reddish.

Then I noticed there were some black and white-striped caterpillar/grubs on some of the leaves (no photos of my own, too busy killing!). One thing led to another and I kept finding more of these critters. Don’t know why I pulled up some bulbs, but they too were going mushy – and there were worm holes down which the grubs had burrowed, cutting through the bulb in a wormy tunnel. Well I sliced and diced, stamped and stomped, battered and pulverised every one of those little *** I could get my trowel on. Stuck skewers down the tubes and squished with all my might. No grotty little grub messes with my flowers!

This is one of the little monsters that caused all the trouble…long since deceased.

In the end I sorted out which bulbs will probably not survive, though I replanted them in the contaminated pot, which I hope I’ve cleared of bugs. The healthy-looking bulbs I’ve planted in another pot, with my fingers crossed. Then I remembered that last week there’d been a maze of tiny fruit-fly sized flies around the adjacent Thai basil. Were the two things connected? Spotting some more of the flies I zapped them with common house fly spray.

A good deal of googling suggests that those wretched grubs are lily borers and they are remarkably efficient in decimating a plant. I’m still not sure if the flies are linked to the grubs but I’m thinking so. Some comments suggest these grubs are incredibly difficult to control but I’m hoping my homicidal tendencies have taken care of them. I’ve also learnt the bulbs themselves are toxic – kind of handy to know when there are children around.

I’ve had them in the pot for about 4 years (and yes, I should have divided them up), and they get a steady amount of water and during the Wet Season they’re deluged.  Ironically the rain had dried up in the past week and the temperatures dropped. Typical for this time of year, but did the changed conditions contribute to the infestation or was it just bad luck?

But what of my remaining bulbs? Any suggestions? Can I save them? There’s really no point in replacing them while these voracious monsters are still potentially in the garden.

Update 19th May: I sprayed the pots several times with a mix of water and tabasco sauce, as per some clue I found on the web. Whether it works in the long term remains to be seen but at least I’m now seeing some little shoots regrowing. Fingers crossed.

Blog to book with Blurb and Booksmart

Blog to Book: for some reason the cover looks grey here rather than sparkling white.

I’m in the throes of producing my second blog-to-book using Booksmart, the downloadable software by Blurb. At the beginning of this year I slurped up all my posts to date excluding the 52 weeks and Advent Calendar series. The posts were printed in a 240 glossy page book with a hard cover and with a back-up PDF e-book. Although on the expensive side I was very happy with the quality of the production and feel it was worthwhile. Next challenge was to publish my personal memories (52 weeks, Advent Calendar and A to Z challenge) into another book. I thought you might also be interested in how it works in case you’re keen to try it out for your own blog posts. I may come back with follow up comments after I’ve finished this one.

The process goes like this:

  • Download then activate the software
  • Choose the format of your book (landscape, portrait, square etc)
  • Choose blog to book as the type of book (near the bottom of the option list)
  • Log into your blog via the software
  • Choose which blog you want to publish
  • Choose whether you want to include your comments (I do because they add to the story)
  • Choose whether you want to include your hyperlinks as footnotes
  • Tick off all the posts you want to include
  • When you tick continue the program will slurp up all the photos for these posts. Depending how many images you use, this may take a little while.
  • Mine happily slurped up 328 photos, showed the process as complete, then froze while it thought about what to do next.

Eventually the book template uploads and you can start editing. A word from the unwise: you’re probably better off selecting a theme of topics eg the 52 weeks series or the A to Z challenge. On this occasion I’ve bitten off more than I can chew. Currently running at 460 pages, I’m guessing by the time I’m done with my edits it will come down to the max permitted of 440. Last book I produced from 2010 and 2011 posts I went with premium pages but this time I’m going to chance it (like the old Aussie motto “chance it with Ansett”) with standard paper quality.

Once you’re into editing the book it’s straight forward enough but a bit tedious. You can change which page layout you use on each page, depending on how many photos you have for that post. The pictures may cause problems. I upload mine to the blog as medium standard and Blurb tells me that many are under-resolution for the size of the photo layout I choose. I then have a choice of clicking on their “fix resolution” button, making the photo smaller or go back and import the same photo at a higher res (actually usually just importing your original photo works)

You then have to cut the captions which have been sucked into the body of your post and either paste them into the caption box, if your layout permits or adding a caption list to the end/beginning of the post. So there’s a bit of fiddling around with editing to be done, all of which takes time. Occupational health advice: try to do all this on a big screen with a proper mouse, not on your laptop, as it plays havoc with your body if you constantly use the laptop mouse. I speak from experience.

None of this is rocket science and I’m already aware that going with the maximum pages isn’t the smartest choice I’ve ever made either. I could solve this problem by eliminating a batch of stories eg A to Z, and all I’d have to do would be to highlight the pages and delete them (again it will take time to complete that task). However I really want them all in one place so I will persevere.

If you need to grab back some space, just edit your comments so everything is not on a separate line, and use a text-only layout for pages where you have no photos.

One of the things I like about Blurb is that the document is always saved, and online, so you can just take up where you left off next time you go in.

I have a long way to go before I’m finished with this task and I know that I will be thoroughly sick of it by then, especially with my shoulder currently giving me some grief. BUT I also know that judging on my previous blog-to-book product it will look impressive and provide a lasting record of what could be a transient virtual world. As you can see I have more faith that the book will survive the years. I will also have a PDF copy so I have backup insurance .