Desiccation

As much as I always hate to admit this in public, I am not above the vampire craze. Not that I go seeking out every piece of vampire fiction ever written, but vampire books do seem to make their way into my “to be read” pile. I get a certain level of pleasure from them that I don’t from reading the more “serious” or “literary” books in the stack. Maybe it’s the difference between eating out and cooking for yourself. Reading a beautifully written book that requires you to labor through each page is rewarding in the same way that making homemade sourdough is, but it doesn’t offer the consistently delicious, hassle-free euphoria of having a professional make your food while you lounge around drinking lemonade.

Food and literature aside, what I really want to get into is vampires. One of the more original series I’ve been sucked into lately (Noble Dead) has your normal blood-sucking vampires, sure, but it also throws in mage vampires who are capable of using magic to suck all the life out of a person, not just the blood. What’s left behind is a withered, dried-out husk of a corpse. It’s not a pretty way to die, and reading about it gave me the creeps.

Creepier still, however, is the idea of a tiny, mite-sized vampire who lives on you, parasite fashion, and breeds, sucking every last drop of life out of you day by agonizing day. You would think that since they’re small enough to squash they would be easy to get rid of, but the reality is that they’re so small that it’s impossible to just crush them all. They keep sucking here by there, leaving you aware of the fact that you’re helplessly turning into a bone-dry husk. Some of you houseplant aficionados may guess where I’m going with this, but let me give you a picture to help the imagination along:

Spider mites are tiny plant vampires of the desiccating sort. I bought this ivy less than a month ago to put in the planter, which I now suspect to be haunted by the ghost of the first plant to die a horrible death within its ceramic walls. That plant I had tried to grow from a clipping off the one plant that has stayed happy and healthy since my freshman year of college in spite of my gross neglect. I figured it would be easy to grow a clipping from such a hardy plant, but I was wrong. Apparently baby hardy plants need a little more TLC than mama hardy plants, and also, they may actually need water once in a while. Short version: it died.

Without respect for the ghostly remains of dead baby hardy plant, I transplanted my new ivy into the pot, using most of the leftover soil to pack around what the plant came with, and I’m wondering if this was the problem. The ivy was bug-free and lushly green when I brought it home from the grocery store. A few days after the transplant, I noticed a few tiny webs along the leaves. I never like webs, but I didn’t worry too much about it. I just spritzed some water at them to knock them off and went about my business.

A day or so after that, I noticed that the webs were back, and there were more of them. On closer inspection, I saw that they were being made by itsy-bitsy white bugs crawling along the strands. My reaction at this point was “Ewww, gross, I should find a way to kill those,” but in intense heat, I am not a girl of action. I just moved the plant so it wasn’t touching anything and went on with my not doing anything, figuring the plant didn’t look any the worse for wear, so it could wait.

Another day or so after that, I looked at my plant again and found that not only where the webs ALL OVER the plant, the plant had also gone from looking green and happy (albeit covered in little bugs) to dry and brown and possibly no longer among the living (and still covered in little bugs). This spurred John and I into action. We did a little internet research and found that you can kill bugs humanely with natural things like neem oil, or you can hit them with a soap that essentially melts them from the inside out. Of course I’d prefer to use a nicer bug killer, but we couldn’t find neem oil and I just can’t find it in myself to be sympathetic towards those little plant-desiccating vermin. I put the plant in the bath tub to contain the fallout and waged serious chemical warfare on every one of their albino-bug behinds.

The plant, as you can see, is mite-free again, but I don’t have much hope for its survival. There isn’t a single leaf that came away unscathed. Right now, I think it’s fair to say that at best, the spider mites (aided by my ignorant neglect) have turned my poor little ivy into some undead horror whose memory will join the dead baby hardy plant in haunting the blue planter. Maybe dumping their grave soil will alleviate the problem, but if a third plant dies of dehydration within this planter’s confines, I’m giving it up for cursed.

4 thoughts on “Desiccation

  1. Grocery store plants are notorious for spider mites – they wash the mites off but the eggs survive, hatch, and multiply days after you bring them home. Toss the soil and wash the pot before you use it again. And if you see them you should zap them right away – they kill plants quickly. :( poor ivy!!

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  2. Hey, Melissa
    You are so gentle-minded and humane with your plants. I have always been a bit more laissez faire about them….if they live, good. If they don’t……. then out they go.
    Your story, however, reminds me of a family member (whom you know quite well) who used to work part time for Tom and me. She must have been (is) the anti-vampire.
    There was a little plant in the office which was really, really 9/10 dead. I figured it was probably having a negative effect on my clients….after all it wasn’t thriving…or even surviving. So…….I threw it into the trash.
    Lo and behold, the next day it was back out on the windowsill just as dead and pathetic-looking as it had been the previous day. This ‘re-emergence’ ritual went on for about a week with a few discussions about being able to ‘let go’. I finally put the poor thing in a bag and secretly found a wastebasket across town in which it could rest in peace.
    The bottom-line here for you, Melissa is to lock your door. If she has read your post, she is already on her way to Boston and you will find a sad, still dead plant on your windowsill in the morning.
    I guess there could be many worse things.

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