Houseplant Pests 🐛: How to treat spider mites, Aphids, mealy bugs

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Here’s how you can find and treat common pests and diseases in houseplants. Your houseplant might be affected by aphids, mealybugs, scale, thrips, whiteflies or spider mites. We will go over each pest type, how it looks like so you can identify it and the simple steps you can take to get rid of these pests to avoid diseases in your house plants and keep them healthy and green.

How do houseplants get pests

When you buy a houseplant, you don’t see any pests on the plant. However, there might be larvae or eggs in the soil that you can’t see. Eventually those eggs hatch or the larvae turn into an adult bug and you have pest infestation.

 

How to prevent pests in houseplants

When you are buying any houseplant, inspect it. Look out for aphids or mealybugs or eggs - specially on the stem area where the leaves meet the stem. That’s the area where aphids and mealybugs like to hang out. If you are buying houseplants online, read reviews of the vendor to make sure that people are not complaining about pest infestations from the plants of that vendor.

 

A preventative measure is also to treat your plants with a gentle insecticide solution once a month.

 

Keep it humid (except for succulents). Thrips and Spider mites hate high humidity and damp conditions. 

 

Dust your plants monthly with a microfibre cloth. (Spider mites find dust attractive)

 

How to treat pests

For Scale, mealybugs, aphids, thrips and whiteflies, you do the following

  • Use your hands and rub them off.
  • 💧Wash the plant. Hose it down.
  • Spray Neem oil once a week for 2-3 weeks.

DIY Solution to get rid of all pests

One simple solution that will kill all of these pests and stop the infestation is the use of organic neem oil and a gentle dishwashing soap (that does not contain bleach). You can find an organic neem oil in a garden centre, or you can just order it online. 

 

Using Neem oil and Dishwash Soap

 

Here’s how you can avoid pests by creating a spraying solution using the following:

  1. Neem Oil - 1.5 tsp
  2. Dishwash soap - 1 tsp
  3. Water - 1 ltr

 

Neem oil prevents the bugs from further growth and the dish soap kills the bugs on contact.

 

Using Dishwashing Soap and Rubbing Alcohol

Here’s how you can avoid pests by creating a spraying solution using the following:

  1. Gentle Dishwashing soap with no bleach - 1 tsp
  2. Rubbing Alcohol (90%) - 1 tbsp
  3. Water - 1 ltr

Using Hydrogen Peroxide

Here’s how you can avoid pests by creating a Hydrogen Peroxide drench for your soil. It also helps in preventing root rot (as it prevents fungus buildup in soil):

Mix the following:

  1. Hydrogen Peroxide (3%)
  2. Water - (97%)

Horticultural Oils

They are used in organic farming to prevent pest infestation in plants. They are made up of petroleum or vegetable based. These oils are commercially sold as summer spray, ultrafine spray, all seasons oil spray.

 

Don’t use dormant sprays as they are more for woodier plants like trees and are a bit heavy for house plants.

 

Horticultural oils basically smother the bugs - they can’t breath, they suffocate and then they die.

 

Tips for using the insecticide Spray

  •  Don’t keep the sprayed plant in direct sun as the oils attract the heat and can burn the plant.
  • Do not spray when the climate is of higher humidity. The spray is supposed to evaporate and high humidity and leave the spray for way too long and can affect your plant.

Diatomaceous Earth

Basically this is ground-up sedimentary rock that gets into the bodies of bugs and stops their movement and kills them. It also kills larvae by drying it out.

 

Great solution for indoor houseplants. You don’t want to use it on plants that are outdoors and in need of pollinators like butterflies and honey bees. So you don’t want to use it on plants that are in bloom and want access to beneficial insects.


 

Spider Mites 🕷

  • Tiny red insects that live under the tree and create webs.
  • They are horrible little monsters that are attracted to dust
  • hates humidity and damp conditions.
  • They are very tiny 🕷️ so you don’t realize you have them until you have a serious infestation and they have taken over your entire plant.
  • They are notoriously impossible to deal with because they are usually unaffected by insecticides that would normally kill other pests.

How to identify Spider Mites🕸️

  • One of the early signs of spider mites infestation is tiny webs 🕸 between your plants.

Getting rid of Spider Mites 🕷️

  • Quarantine the plant
  • Cut off any branches or leaves that are already infested. 
  • 🧽Power wash (hose it down).
  • Use the Neem Oil solution or the Horticultural oils that we talked about above.

Aphids 🐛

closeup view of multiple aphids on a white leaf of a plant

 

  • Pear-shaped red, black or green colors.
  • They suck the juices out of the foliage and poop out honey dew.
  • hates humidity and damp conditions.
  • Hose them all down with water for a few days. Then treat it with a spraying solution.

Mealybugs

  • White sticky insects.
  • They suck the sap and juices out of your plant. 
  • You will see White spots - you can identify easily.

Scale

 

  • Soft bodied insect that creates a hard shell and lays eggs under it’s shelled armor.
  • How to get rid of them
    • Scrape them off if there are just a few of them.
    • Spray the solution for a month if there are alot of them. Hose it down. Repeat.

Whiteflies

many Whiteflies on a green leaf

 

  • These will be found in outdoor plants and the way to know if you have white flies is if you shake off the plant and these white little things start to fly.
  • Use a Neem oil solution.

Fungus Gnats

  • They look like fruit flies and eat the fungus.
  • They don’t do much damage. They may eat the fungus on your soil. To avoid Fungus gnats, let the soil dry out between watering. 
  • How to get rid of Fungus gnats
    • Sprinkle some Ceylon Cinnamon on the soil. Cinnamon kills fungus.
    • Drench the soil with Hydrogen Peroxide solution (3% and water 97%).

Beneficial Bugs - Natural Predators

  • Black Ladybugs eat mealybugs and die when they are full.
  • Lacewings 
  • Predatory Mites
  • Fungus Gnat predators
  • Beneficial Nematodes
  • Minute Pirate Bugs
  • Whitefly Parasite
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