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Q: I have a beautiful large orange honeysuckle plant that was infested with small white bugs this spring. It seemed to suck the pollen out of the flowers leaving them shriveled and black. Now, with all the rain the leaves seem to have powdery mildew on them. What can I do? Should I prune the dead flowers off? Trim it up or just pull it out and replace the whole thing? Help!
The insect is probably the “Honeysuckle Aphid” (Hyadaphis foeniculi) or another similar aphid. This insect tends to cluster at end of stems or leaves causing leaves to curl and twist. They tend to be attracted to new growth. Honeysuckle vines vary in susceptibility to aphid infestation. There are multi-generations of aphids during the summer, and they usually over-winter as eggs or adults.
Hose off plants vigorously when aphid colonies are small (try not to be too rough on the vine) before leaves curl, e.g. several times a day for at least two to three days. Encourage and conserve natural predators whenever possible, e.g. using water helps and planting other plant materials like “Sweet Alyssum” (Lobularia maritima) to attract beneficial aphid-eating insects. Avoid excessive feeding of vine. Dormant spray with oil in winter may reduce over-wintering population. It has been suggested honeysuckle vines in partial shade tend to suffer less aphid problems, e.g. grow vines with shade at base and sun at top.
“Powdery Mildew” appears as white powdery growth on leaves usually during warm days and cool nights. See additional information.
Cleanup, remove and dispose of plant material, e.g. remove all leaves and stems. Apply a dormant lime-sulphur as directed on label during the winter. Hosing off leaves during the midday may help control the problem as long as the leaves do not stay wet overnight.