I have been growing hydroponic plants indoors for many years, but we just do learn something new every day. My poor neglected Passiflora quadrangularis had something new...nodes filled with a cottony looking white pest that spins long single threads like those in a spider web. Inside the white clumps were gray insects a bit larger than aphids which turned bright orange when squished. While researching online to learn what kind of infestation this was, I learned something else too. Food companies are using bug juice to color yogurt, sausage, jello, and other goodies. If that isn't revolting enough, know that cosmetic companies also use the bug juice to color lipstick. But they don't test it on bunnies?
Since I remember from the art classroom that crimson oil paint contained lead, which was thought to make the colors more brilliant and long-lasting, but made exposure to the paint harmful to artists over time, I wondered about the safety of using insect pests to color food. Crimson and carmine are also called cochineal, which is the name of an insect related to my mealy bug pests. Apparently, the bodies of the cochineal insects contain carminic acid and that is mixed with aluminum to get the red dye. So all this makes me wonder if this is a safe food additive once we get beyond the yuck factor. Maybe it is not the bug juice that is bad, but the additives. Still, I find the whole subject a bit unsettling.
I used sharp tweezers to remove all the insects and fuzz from my Passion fruit vine and then wiped the stems with a q-tip saturated in isopropyl alcohol, then sprayed the plant with water from a fine mister. It looks a bit happier already, but only time will tell how all of this works out.