QUESTION: Hi Wayne
I am from Johannesburg South Africa and we are heading towards winter here. Two of my cymbidiums have spikes and are about to flower..... problem is.... the buds are falling off before they open. I am devestated as I have been watching them for months through the whole process. I recently moved them to a more sheltered outdoor area because a bird had snapped off one of the spikes... now the birds cant get to them. They are in the same position though as they were before, against a wall facing the same way, so the conditions should be the same. I also noticed a lot of ants on them, could it be the ants that have upset them? I am heartbroken and would love some advice please.
ANSWER: Carol, thanks for the question. It is not unusual for a well grown orchid to produce more buds than it can support, so some buds are sacrificed so that the remaining buds can be supported and open into flowers. There is a possibility that the plant may have root rot. In the event that you have not repotted this plant in the past year or two, when it goes out of flower, you may want to repot it. The ants are there to feed on the plant sap' That sap is very sugary. If you see many ants on the buds, it is likely they are feeding on the sap found there.
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QUESTION: Hi Wayne
Thank you so much for the response. The plants have only been in those pots for a year. This is the first time they are flowering since I moved them, but I will repot again even if it is just to change the mix and then put them back in the same pots. I am pleased to hear that it is not abnormal to lose some buds because it really distressed me, but since yesterday, the second orchid has lost a lot of them. From your response I would assume that the ants sucking the sap are NOT the cause of the bud loss and that I should not worry about them? I did spray them with insecticide.
Carol, I wonder if you ever bring your plants indoors. If so, you could have an ant infestation indoors. Those ants will undoubtedly nest in the potting mix and it will be difficult to escape from them. They certainly don't help the plants and might enhance the breakdown of the potting mix. You might try sprinkling systemic insectidcide into the potting mix. Systemics are effewctive for several months and should discouragw them from nesting in the potting mix. The onky precaution this requiress is protecting your hands from exposure to the old potting mix upon repotting. Be sure to read the label to see if it is effective against ants.