Hi, my name is: Sooty Mould

Describe yourself: I’m definitely one of the most appropriately named pests and diseases going around…I look exactly like black soot or charcoal. Technically, I’m a fungus that feeds on the sweet honeydew left by some sort of sap-sucker (like aphids, scale or mealy bugs), and will follow an infestation of this kind.

Hobbies: I LOVE making your precious plants really unsightly, covering leaves and even stems in a grey to black soot. I don’t actually harm your plants, and in fact I’m a pretty good indicator that there is some other sort of pest issue that needs to be controlled.

Likes: Just about any sort of plant is appealing, but remember, I can’t exist without the delicious exudates of a sap-sucking critters.

Dislikes: Gardeners who keep pest problems under control and practice good garden hygiene.

You’ll know you’ve met me when: The foliage of your plants looks as though it has been dusted with charcoal. Sooty mould can feel sticky to touch, and will wipe off fairly easily.

Breaking up ain’t hard to do…..if you:

• Remove or treat the honeydew producing insects and the sooty mould will disappear.
• Sooty mould can be removed by wiping the affected foliage with a damp cloth. This is only temporary and re-infestation will occur if the other pest issues are not treated.
• Collect fallen leaves affected by sooty mould and place in bin – DO NOT compost!
• Controlling ant populations, who tend the honeydew producing insect, will minimise the opportunity for them and the sooty mould to take residence on your plants. Repel ants by planting ant-repellent plants such as tansy nearby. Check the base of the plants for large ants’ nests; and, if found, mulch with tansy, and increase regular watering to discourage ants and sooty mould.

Banner photo:  from image by Erika Magarifuji in Scot Nelson album.