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Beasties and beauties – Phuket Gardening

Legacy Phuket Gazette

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Beasties and beauties – Phuket Gardening | The Thaiger

PHUKET: In a recent email, a colleague enclosed some photographs with the observation: “At home I came across this group of [tiny] mantids – about 100 minimum” which appeared to be mimicking ants.

He added: “Have you ever seen so many?”

My response was “No”, but I said I suspected they had just emerged from the safety of their protective casing, a foamy construction in which the female may lay several hundred eggs. Mimicry is an effective strategy for vulnerable insects. In this case the young mantids were not only imitating the posture of ants but staying together. Safety in numbers.

Normally adult mantids don’t need protection. They are solitary hunters, lying in wait for prey before grabbing the victim with barbed forelegs. The larger female will tackle sizable insects including male mantids, even geckos and, in America, hummingbirds, though their main diet consists of grasshoppers. Fascinating creatures and certainly the gardener’s friend. But like spiders, they are often feared, perhaps because of their capacity when threatened, to stand upright on their hind legs and assume a “praying” posture. Tiny green religious robots.

Other garden inhabitants which get a mixed press include centipedes. Like most predatory insects they are very rapid movers and their venomous claws can deliver a painful bite. The Thailand version is large: an orange creature with a segmented, flattened body. Centipedes need moist conditions, so avoid putting your hand in damp leaf axils of palms. Unlike detritivore millipedes which hide under stones and are cylindrical and coppery-brown to black, centipedes prey on small insects and possibly earthworms. Indeed, the combined efforts of millipedes and centipedes may be one reason for the disastrous lack of earthworms in Phuket’s soil.

Last week I mentioned mosquitoes, midges and ants as particular nuisances to people. Other creepy crawlies do more damage, usually undetected to your precious plants. Snails and slugs come into this category, though they are less of a menace here than in Europe. Maybe more toads and frogs to eat them, maybe the long spells of dry weather make life difficult for them. You can make it more difficult still by ensuring there are no dank, shaded, man-made hidey-holes where they can lurk during the day, such as the gaps between stacked flower pots or piles of wood. But believe me, they do get out during the dark hours to munch on shoots and foliage. One recent piece of research found that they may travel as much as 20 meters from base during the night. So don’t expect to find them on your plants: they are best apprehended back in their dark, damp lairs.

I have no compunction about squashing slugs and snails, but my feelings about caterpillars, the larvae of butterflies and moths, are more equivocal. Frankly, if you want beautiful butterflies, you will have to allow some caterpillars to survive. My potted tabernaemontanas and adeniums are always being invaded by oleander hawk moth caterpillars. I just wish they would live up to their name and tackle the much more vigorous oleander bushes.

They are, incidentally, a wonderful example of camouflage. The huge emerald green caterpillars exactly match the foliage which they are silently devouring, usually from underneath the leaves. But the adults are worth waiting for – olive and lavender beauties which pollinate at dusk, whizzing around like humming birds.

One eco-friendly solution is to grow plants especially for butterflies. The best varieties include buddleia paniculata, asclepias (Indian milkweed), Rangoon creepers (quisqualis), passion flowers (passiflora), much favored by lacewings, any of the citrus family, on which the larvae of yellow Helen butterflies feed, hibiscus schizopetalus and the humble lantana camara. Standing supreme is the Indian milkweed, a focal point for varieties of monarch and related butterflies, both for their caterpillars and for the nectar feeding adults. Unlike temperamental buddleias and honeysuckles, powerful magnets for swallowtails, milkweeds are very easy to grow, vigorous, and with attractive, fragrant clusters of flowers.

Tip of the week – Pottering around again

There are so many of you who are apartment dwellers that I make no apologies for re-visiting the topic of container gardening. Though potted plants beautify any balcony or patio, it is worth remembering that they will, in time, need re-potting. This is because they become root-bound – they take up so much space with their roots that little of the original soil is left. Roots sprouting through the base are a sign of this condition. Affected plants will dry out more quickly and need additional feeding. Better to transplant them to a larger container with fresh soil, to tease out roots which will have become densely compacted.

In open ground, many plants and especially trees, possess not only a widespread system of surface roots, but also a tap root which goes straight down, often to several feet, and enables the plant to find water in conditions of drought. Pot plants do not have this natural advantage. Hence more watering is needed.

If you have a question, or a garden that you would like featured, you can email Patrick Campbell here.

Keep checking our online Phuket Lifestyle pages, follow us on Twitter @phuketgazette or join our Facebook fan page for regular gardening features and tips.

— Patrick Campbell

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Archiving articles from the Phuket Gazette circa 1998 - 2017. View the Phuket Gazette online archive and Digital Gazette PDF Prints.

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Business

Out of 37 countries, Thailand has the worst pension system, says Bloomberg

May Taylor

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Out of 37 countries, Thailand has the worst pension system, says Bloomberg | The Thaiger

Thai Residents reports that on Sunday, Bloomberg published an article on the world’s best pension systems, using information gathered from the 2019 Melbourne Mercer Global Pensions Index.

The survey looked at the pension systems of 37 countries with metrics including employee rights, savings, the number of homeowners, growth of assets, and growth of the economy. The purpose of the analysis was to determine what was needed to improve state pension systems and to gauge the level of confidence citizens had in their state pension system.

The Netherlands and Denmark were found to have the world’s best state pensions, with Australia, Finland, Sweden, Norway, Singapore, New Zealand, Canada, and Chile next. Out of all 37 countries, Thailand finished last, with what the report described as an extremely ineffective and ambiguous system.

“Thailand was in the bottom slot and should introduce a minimum level of mandatory retirement savings and increase support for the poorest.”

Out of 37 countries, Thailand has the worst pension system, says Bloomberg | News by The Thaiger

Photo: WorkpointNews

Thai Residents states that only those employed within the government system in Thailand are eligible for a pension based on salary. For most Thai citizens, pension amounts vary from 600 baht to 1,000 baht a month, depending on the recipient’s age.

A report carried out by The Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) advises Thai citizens to have at least 4 million baht saved by the time they retire, but Thai Residents reports that 60% of Thai retirees have less than 1 million baht in savings, with one in three citizens who have reached retirement age are forced to continue working in order to survive.

SOURCE: thairesidents.com

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Bangkok

Tax on salt content being considered

Greeley Pulitzer

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Tax on salt content being considered | The Thaiger

The Excise Department is considering imposing a tax on the salt content of food to encourage food producers to reduce the sodium content of snacks, instant noodles and seasoning cubes.

The director of the Office of Tax Planning said that the department is discussing a limit on the amount of sodium food can contain, in line with the standard set by the World Health Organization (WHO), which is 2,000 milligrams of salt per day.

In reality, Thai people consume an average of 1,000 milligrams per meal, making their daily intake well above WHO guidelines, according to the director.

He said any tax imposed would be at a level which would encourage food producers to reduce the sodium in their processed food without being punitive, adding that the proposal isn’t intended to generate more tax revenue, but to help protect the health of consumers. Excessive sodium in the diet can lead to high blood pressure and kidney disease.

Fish sauce, soy sauce and salt would not be taxed.

SOURCE: thaipbsworld.com

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News

Water shortage warnings in 22 provinces

Greeley Pulitzer

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Water shortage warnings in 22 provinces | The Thaiger

People living in 22 Thai provinces are being warned to prepare for shortages of drinking water during the upcoming dry season, due to start on November 1st.

The warning was issued by the National Water Resources Office, citing low levels in reservoirs, which are the main sources for tap water production waterworks in 22 provinces.

Areas at risk identified by the office are in northern, north-eastern, eastern and southern provinces.

Measures have been adopted by agencies charged with dealing with water shortages. including dredging water channels to allow greater volumes of water to flow into reservoirs, drilling underground wells, enlarging storage ponds and the purchase of water to supply to those in urgent need.

The Royal Irrigation Department has announced that people should use water sparingly.

There are currently about 6 billion cubic metres of usable water in reservoirs in the affected provinces, with 5 billion cubic metres reserved for consumption and ecological preservation, leaving only 1 billion cubic metres for use in agriculture.

This means farmers in the Chao Phraya river basin may not be able to grow a second crop of rice this year.

SOURCE: thaipbsworld.com

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