Connect with us

Thai Life

Phuket Gardening – A fly in the ointment

Legacy Phuket Gazette



PHUKET: Insects are one of the most successful forms life has taken on earth. There are as many as 1,800,000 different species, probably more. And there is no shortage of them here in Phuket. Any self-respecting gardener will be aware of these “critters”: they lurk everywhere in our carefully tended flower beds, shrubberies and vegetable plots. And they are a mixed blessing. While many pollinators such as bees are beneficial both to the environment and to humans, others are pests, especially those that bite or sting, or worse, transmit diseases.

In this regard, public enemy number one is the mosquito which has acquired extra publicity and menace in Thailand because one species, aedes aegypti, a large striped species, is a vector for dengue fever.

Reported figures of dengue here in Phuket have risen sharply to nearly 2000 cases in the past year. Almost certainly, this increase is related to heavy rains and the existence of casual puddles of water favored for breeding purposes by aedes. Oddly, malaria, which is the world’s leading killer, (two million annually, especially of the young), is virtually unknown in the Kingdom.

But even mosquito or midge bites are unpleasant enough, the more so if you are allergic to them. The female anopheles mosquito is the most common bloodsucker, (the male feeds harmlessly on pollen) needing the transfusion to provide sustenance for eggs which she will later deposit in water. Having pierced the host’s skin with her sharp proboscis, she injects an anti-coagulant saliva which allows the blood to flow more easily. It is this fluid which dilates our capillaries, and causes both the swelling and subsequent irritation.

As gardeners, we can take precautions. Ensure that any standing water (fish or lily ponds, or lotus pots), actually contain fish. Even small varieties such as guppies or sword tails will immediately gobble up any eggs or larvae. Other natural predators include insect-eating birds and large insects such as dragon flies, spiders and praying mantises. Try to avoid gardening in the early morning or before sunset when “mozzies” are on the prowl, and avoid areas of deep shade where they hide. Wear a repellent on exposed skin: DEET is effective for several hours and though less potent, natural products based, for example, on citronella, eucalyptus oil or neem, are a useful deterrent. Enclose feet and ankles: the levels of CO2 which attract the insects are higher in these areas of the body.

If mosquitoes are enemy number one for the gardener, others can prove equally, well, irritating. Take ants. They are ubiquitous and indestructible, having colonized every part of the globe bar Antarctica. Here in the tropics, they bite with their mandibles and sting, especially the aggressive weaver ants that create leaf nests in trees, or the large black ants that breed underground or in saucers at the base of flower pots. Typically, the sting is caused by the ant spraying formic acid; after a massed attack by red ants, one can smell it on the skin.

What makes ants more of a problem, is that they are, unlike mosquitoes, social creatures – with colonies which they protect so effectively that they have few natural enemies. Even spiders will not venture near these fortresses manned by soldier ants. But their principal nuisance for the gardener is their capacity to forge relationships with other creatures such as aphids and mealybugs. These tiny insects feed destructively on plant sap and produce a sweet substance called honeydew which is “milked” by the ants. In a symbiotic relationship with the ants, these sap-suckers are protected from predators such as ladybirds. Plants weakened by such attacks often develop fungal diseases or die.

Oddly, neither mosquitoes nor ants are top of the most feared or hated insect list. That dubious honor goes to the spider. Perhaps because there are many venomous species of spiders. But in Phuket they are the gardener’s ally, consuming mosquitoes and other flying nasties ensnared by their webs. Nonetheless, it has been estimated that up to 50 per cent of women are arachnophobic. It seems that the fear of spiders runs deep in many of us.

Tip of the week – Leaf coloration

Foliage plants, grown principally for their leaf color, need the right conditions to display their best and brightest hues. Popular, broad-leaved cordylines such as fruticosa, only attain that rich magenta hue when given plenty of sun, though over-exposure to noon-day glare may, as with shade-loving species, lead to leaf scorch.

Older forms of euphorbia cotinifolia, with hybrids such as atropurpurea now available in glowing shades of crimson, will only produce red foliage in a sunny location.

The reverse is also true of some plants. Some rainforest plants or those unused to high levels of heat or humidity, may change their color in tropical conditions. Some bromeliads, especially red leaved ones or those with a scarlet inflorescence, may revert to plain green at sea level, but regain their coloration at cooler, elevated altitudes.

grow wonderfully well in the highlands of Southern Spain or Chiang Mai, but struggle here in Phuket.

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


Get more from The Thaiger

📱 Download our app on Android or iOS
👋 Have your say on our Thailand forums
🔔 Subscribe to our daily email newsletter
📺 Subscribe / Join YouTube for daily shows
👍 Like/Follow us on Facebook
🐦 FOLLOW us on Twitter
📷 FOLLOW us on Instagram


Join the conversation and have your say on Thailand news published on The Thaiger.

Thaiger Talk is our new Thaiger Community where you can join the discussion on everything happening in Thailand right now.

Please note that articles are not posted to the forum instantly and can take up to 20 min before being visible. Click for more information and the Thaiger Talk Guidelines.

Click to comment

You must be logged in to post a comment Login

Leave a Reply

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

Follow Thaiger by email:

World37 mins ago

Thai woman tricked into human trafficking in Dubai brought home safely

Phuket1 hour ago

Alleged cable thief busted in Phuket, accomplice possibly still at large

Thailand2 hours ago

Thaiger Bites | Your Feedback and Comments! | Ep. 23

Sponsored12 mins ago

HOMA is now offering fully-serviced, affordable lifestyle apartments in Phuket Town.

Welcome back to Thailand!

Thaiger is getting behind local businesses for the restart of tourism in Thailand - up to 50% discounts across all advertising packages!

Guides2 hours ago

Bangkok’s best fresh markets to visit

Coronavirus (Covid-19)2 hours ago

Wednesday Covid Update: 11,252 new cases; provincial totals

World2 hours ago

Tesla stock dive costs Elon Musk $7 billion, World’s Richest Man title

Join the conversation on the Thaiger Talk forums today!
Kanchanaburi2 hours ago

Kanchanaburi temple that served as a rehab closes amidst shocking abuse allegations

Coronavirus (Covid-19)3 hours ago

Post-Covid condition MIS-C afflicted 30 to 40 children, 1 death

Thailand3 hours ago

Morning Top Stories | New disease control law, Thai border patrol tightens security | September 22 |

Thailand4 hours ago

Manhunt underway for foreigner who allegedly prepared bread using his feet

Phuket4 hours ago

Burmese man arrested for rape and assault of Thai woman

Guides4 hours ago

Bangkok’s best weekend picnic spots

Guides4 hours ago

The 8 most beautiful natural sights to see in Krabi

Guides5 hours ago

The complete guide for the most unique experiences in Phuket

Thailand5 hours ago

Army provides food for the Rawai Sea gypsy community

Morning Top Stories Thailand | Police to end protests, Human Trafficking | September 14 | Thaiger
Thailand1 week ago

Morning Top Stories Thailand | Police to end protests, Human Trafficking | September 14

Thailand7 months ago

Thailand News Today | Thai Airways in rehab, All go for Songkran | March 4

Tourism7 months ago

Phuket’s nightlife. Yes, bars and clubs are still open | VIDEO

Phuket7 months ago

Thailand News Today | Covid passport talks, Thai Airways heads to court | March 2

Tourism7 months ago

Phuket Thai food treats you need to try | VIDEO

Thailand7 months ago

Thailand News Today | Bars, pubs and restaurants ‘sort of’ back to normal | Feb 23

Tourism7 months ago

In search of Cat & Dog Cafés in Phuket Town | VIDEO

Thailand8 months ago

Thailand News Today | Gambling crackdown, Seafood market to reopen, Vlogger challenge | Jan 21

Thailand8 months ago

Thailand News Today | Covid testing for visas, Business impact, Vaccine approval | January 19

Thailand8 months ago

Thailand News Today | Weekend Bangkok bombs, Thailand fires, Covid update | January 18

Thailand8 months ago

Thailand News Today | Stray car on runway, Indonesian quake, 300 baht tourist fee | January 15

Thailand8 months ago

Thailand News Today | Governor off respirator, sex-trafficking arrest, condo prices falling | January 14

Thailand8 months ago

Thailand News Today | Chinese vaccine, Thailand ‘drug hub’, Covid update | January 13

Thailand8 months ago

Thailand News Today | Bangkok may ease restrictions, Phuket bar curfew, Vaccine roll out | January 12

Thailand8 months ago

Thailand News Today | Covid latest, Cockfights closed down, Bryde’s Whale beached | January 11