Phyllostachys arcana ‘Luteosulcata’ seedling’s autumn transformation
Nov 19, 2018
Winter is coming
Tonight, we’ve seen snowflakes in the air for the first time this autumn. Before the arrival of winter and bitter below freezing temperatures, bamboos prepare and become hardier which makes them more likely to get through the winter unharmed. With first cold, all Phyllostachys bamboos started shedding some of their leaves to decrease water loss due to transpiration in cooler weather. Leaves also become thicker and coated with waxy protective layer, which also prevents desiccation. The variegated seedlings had a lot of issues early in the growing season, but came out in excellent shape. They lost most of the damaged leaves from early summer and spring and ended up with new, mostly undamaged leaves. Sadly, some kind of fly destroyed most of the growing tips.
Like expected, based on previous observations, leaves started changing their color in mid summer. First leaves were all completely yellow. Every following leaf got a bit more dark green color in the form of dark green striping. The last leaves that grew just before winter weather kicked in, started to look almost as green as the regular unvariegated seedling form. New leaves are also much less prone to environmental damage and should survive the winter intact. The gradual darkening also appears on the variegated seedlings culms. It seems that usually green variegation forms on sulcus, but can appear on other sides of the internode as well.
Difference between the two seedlings
The most apparent difference is the culm color. I wrote about it some time ago and observations only became more evident as the shoots started maturing. The first seedling changed from lime green to bright yellow. There is almost no red tanning, but I expect it to start again in early spring and around shooting. I’m not certain about the amount of culm variegation yet, since both the seedlings are still in young juvenile form. Based on last year’s progress, I expect them to upsize significantly. It should be interesting to see them develop.
Leaves are very similar on both seedlings and have the same type of progressive darkening. First leaves are all lime green or yellow and gradually start darkening. There seems to be a difference in how dark the leaves finally get, but it might be too early to tell for sure. It seems that the first seedling doesn’t get as green as the second one. It was also a little bit less prone to sun damage, which is quite strange, because it’s leaves were just as pale if not paler.
Second seedling has started with bright green culms and dark green striping. Sun tanning was extremely strong during early spring and it turned almost black on sun exposed shoots. With time it started fading to brown color with a hint of red. The lower parts that were not exposed to sun, changed from bright green to olive green color. Variegation of the culm appears on all sides of the culm, but is usually found as darker green sulcus. A lot of internodes have a dark green coloration below the node, some can extend further down as green striping. It is not as evident as green variegations of yellow culmed bamboos like Phyllostachys aureosulcata, at least not yet. Culm color might change a bit as the culms fully mature. Time will tell how they look like when they get there.
Orange-spotted roach (Blaptica dubia)
Nov 14, 2018
Not as scary as they sound
Dubia roaches are also called Orange-spotted roach, Guyana spotted roach and Argentinian wood roach. From their names alone it’s easy to tell a lot about their natural habitat, their geographic location and appearance.
Blauptica dubia roaches live in northern parts of South America. Since they live in tropical forests, they need high temperature and high air humidity to thrive. They don’t breed in temperatures lower than 20°C which makes it unlikely for them to infest a house, at least in a non-tropic environment.
Orange-spotted roaches grow up to 4.5 cm when adult. While male roaches have wings, females do not. Despite having wings, they are not the best flyers and usually only glide after they jump from an elevated position.
Due to the fact that they can’t fly, climb glass or smooth plastic surface, aren’t likely to infest your home and offer a protein rich source of nutrients for insect-eating animals, they became popular as reptile, tarantula, amphibian or scorpion feeder insects.
Their nutritional value is high and their chitin content is lower than most roaches and comparable insects. I found a nice nutrition analysis on dubiaroaches.com website.
As I mentioned before, males have fully developed wings, but are not known to fly around and don’t even have muscles that would allow them to become airborne. I thought they are not capable of flying until one day, I noticed how the little bugger somehow managed to get out of the closed breeder.
As the colony started to grow, the males became more and more active during the night. At one point, they started mating and fighting for their favorite jumping position on top of egg crate. I suspect that in heat of the night, they jumped ferociously and managed to skyrocket into the air and reach the breeder lid. Due to design flaw at that time, they could just walk over the fine mesh until they reached a small hole in the lid that wasn’t filled. I picked too fancy plastic container I guess.
Lucky for me, they are kind of loud when they stomp around or when they fly, which made them easy targets when I figured out they have a way out.
With time, males stopped their aggressive sexual behavior almost completely. There are two reasons for that. I caught quite a lot of males and removed them from the breeder. They didn’t need to fight for their ladies so they stopped. Second reason of their tranquility is, that their number got up considerably and they started crowding. It is strange and not really logical, but as the space gets crowded, they seem to stop fighting for their territory and just wander around peacefully.
Don’t trust them. They can surprise you and fly out of the breeder. Make sure you close it tight. Unless you like roaches roaming around the house. They should all be males, so there’s no way in heaven they could make baby roaches, but you never know in these modern days. 🙂
In their natural habitat, they eat seeds, rotting plant matter and fruit they can find, I try to give them food that is similar to their natural diet, except the rotting plant matter. They get greens instead.
Dubia roaches love to eat oranges, they can devour orange in less than an hour. Same goes for carrots, lettuce or tomato. They also like to eat wheat bran or any kind of crushed grain. I don’t give them water gel as a source of water, instead, they receive fresh vegetables and fruit daily. I also refuse to offer them protein rich feed which can become harmful to the roaches in high amounts. They can easily get everything they need from other sources, they are roaches after all. Buggers even chew on their egg crates from time to time.
Dubia roaches don’t like less sweet things like potatoes, which are on the other hand preferred meal of mealworms and superworms. Strangely, people say that Dubia roaches like to eat protein rich food, I have noticed the opposite – they refuse to eat it and will nibble it for quite some time. Perhaps my roaches are strange, I think they just don’t need and like protein rich food and they rather pick carbohydrates.
Breeding like roaches
Roaches breed fast. Dubia roaches are not the fastest breeders, though. It takes from 3 to 4 months before the young nymphs reach maturity, there are other roaches that can have much faster cycle with larger numbers of nymphs they breed in one egg sac, also called ootheca. Female dubia roach keeps the ootheca inside her body until 20 to 40 young 2 mm long nymphs emerge. In case something goes wrong and the roachess get stressed, females can drop the egg capsule before the nymphs fully develop.
Considering the fact that the roaches become mature in 4 months and get their first brood in around 2 months, they need a lot of time to start, but when they do, their number starts increasing exponentially. Despite the slow start, they easily overcrowd their brooder in a matter of year or so.
Lifecycle of dubia roach
Dubia roaches, like I mentioned earlier, emerge as a newborn nymphs. They then go through 7 instars – periods between molting, in which they grow and mature into an adult. During each instar, they add around 25% to their size. The duration of each instar depends a lot on temperature, feed they receive and possible stress inside the brooder.
After the nymph molts, it becomes large, completely white and soft. In short time it starts turning darker as the chitin starts to dry and harden a bit. Molting can be an issue for the nymphs, especially for male nymphs at their last instar before they turn to adult males. If the air is too dry, their exo-skeleton doesn’t get removed completely which can cause nymphs to die or appear deformed. If there are adult males with deformed wings, the cause usually lays in overly dry environment.
Adult dubia roaches can live up to over a year, sometimes even 2 years. If you keep the adults to breed new nymps, it’s generally good idea to replace the old roaches with younger insects on regular basis. That way, they don’t stop breeding, have more offspring and they don’t eventually die inside the brooder.
Oct 21, 2018
I decided not to use rhizome barrier on my bamboos and rather risk breaking my back twice a year doing some rhizome pruning. So far, it was not an issue and bamboos failed to take over the garden. So far. This year, weather was ideal for bamboos to grow rapidly above and under the soil level which made regular maintenance a bit more labor intensive.
Summer rhizome removal
Summer started later than usual and temperatures were not as high as they could +have been. After the first part of our growing season, I decided to remove the escaping runners and make it easier to complete the cleen-up in the fall. The first time I dug around my bamboos this year, there were only short rhizome escapees, mostly on Phyllosttachys aureosulcata ‘Spectabilis’ and Phyllostachys pubescens ‘Moso’ seedling. Hibanobambusa tranquillans ‘Shiroshima’ had runners all over the place, but they rarely go deep enough to cause a problem. To fight the Shiroshima I dug a trench around it, which saved me from autumn pruning. I just snapped the runners as they emerged in the trench. All runners were easy to remove because they didn’t get established yet and had only minimal amount of roots. The issue, however, was the dry clay called soil and heat during the day.
The pruning fiesta
As the weather started to cool down significantly, I started the final rhizome cleen-up this season. Soil is now moist, not overly wet and easy to work with. The rhizomes and roots, however, are not. P. aureosulcata ‘Spectabilis’ was as good as it gets. Almost no spread into unwanted direction into the lawn. I was done with it in no-time. Then it was time to make sure I check on my overly aggressive P. pubescens seedling. The first swing I made with the pickaxe had informed me about what lies below the soil. In only a couple of months, relatively small bamboo managed to grow numerous runners in all directions. They were already well rooted and branched out, which made them hard to get out of the soil. Luckily the soil was moist enough, if it would be just a bit drier, I would not have been done yet – yet, my back would be.
I wanted to make a bunch of new bamboo plants this year and plant the rhizome divisions. When I saw how many there are, I just started tossing them away. Divisions will have to wait for a day when I feel less lazy. Maybe next fall.
How not to get scammed when buying seeds online
Aug 11, 2018
Buying seeds online
Why I even bother buying seeds online? The main reason is, there are not so many exotic seeds to be found in shops around here. Prices can be much, much lower online and there’s always a chance you find something rare you’d like to start growing. I have bought quite a lot of seeds and I usually got what I ordered. When I tried buying carnivore plant’s seeds online using both Aliexpress and eBay, I almost got scammed. I received seeds of some local weeds from China instead of Venus Flytrap (Dionaea) and Pitcher plants (Nepenthes). Luckily I was able to make a complaint and they resolved in my favor. If I would not know how the real seeds look like, I would be growing weeds for a while, before even noticing. Usually scammers have good rating and you can’t always see negative feedback that would raise an alarm.
Things to avoid
1. If plants look too good to be true, they are usually fake. Avoid at all costs!
2. Rare, hard to get seeds are almost never cheap – even online! Keep away from extremely cheap seeds, they are either fake or way too old to sprout.
3. Large amount of seeds is often an indicator that something isn’t right. Bulk amounts of cheap seeds usually means you’ll get weed seeds.
4. Seeds of sterile plants (hybrids) or plants that can’t be (easily) propagated using seeds (Orchids for example)
5. Sellers that has seeds from any of the above in their shop. Usually the most obvious seeds are not the only seeds that are fake. Try to ignore these sellers.
What you can do before the purchase
Research! Make sure you know how the seeds look like, so you can be sure you got the right seeds when you get them.
Ask seller about the seeds origin or ask if you suspect something is wrong. If the seller ignores your question – avoid.
Think two times before you click ‘Buy’. Checking more than one seller usually helps and you easily see sellers that stand out with strangely low price and obviously fake plants.
Read other buyer’s reviews. Sometimes it’s pain in the rear, because there are usually tons of good reviews of buyers that were ecstatic when they got the seeds.
If you do get scammed …
You’ve been ripped off, now what? If you are sure you received fake seeds, complain to the seller and start the complaint process in the online store. I have been cheated that way several times and usually got the money back, because the seeds were obviously fake.
Try to write an item review and warn other potential buyers about the issue.